Online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Available in Missouri

“It has never been more imperative for Missouri to continue to make investments in our cybersecurity infrastructure and equipment. Our team of dedicated cybersecurity professionals has an obligation to protect our state networks and systems…we will continue to deploy and maintain the cutting-edge cybersecurity technology that will help us combat these inevitable attacks.”

– Doug Nelson, Commissioner of the Missouri Office of Administration (Missouri Times, 2015).

In 2014, the St. Louis Business Journal reported that Missouri was fifth in the U.S. for most cybersecurity attacks in the wake of a hack on St. Louis grocery store chain Schnucks, which exposed the credit card information of thousands of customers. But despite the increase in attacks, just a year later in 2015, Government Technology reported that Missouri jumped from a cybersecurity “B” grade in 2012 to an “A” grade in 2014, due to the work of innovative technology leaders in the state. Missouri was proudly named as one of only three states to receive an “A” grade.

In 2015, Missouri Chief Information Officer Tim Robyn praised Missouri’s team of IT professionals, saying that their wiliness to work together with private-sector partners has boosted the state’s overall security measures. One of Missouri’s most solid strengths in the information security field is their partnership between public sector IT teams and private sector cybersecurity professionals.

Here are some other cybersecurity advances Missouri has made in the past several years:

  • In 2014, Missouri’s Chief Information Officer Tim Robyn was named State Executive of the Year by State Scoop.
  • In 2015, Governor Jay Nixon announced that the Office of Administration Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) was honored with the “Excellence in Cyber Security Award.” The award is given to the division, which has the best tools and systems to mitigate risks, and concentrates on user awareness and incident response (The Missouri Times, 2015).
  • In 2015, the Missouri school system underwent a cybersecurity audit to identify intrusions that went without detection. Intrusions may have compromised student’s health records and other sensitive information (The Kansas City Star, 2015).
  • In 2016, Missouri’s ITSD was awarded the “Innovation of the Year” award from State Scoop for their Cybersecurity Portal, a portal which connects state organizations to share threat intel among offices and departments.

Missouri’s future in the cybersecurity field remains promising. In 2016, the state received a $100,000 grant from the DHS, which Governor Jay Nixon said will be used to bolster the state’s cybersecurity resources, hardening critical infrastructure such as the electrical grid (KSMU, 2016). With an increase in funding and a strong partnership between public sector and private sector IT teams, Missouri’s masters-prepared cybersecurity specialists can confidently pursue senior positions in the field.

Earning a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Missouri

Graduates of a cybersecurity graduate program will be prepared to architect and defend integral systems, utilize programming languages and manage databases, mine and interpret big data, and provide system assurance and risk assessment.

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer designations specific to two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in information security:

  • CAE-CDE – National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
  • CAE-R – National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (schools that participate in research initiatives and that integrate a strong research component into the curriculum of bachelor’s and graduate programs)

As of 2016, Missouri is home to two NSA/DHS designated schools that offers post-bachelor’s options for cybersecurity students.

The NSA and DHS also recognize several universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Online programs are a respected option among employers throughout the country and offer students the ability to complete coursework remotely, on a flexible schedule.

Online and traditional cybersecurity master’s programs are made up of about 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits of electives. Some cybersecurity professionals seeking post-bachelor’s education opt to pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate in cybersecurity. These programs are about 15 credits long and can be completed in a year. Both online and traditional on-site accredited programs are available.

Post bachelor’s certificate programs focus on the following courses:

  • Cloud Computing and Big Data Management
  • Computer Security
  • Advanced Network Security
  • Privacy Preserving Data Integration and Analysis
  • Data Mining & Machine Learning
  • Heterogeneous and Mobile Databases

Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs

Students seeking admission to a cybersecurity master’s program must be prepared to complete perquisites in applied mathematics, programming, and logic. Admissions departments look for highly-prepared candidates with an excellent educational history, including a 3.0 in prior coursework.

Minimum requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
  • One year of calculus and one year of a mathematics course beyond calculus
  • A course in data structures
  • A course in Java or C++
  • A course in computer organization

If the applicant has less than a 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework, the school may require GRE scores. Admission departments look for a verbal score of 150 or higher, quantitative score of 155 or higher, and an analytical score of 650 or higher.

Core Courses and Electives

Core coursework will typically include the following topics:

  • Network Security
  • Database Management
  • Algorithms and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Cryptography
  • Computer Forensics
  • Cyber Law and Ethics

Elective topics may include:

  • Cyber Wargames: Military Threats
  • Terrorism and Cybercrime
  • Cloud Computing
  • Current Trends in Cybersecurity

NSA and DHS Designated Research and Education Institutions in Missouri

As of 2016, the following schools have met the rigorous criteria required to earn the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation for their master’s and post-bachelor’s certificate programs:

University of Missouri-St. Louis, Cyber Security and Information Technology Innovation Lab

  • Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity

Additionally, Missouri University of Science and Technology holds the coveted NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science – Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Master of Science in Computer Science – Critical Infrastructure Protection, emphasis in Security and Reliability
  • Big Data Management and Security Graduate Certificate (online)
  • Information Assurance & Security Officer Essentials Graduate Certificate (online)

Career Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Missouri

A 2015 report published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that information security analysts in Missouri could expect to make an average annual salary of $78,180. Master’s-prepared professionals can expect higher salaries than their bachelor’s-prepared peers, and are qualified to fill senior management roles within cybersecurity teams. With a cybersecurity job market that reportedly grew 88% over four years (2010-2014, Burning Glass Technologies), Missouri has no shortage of opportunities for qualified information security professionals.

The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are not meant to provide any assurance of employment. They represent the kind of employment opportunities available to cybersecurity specialists in Missouri, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.

Cyber Security Specialist—Pinnacus, Kansas City

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum; master’s preferred
  • 4 years’ experience in a cybersecurity position

Responsibilities:

  • Plan, design and implement technical controls of network security
  • Develop regulatory policies and procedures and monitor reports
  • Provide analytical threat defense and remediation

Computer Network Defense Service Provider—National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Arnold

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
  • Five years’ experience in a related field

Responsibilities:

  • Protect, monitor and analyze unauthorized activity in the networks
  • Identify and report events that occur and identify potential threats
  • Maintain infrastructure and respond to crises to mitigate threats

Cyber Security Specialist—Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field required; master’s preferred
  • Four years’ experience in information security

Responsibilities:

  • Assess systems and network and implementation of vulnerability documentation
  • Mitigate security threats
  • Develop security controls for protecting the networks

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