With heavy-hitting technology companies like Dell headquartered in Texas, it’s not surprising that the state is now number two in the nation for information technology employment, with San Antonio being 2nd in the nation in the information assurance sector. Several other major technology corporations have expanded and laid down roots here, including HP, Apple, IBM, eBay, and Facebook.
The cyber-friendly, technology-rich environment of Texas has been instrumental in peeling away market share from other states. As Sarah Matz, state government affairs director at TechAmerica, put it, “Texas continues to have one of the most attractive environments for tech companies in the country.”
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In February of 2014, computer security software firm Websense moved its headquarters from San Diego, California to Austin. Later that year, Active Network, a leader in event and activity management software, also relocated its headquarters from San Diego, planting its flag in Dallas. Perhaps the most prominent move came from Google in March of 2015 when it expanded and opened up new office space in Austin.
Yet, while Texas’ cyber industry continues its expansion, the vulnerability of its cyber infrastructure only multiplies. For this reason, the Texas state legislature, in conjunction with the Texas Department of Information Resources, has put in place a few critical cybersecurity initiatives in an effort to maintain the integrity and security of Texas’ cyber networks:
- In May of 2013, the Texas Cybersecurity Council was created by the Texas Department of Information Resources and authorized by the state legislature. The Council brings together both private sector and public sector cyber experts in an effort to develop initiatives that help protect against increasing cyber threats to ensure the integrity of the state’s critical infrastructure.
- In 2011, the Texas Cybersecurity, Education and Economic Development Council (TCEEDC) was established by the state legislature. The focus of the Council is to evaluate Texas’ cybersecurity operations and derive strategies to help advance and protect the state’s cyber infrastructure.
- In 2013, the state legislature passed a law requiring all state agencies to develop a cyber security plan and to submit it to the Texas Department of Information Resources.
Cultivating an environment of technological innovation and creating initiatives that foster the expansion of its information security sector has served Texas well. In fact, 19 companies in Texas were named to the 2015 Cybersecurity 500 list released by Cybersecurity Ventures, a market intelligence and research firm located in San Francisco. The list serves to identify the hottest, most innovative companies in cybersecurity. Some of the Texas-based companies that made the list include:
- Absolute Software in Austin (ranked #36)
- StillSecure in Austin (ranked #43)
- Ziften in Austin (ranked #44)
- Digital Defense in San Antonio (ranked #46)
The relocation of information technology companies to Texas, the public and private sector investment in Texas cybersecurity companies, and the cybersecurity initiatives established by the Texas Department of Information Resources have created a tremendous demand for the state’s master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Texas
Graduate-level cybersecurity programs are designed to help graduates develop the expertise needed to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of critical data infrastructures. With practical experience in areas like security risk assessment and intrusion detection, graduates develop a thorough understanding of how to protect networks, web and mobile systems, as well as how to design inherently secure systems.
Online options are by far the most convenient, flexible, and expedient way to earn a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Online programs are designed with the working professional in mind, as these individuals are pressed for time and can’t commit to the more structured schedule typical of most traditional, classroom-based programs.
Cybersecurity master’s programs typically involve approximately 30 credit hours of study, including 15 core credits and 15 electives. Many programs can be completed entirely online, some in as little as 15 months. Alternatively, the post-bachelors certificate is a 15-credit hour course and generally takes about 6-7 months to complete.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) evaluate the curriculum of candidate schools offering undergraduate and graduate programs against a specific set of academic criteria. Institutions offering graduate programs that meet this criteria may earn one of two designations:
- 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)
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Acceptance into a graduate-level cybersecurity program can be selective. Those with a strong academic background, impressive entrance exam scores, a firm command of programming logic and mathematical computation, and solid analytical skills are likely to be favorable candidates for admission.
Admission requirements may consist of the following:
- Undergraduate degree in a related field, such as information security or computer science
- Minimum GPA of 3.0 in all undergraduate coursework
- One year of calculus as well as one additional mathematics course, such as linear algebra or differential equations
- One data structures course as well as one C++ programming or Java course
- One computer organization course
The requirement for submission of GRE scores varies by educational institution. However, many schools waive the GRE exam requirement for applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on undergraduate coursework.
Core Courses and Electives
Core curriculum courses may consist of topics like:
- Business Analytics
- Data Protection
- Compliance and Legal Issues
- Security Risk Analysis
- Strategic Management of Information Technology
Elective courses may consist of topics like:
- Operational Cybersecurity Management
- Strategic Cybersecurity Management
- Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment
- Digital Forensics
- Security Incident Response
NSA and DHS Designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Texas
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:
Southern Methodist University
University of Houston (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
University of North Texas
University of Dallas
Texas A&M University, Cybersecurity Center (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, Computer Science Department
The University of Texas at San Antonio (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
- Master of Science in Information Technology – Cyber Security concentration
- MBA, Cyber Security concentration
University of Texas at Dallas (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
University of Texas at El Paso
- Master of Science in Software Engineering–Secure Cyber-Systems Concentration
- Master of Science in Information Technology
Our Lady of the Lake University
University of North Texas (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
Additionally, University of Texas at Austin holds the holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation for its contribution to research.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists looking to land a job in information security will find no shortage of opportunities in Texas. In fact, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2015 report, Texas is #2 in the nation for tech industry employment. In 2014 alone, the tech industry in Texas boasted a total of 581,200 job openings. Some 20,100 new jobs were added during that one-year period alone. Texas also claimed the #3 spot nationwide for total cybersecurity job postings, with a 113% increase in cybersecurity job postings during 2014.
Perhaps the biggest news, though, comes out of San Antonio. In San Antonio, there are more than 100 cybersecurity companies, in addition to the large military presence and leading defense contractors like Raytheon. The investment of both public and private sector cybersecurity agencies has led San Antonio to be identified as a hotbed of employment opportunities for master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts.
The job opportunities shown below are current as of May of 2016 and are examples of opportunities that might be available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts. These job vacancy announcements are provided as examples only and are not meant to provide an assurance of employment:
Cyber Security Threat Analyst at Novetta in Houston:
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, intelligence studies, or information security; master’s degree in a related field strongly desired
- At least 3-8 years’ experience in information security and/or cyber threat intelligence
- CISSP, CISM, CEH, or intelligence analysis certification strongly desired
- Maintain an awareness of emerging cyber threats
- Conduct ongoing systems analysis and recognize potential vulnerabilities
- Provide analysis and intelligence regarding cyber threats to Novetta’s network infrastructure
- Demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills while coordinating efforts during incident response
Cyber Network Analyst at Engility Corporation in San Antonio:
- Bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or similar field
- TS/SCI security clearance
- CEH, Security+, SANS GPEN, LPT, OSCP certifications
- Programming experience with C++, Python, SQL
- Strong IDS experience
- Perform forensic analysis and operational data collection
- Participate in 24/7 monitoring of all networks and systems
- Interpret and analyze irregular cyber patterns and recognize activities of interest (AOI)
- Participate in the coordination of response effort to identified AOIs