It was a bit of a shock to everybody in 2019 when InfoSec magazine ranked the state as eighth-most vulnerable in the country when it comes to information systems compromises. The surprise wasn’t necessarily that the state had serious vulnerabilities so much as the fact that it was such a target. The report revealed an average of 2 million cyber-attacks on state computers every month, a constant threat that has lead the state to create a dedicated Office of Cybersecurity and adopt a comprehensive attack response program.
That program has been highly rated by the International Data Group, but the state continues to face challenges in staffing for cybersecurity roles; according to Cyberseek in 2020, out of the total employed cybersecurity workforce of 20,264, the state continued to see more than 7,500 unfilled job openings.
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That’s part of why the state continues to suffer compromises, including a recent employee email breach at BJC HealthCare in St. Louis that may have exposed patient information at 19 different facilities in the organization’s network. All of it happened because of a tiny exposure in only three email accounts that allowed unauthorized access.
So the state, with the assistance of the federal government, continues to take steps to provide more assistance and better security. According to CyberEdge, as of early 2020, the Defense Information Systems Agency was in talks with the University of Missouri to discuss formation of a statewide Cyber Center of Excellence.
Those are the kinds of initiatives that are boosting master’s level education in cybersecurity throughout Missouri, and exactly the sort of program that you should consider taking advantage of for a career in the field. 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 large and small at any employer in the state. You’ll learn programming languages and data structures to provide system assurance and risk assessment, and be taught how to perform ethical penetration testing and system scans to identify vulnerabilities before attackers do. It requires up-to-the-minute information and techniques taught by expert instructors with real-world experience in the field… something the best master’s degrees can deliver.
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)
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 looking for more advanced training 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 and system architecture
- A course in Java or C++
If the applicant has less than a 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework, the school may require GRE scores as well. 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
- 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
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
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:
- Big Data Management and Security Graduate Certificate (online)
- Information Assurance & Security Officer Essentials Graduate Certificate (online)
Enrolling in a Cybersecurity Bootcamp in St. Louis or Online to Develop Skills for a Master’s Program or Your Career in Infosec
There are more ways to get the right skillset to qualify for a master’s degree than just excelling in your undergraduate program. One of those options is enrolling in a cybersecurity bootcamp.
Bootcamps started up in the coding world, offered by commercial educators as a fast-track, shake-and-bake approach to developing talent for an industry with a huge immediate demand. The same circumstances exist in cybersecurity today, and the same solution is being applied.
Cybersecurity bootcamps usually last between a few days and a handful of months, and focus on the practical, day-to-day demands of the profession. Instructors with real-world experience draw on the most current examples of attacks and threats and teach skills with a project-based approach that gives students hands-on experience with the hottest tools available in the field.
The camps are offered at every skill level imaginable, both broad-based and hyper-focused, and with a variety of entry requirements ranging from none at all, to requiring an advanced degree. In many cases, they prepare you for certification in one of the many industry-standard certificates available.
Colleges have been putting their information security talent and resources to good use by opening their own bootcamps as well, as is the case with the entry-level Washington University Cybersecurity Boot Camp. Offered both online and in person in St. Louis, get hands-on training in:
- Kali Linux, Burp Suite, and Hashcat
- Defensive and offensive cybersecurity
- Web technologies
- Windows and Linux administration and hardening
- Scripting and automation skills with Python
- Penetration testing
- Database security and data protection techniques
Benefit from their CompTIA Partnership. Through immersive instruction and lab environments, learn both the theory and application of tools used by industry professionals.
At the end of the six-month, part-time experience, you’ll receive assistance from career services to build out your master’s degree application, or to polish up your resume for direct entry into current cybersecurity jobs in Missouri.
Career Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Missouri
A 2020 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 $86,360. 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 by more than 90% over seven years (2013-2020, Burning Glass Technologies), Missouri has no shortage of opportunities for qualified information security professionals.
The following job opportunities are not meant to provide any assurance of employment, and may no longer be active. They represent the kind of employment opportunities available to cybersecurity specialists in Missouri, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Computer Network Defense Service Provider—National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Arnold
- Bachelor’s degree required; master’s degree preferred
- Five years’ experience in a related field
- 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
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field required; master’s preferred
- Four years’ experience in information security
- Assess systems and network and implementation of vulnerability documentation
- Mitigate security threats
- Develop security controls for protecting the networks