Over the past several years, Washington has become increasingly influential in the cybersecurity sphere. Washington’s National Guard 194th Regional Support Wing oversees the 262nd Network Warfare Squadron, which is the second security team of its kind in the US Air Force and the first National Guard squadron to be assigned to the role of cybersecurity, according to the Washington Military Alliance.
Drawing influence from this strong cybersecurity presence, stakeholders in both the public and private sectors have been developing innovative defenses against the kind of threats that have compromised government offices, insurance companies like Anthem, and corporations like Target and Sony:
- In 2013, local PUDs and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory held a Cyber Summit at University of Washington’s Tacoma campus to share information about defending critical systems. In attendance were representatives from several congressional offices as well as the FBI.
- In 2016, the University of Washington was awarded a 7.5-million-dollar grant for the university’s researchers to develop a cybersecurity system capable of identifying and repelling certain attacks. The new system was developed using statistical modeling, adaptive game theory, machine learning, and control and systems theory (Geek Wire, 2016).
- In 2016, Washington governor Jay Inslee created a state Office of Privacy and Data Protection that will work with the US Department of Homeland Security to provide cybersecurity functions for the state’s government offices (Advanced Digital, 2016).
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 report, information security analysts in Washington earn an average annual salary of $96,270. The earning potential is even higher for master’s-prepared professionals who are qualified to fill management roles and are often invited to step into senior positions within cybersecurity teams. In 2015 Burning Glass Technologies reported that the cybersecurity job market in Washington grew by 94% from 2010 to 2014, putting recent graduates in the enviable position of being able to be selective about where they begin their careers.
The greater Seattle area is a well known incubator of tech start-ups, giving rise to icebrg.io, a stealth mode security start-up, and Avanad Inc., which was founded by Microsoft and is best known for creating a secure CRM system for the health sector. Another new face in Seattle is Capability IT, an IT recruiting firm that both places cybersecurity professionals and retains them in-house.
However, jobs for cybersecurity specialists in Washington aren’t just found in the tech industry. Cybersecurity positions are available in a multitude of different sectors: some of these include finance and banking, insurance and healthcare, and retail and e-commerce. Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists are in a unique position to enter the job market with the confidence of knowing they are well qualified for top paying jobs with the most desirable employers.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Washington
Infosec graduate programs are designed to produce graduates skilled in detecting anomalies that would indicate potential threats and implementing risk mitigation and incident response protocols. Graduates will enter the field with the expertise needed to design inherently secure systems and maintain the integrity and confidentiality of critical data infrastructures.
Online programs designed with working IT professionals in mind are by far the most convenient, flexible, and expedient way to earn a master’s degree in cybersecurity.
Washington is home to schools offering cybersecurity master’s programs and post-bachelor’s certificates that meet the rigorous standards necessary to earn National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designations.
The NSA and DHS also recognize colleges and universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Professionals that choose online programs cite benefits like a greater variety of program options and the flexibility to complete courses while working a full-time job.
Some cybersecurity professionals interested in gaining advanced training in less time than it would take to earn a master’s opt to pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. A post-bachelor’s certificate program is typically 15 credits, and could focus on Network Management and Security, Risk Mitigation, Threat Intel, Cloud Computing, and Cryptography.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
To qualify for admittance to a cybersecurity master’s program, students should be prepared with a strong academic history, high GRE scores, and prior knowledge of basic programming languages and applied mathematics.
Minimum requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
- One year of calculus
- One year of a mathematics course beyond calculus
- A course in data structures
- A course in Java or C++
- A course in computer organization
If the applicant has a 3.0 GPA or higher in bachelor’s coursework, the school may waive the GRE requirement. As applicable, admissions departments typically require the following scores:
- Verbal score of 150 or higher
- Quantitative score of 155 or higher
- Analytical score of 650 or higher
Core Course, Electives and Program Objectives
NSA and DHS designated programs will follow a standard curriculum. Core coursework will typically include:
- Security Policy, Ethics, and the Legal Environment
- Contemporary Issues in Information Assurance
- Secure Development Lifecycle
- Incident Response and Recovery
- Cryptography and Data Assurance
- Network and Internet Security
- Vulnerability Analysis and Detection
Elective topics may include:
- Malware and Attack Reverse Engineering
- Security in Emerging Wireless and Mobile Networks
- Cyber Security in Emerging Environments
- Mobile Computing
- Machine Learning
- Software Architecture
NSA and DHS Designated Centers of Academic Excellence in Washington
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 Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
- CAE-R – National Centers 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 program)
As of 2016, City University of Seattle, Computer and Information Science has met the criteria for the NSA/DHS Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) for its master degree program:
- Master of Science in Information Security
Additionally, University of Washington, Information School (iSchool) holds the esteemed NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers the following graduate degree program:
- Master of Science in Information Management – Information Security
The following school holds the original NSA/DHS Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CEA-IAE) designation for its master’s degree and graduate certificate programs. The NSA/DHS requires all current CAE-IAE designated schools to reapply for the new CAE-CDE designation no later than January 2017:
University of Washington, Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
- Master of Cybersecurity and Leadership
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Engineering
- Graduate Certificate in Information Systems Security
- Graduate Certificate in Information Security and Risk Management
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Professionals in Washington
As Washington continues to build new and improved cybersecurity systems in both the public and private sectors, the state has become recognized for its exemplary cybersecurity workforce.
The following job listings are included to provide examples of the kind of employment opportunities that may be available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts in Washington. They are shown for illustrative purposes only, and are not meant to provide any assurance of employment.
Cyber Architect—Lockheed Martin in Seattle
- Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline at minimum; master’s preferred
- Working knowledge of RNG, hashing, and software cryptography
- Conducts ongoing penetration testing
- Provides compliance to all security policies
- Monitors firewalls and documents incidents
Cyber Security Manager—Nintendo of America in Redmond
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum; master’s preferred
- Eight years of experience in cybersecurity
- Extensive management experience
- Manages investigations into current threats
- Produces threat documentation and reviews event logs
- Manages vendor relationships and oversees cybersecurity team
- Analyzes investigative results
Senior Security Services Engineer—Microsoft in Bellevue
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum; master’s preferred
- 5 years’ experience as a security engineer
- Develops and designs architecture and standards for security systems
- Conducts network security forensics
- Assesses web application security measures
- Automates scripting tasks
- Identifies gaps in security processes and mitigates risks