In 2019, a cyberattack was launched against Utah-based sPower, a renewable energy provider that operates solar and wind generation projects across the region. The result of a simple unpatched firewall, the attack was severe enough that it cut company operators off from control of its generating installations… something that could have led to a severe grid failure, had the timing and scale been slightly different. That’s just one in a long list of vulnerabilities facing the state.
According to CompTIA, Utah ranks ninth in the country for tech industry employment, with the number of software developers in the state increasing by 5.4% in just a one-year period between 2019 and 2020. All of that software they write is vulnerable to attack, and require information security professionals to assist in designing and protecting them.
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The only thing preventing a similar level of growth among cybersecurity professionals in the state is the fact that there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill all the open positions. Cyberseek, a job data reporting tool sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, reported in 2020 that the state had more than 3,600 unfilled cybersecurity jobs – all of them just waiting for properly-qualified individuals to staff them. And in keeping with the universal law of supply and demand, employers are offering some generous starting offers and benefits packages in the competition to attract top talent.
These jobs can be found at some of the Utah-based corporations that made the Cybercrime Magazine 2018 list of the top 500 most innovative cybersecurity companies, including DigiCert in Lehi, Braintrace and Venafi in Salt Lake City, and Ivanti in South Jordan. And for the most part, they want master’s-qualified applicants to fill them.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Utah
Master’s programs in cybersecurity focus on the design, implementation, and management of critical cyber systems. By participating in practical, hands-on applications in areas like threat assessment, systems vulnerability, and operational security, graduates will be prepared to serve as the gatekeepers of critical data networks for private businesses and government agencies alike. They will also demonstrate a proficiency in essential skills like systems assurance and anomaly detection.
The quickest and most convenient way to obtain a master’s degree in cybersecurity is through an online program. Online programs are designed to meet the needs of working professionals. Since many professionals pursuing graduate study in this field are already employed, online programs offer the flexibility they need to balance education and professional obligations.
Most cybersecurity master’s programs consist of around 30 credit hours, with 15 core credits and 15 electives. The program can often be completed in as little as 15 months.
Professionals can also choose to pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate in cybersecurity. This option involves completing 15 credits and takes about half as much time to complete as a full master’s degree.
Some academic institutions that offer graduate programs are recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under one or both of the following classifications:
- National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE/CDE)
- National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE/R)
Brigham Young University in Provo is the only Utah institution that holds the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation.
Cybersecurity Bootcamps in Salt Lake City or Online Provide an Option for Master’s Degree Preparation or a Career in InfoSec
Another option for anyone preparing for a master’s degree application, or even just planning to move directly into the cybersecurity industry without a graduate degree, is a cybersecurity bootcamp.
Bootcamps evolved for exactly the situation that the industry currently finds itself in: massive demand for staffing with too few qualified applicants. They are designed to quickly build your qualifications, using practical, hands-on, problem-oriented training. They exist to cater to a number of different specializations and skill levels, so you can find them accepting students across the range of experience, from experts looking to hone specialty skills to neophytes who need a ground-level introduction to the profession.
While bootcamps were originally put on by small, dedicated organizations, colleges have begun to put their greater resources and expertise to use in the venue. In Salt Lake City, for example, you will find the University of Utah Cybersecurity Program, also offered online. This is a six-month, part-time program aimed at entry-level candidates and offers a strong education in hands-on training in defensive and offensive cybersecurity, networking, systems, web technologies, and databases. All while giving students the opportunity to benefit from our CompTIA Partnership. Through immersive instruction and lab environments, students learn both the theory and application of tools used by industry professionals.
The program is longer than most, which typically go for only a few days or weeks, but it includes other key features that are typical of bootcamps, such as:
- Career and resume assistance services
- Preparation for industry-standard certifications like Security+, Network+, and the CISSP
- Experienced instructors with real-world expertise
That combination puts you in an excellent position to apply for a master’s program with current and demonstrable skills in information security, or simply jump right into the industry to build experience on the job.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Getting accepted into a master’s-level cybersecurity program can be a competitive process. Candidates with an academic history of achievement, competitive entrance exam scores, and an aptitude for analytical thought are likely to be successful in their quest for admission.
Admission requirements vary by institution, but may include:
- Bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer science, or related area
- Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Industry certifications are preferred (Security+, MCSE, CISSP)
- Calculus (1 year minimum) and an additional mathematics course (discrete mathematics, linear algebra)
- Classes in data structures, system architecture, and programming
While some academic institutions require applicants to submit GRE/GMAT scores as part of the admissions process, other schools waive this requirement for applicants with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Core Courses and Electives
The core curriculum in cybersecurity master’s programs typically includes courses in:
- Network security
- IT policy compliance and disaster recovery
- Advanced persistent threats evaluation and investigation
- IT risk management
The elective options often include courses in subjects like:
- Penetration testing
- Cloud security
- Cryptography fundamentals
- Digital forensics
- Mobile security
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Professionals in Utah
Utah’s information security industry is flourishing with opportunity. In fact, in 2020, Cyberseek found that the Salt Lake City metro area had one of the lowest ratios of security workers to job openings in the nation, with more than 2,100 unfilled openings. And Burning Glass Technologies found that cybersecurity positions overall had ballooned by almost 100% since 2013. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an annual median wage of $83,500 for Utah information security analysts in 2020.
Perhaps what really sets Utah apart, though, is the Utah Data Center, which is located at Camp Williams in Bluffdale. The $1.5 billion facility, colloquially known as the “spy center,” was built in 2013 by the National Security Agency (NSA) for the purpose of data collection and monitoring. The addition of the NSA facility has brought recognition to the skill and ingenuity of Utah’s cybersecurity force and, as such, has created a wealth of opportunity for master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts.
A sampling of potential job opportunities for cybersecurity analysts in Utah is shown below. This is for illustrative purposes only and doesn’t represent any assurance of employment:
Network Security Analyst at USANA Health Sciences in Salt Lake City:
- Undergraduate degree in telecommunications, computer science, or information technology at minimum; master’s preferred
- CISSP or CEH certification
- Experience with Java, C++, and ASP
- Experience with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment
- Performs vulnerability scans and penetration testing
- Coordinate remediation efforts based on identified vulnerabilities and existing cyber threats
- Monitor and maintain the security of network communications
- Develop security standards for USANA’s data infrastructure and manage implementation
Cyber Security Analyst at BAE Systems in Ogden:
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science or information systems; master’s degree preferred
- At least 12 years’ experience in a related field
- Current TS security clearance, or security clearance eligible
- Familiarity with cybersecurity processes (DIACAP and/or RMF) preferred
- TS/SCI security clearance
- CISSP certification preferred
- Performs in an information assurance capacity for the Air Force’s Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) weapons system
- Ensure compliance of the program with government security requirements
- Identifies network vulnerabilities and implements appropriate security measures
- Designs and carries out mitigation plans
- Designs System Security Plans