With a heavy-hitter, old-guard tech company like Dell headquartered in Texas that has managed to stay relevant for decades, it’s not surprising that the state holds down the number two spot for information technology employment according to tech recruiting company Dice. Plenty of other major technology corporations have expanded and laid down roots here too, including a mix of both long-established titans of technology like HP and IBM, as well as the one’s that people born after 2000 have actually heard of, like Apple, eBay, and Facebook.
Texas is also home to major military bases well-prepared for the digital battlefront, like Lackland Air Force Base, home to the Air Force Cyber Command and the National Security Agency’s shadowy Texas Cryptologic Center.
The cyber-friendly, technology-rich environment of Texas has been instrumental in peeling away market share from other states. In 2020, Forbes gave the state the number two spot among the best places in the country for business, the result of low costs, high quality of life, and a flexible regulatory environment. These factors will continue to draw high-tech companies to the state for the foreseeable future, and just as importantly, keep them there.
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Yet more technology focus also leads to more technology vulnerability. In January of 2020, the Texas Tribune reported that state government agencies were seeing up to 10,000 cyber attacks per minute from overseas. And in 2019, the Texas Department of Information Resources reported that as many as 23 state agencies had to be taken offline due to an attack in August.
Those are reasons for concern among both government and private industry leaders, and they are just a few of the factors that will continue to drive hiring of master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals.
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; pressed for time and unable to commit to the more structured schedule typical of traditional, classroom-based programs, professionals in information technology or other industries can find online studies to be the best route forward into advance cybersecurity training.
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, a 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 highly 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 the most favored 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 additional mathematics courses, such as linear algebra or differential equations
- Courses on data structures as well as programming instructions, such as in C++ or Java
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
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 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.)
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.
Cybersecurity Bootcamps in Houston, Austin, or Online Can Prepare You for a Master’s Degree or Career in Infosec
Another way forward for students who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into a master’s program is to enroll in a cybersecurity bootcamp instead.
Bootcamps provide a fast-paced, highly-focused, and extremely practical introduction to key skills in cybersecurity. Available at both entry-level and more advanced stages and focused on a variety of specializations and skillsets, these camps deliver hands-on experience with real-world tools and scenarios to get you up to speed quickly.
Usually taking from a few days to a few months to complete, bootcamps have primarily been the domain of commercial education operations. But, increasingly, traditional colleges are putting their expert instructors and vast resources into play with bootcamps of their own.
That’s the case with the Rice University Cybersecurity Boot Camp in Houston and the Cybersecurity Boot Camp at UT Austin, both available online as well, and lasting 24 weeks on a part-time basis. With a solid introduction to the basic principles of information security, these bootcamps offer the chance for entry-level students with no other preparation to get a ground-level introduction to the industry, and then build up skills in such areas as:
- Metasploit and Wireshark use
- Windows and Linux administration and hardening
- Digital forensic methods and analysis
- Web vulnerability and close security
- Identity and access management
Both programs also offer the kind of preparation you need to take and pass important industry certifications like Security+ and the Certified Ethical Hacker credential. And, like many bootcamps, they offer career services to help you prepare your portfolio and resume for either job applications or graduate program admissions committees after you complete the course. It’s a viable route whether or not you already hold an undergraduate degree related to information technology or another field.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists looking to land a job will find no shortage of opportunities in Texas. In fact, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2020 report, Texas is #2 in the nation for tech industry employment. In 2020 alone, the tech industry in Texas boasted a total of 43,170 cybersecurity job openings according to Cyberseek, an industry data and job tracking tool administered by NIST. More than half of those were found in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone.
Perhaps the biggest news, though, comes out of San Antonio. In San Antonio, there are more than 40 cybersecurity companies, in addition to the large military presence and leading defense contractors like Raytheon working with the big federal operations at Lackland. The investment of both public and private sector cybersecurity agencies has led to the city becoming a hotbed of employment opportunities for master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts.
The job opportunities shown below 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