Online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Available in Pennsylvania

According to some industry professionals, the concept and practical application of cybersecurity was founded in the Pittsburgh region of Pennsylvania. In fact, Summer Fowler, technical director of the Software Engineering Institute’s Computer Emergency Response Team, said that cybersecurity was born in the Pittsburgh area.

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U.S. Attorney David Hickton, who advises the U.S. Attorney General on cyber issues, agrees. He notes that the Pittsburgh area has the talent, tools, and networked community of experts required to work together to address cyber concerns.

The chief information security officer of Alcoa, Alan Levine, notes that Pittsburgh has become known as a hub for smart, new technology. This also helps to explain why former Pennsylvania governor and former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge spoke on cybersecurity at Pittsburgh’s 2016 Carnegie Mellon University Cyburgh Initiative Conference. Ridge was quoted as saying, “This is a city and a region that has gone from analog to digital, from the 20th Century to the 21st Century, just in terms of economic development, priorities and the businesses it has developed.”

Cybersecurity is important in all areas of the state, of course, not just in Pittsburgh. Among the many events held across the state in recent years was a workshop sponsored by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce entitled, “Cyber Security: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Business” in June 2016.

In a move to promote cybersecurity as a major, the Pennsylvania State University is offering a five percent tuition discount for federal government employees in fields that develop mission-critical occupational skills in the area of cybersecurity in particular, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in general. This not only encourages federal workers to go back to school to further their education through graduate programs in cybersecurity, it also provides opportunities for upward career mobility, which opens up more entry-level jobs in the field.

Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Pennsylvania

Most master’s degree programs in cybersecurity amount to 18 core credits and 18 elective credits. Graduate certificate cybersecurity programs amount to 15 credits, including two elective credits.

Online programs offer a level of flexibility that conventional campus-based programs can’t match, but with the same level student engagement through mock cyber threat response drills, online problem modules and open forum discussions with peers and professors on relevant and topical issues impacting information security and cyber defense.

Admissions Requirements

Admissions prerequisites for graduate-level cybersecurity programs usually include:

  • Holding a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering, or a related field
  • Maintaining a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate coursework
  • Some graduate schools require applicants to pass an entrance exam such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic and cybersecurity background
  • A written statement describing experience in and reasons for applying to the graduate cybersecurity program
  • Completion of prerequisite coursework:
    • One year of calculus
    • One mathematics course beyond calculus (such as differential equations, discrete mathematics or linear algebra)
    • One course in discrete structures
    • One course in computer programming (such as C++ or Java)
    • One course in computer organization or structure
    • One course in computer law and ethics
    • One course in operating systems

Graduate programs may give applicants the opportunity to fulfill computer science and math prerequisites such as those listed above through undergraduate-level bridge courses. These courses are taken prior to the student beginning graduate cybersecurity coursework.

Core Courses and Electives Commonly Found in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs

Cybersecurity graduate programs typically require students to complete core coursework that includes:

  • Networks and data communications
  • Operating systems
  • Software engineering
  • Risk management
  • Network security
  • System administration and security
  • Wireless programming and security
  • Security tools for information security

Electives that students may find include:

  • Software engineering
  • Criminal justice topics (computer crime)
  • Developing secure systems
  • Cybersecurity and privacy regulation
  • Legal issues and information ethics
  • Cloud computing

NSA and DHS Designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Pennsylvania

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer two designation classifications applicable to schools that offer graduate programs in information security and cyber defense:

  • 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 2018, 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:

Carnegie Mellon University, Computer Science Department AND School of Information Systems and Management (also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation)

East Stroudsburg University, Department of Computer Science

Pennsylvania State University, Cybersecurity and Information Assurance

University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)

Westchester University of Pennsylvania, Information Security Center

Drexel University, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Experts in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to major public and private sector employers that retain graduate- educated cybersecurity professionals, whether in academia, healthcare, business, local government or finance. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide, the number of jobs for cyber security professionals is expected to grow by 36.5 percent during the ten-year period leading up to 2022. In Pennsylvania, as noted by job market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies, cyber security job postings grew by 69 percent from 2010 to 2014.

The following job listings sourced in June 2016 reflect the kind of opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity graduates in Pennsylvania, but are not intended to imply any assurance of employment:

Corporate Information Security Officer, PPL Corporation – Allentown, PA


  • Responsible for enterprise-wide cybersecurity in a geographically diverse workforce
  • Direct all security functions associated with information technology applications, communications, social media, company websites, and computing for the enterprise
  • Oversee and coordinate cybersecurity across the enterprise to identify security standards and initiatives
  • Develop and oversee comprehensive cybersecurity and risk management program


  • Bachelor’s degree in information security, computer science, engineering or business required; master’s degree preferred
  • Ten years of IT security experience
  • Two years of information security leadership experience at a Fortune 500 corporation
  • CISSP or CISM certification preferred

IT Security Risk Consultant, PNC Bank – Pittsburgh, PA


  • Manage daily operations and effectiveness of security-related programs and initiatives
  • Assess costs associated with potential security threats and solutions required to eliminate threats
  • Lead development, implementation and enforcement of organization-wide security risk assessment and control standards, procedures and policies
  • Manage activities for IT risk control in business operations


  • Bachelor’s degree in cyber security or related field; master’s degree preferred
  • Five years of industry-related experience
  • Industry security certifications preferred

Command Cyber Readiness Inspection Cybersecurity Analyst, SecureStrux LLC – Chambersburg, PA


  • Perform various security assessments using DoD Security Technical Implementation Guides and DISA security content automation protocol compliant tolls
  • Perform CCRI inspections
  • Perform vulnerability scanning using eEye Retina and ACAS Suite
  • Perform various manual network and HBSS related software assessments


  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field required; graduate degree preferred
  • Two years of relevant experience
  • Current security certifications required (such as Security +, GSLC, GISF, CAP
  • S. citizenship and ability to obtain DoD clearance required

Director of Cybersecurity External Policy, Comcast – Philadelphia, PA


  • Review and facilitated approval for all policies and security awareness initiatives
  • Advise senior leadership on external cybersecurity landscape conversions and integrations in supporting business goals
  • Build and enhance secure application design and development policies and practices across all cable footprint
  • Ensure that security awareness programs and content are relevant and executed in a timely fashion


  • Bachelor’s degree in a computer science related field required; master’s degree preferred
  • Twelve years of technology leadership experience, with at least six years in IT security
  • CISSP, CISM certifications preferred

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