Courtesy of a 2006 executive order, West Virginia’s cybersecurity efforts are spearheaded by an executive-branch information security team and private management team, which created an IT strategic plan designed to utilize controls and emphasize policy, training, and regular audits for compliance—an effort not found throughout many states.
It may seem unlikely that a small, largely rural state would have this type of progressive cybersecurity plan in place. But West Virginia has become a hub of IT activity and talent, thanks, in part, to the Obama Administration’s White House TechHire Initiative, a multisector initiative designed to train people in rural communities across America. As a result, major companies, instead of focusing on offshore hubs to find quality IT talent, are turning to communities in rural America.
A unique program has sprung from the TechHire Initiative in an effort to develop some of the top talent in tech in Appalachia—the South Central Appalachian TechHire, a joint effort between the Appalachian Regional Commission, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and private sector employees.
This program will prepare and place more than 50 people into tech jobs within the next year, and 400 more by 2020. For example, TechHire grants totaling $4 million have helped young adults in South Charleston, West Virginia, train for IT and advanced manufacturing jobs. The result is a regional workforce trained in high-paying tech jobs like software engineering and cybersecurity.
From engineers and analysts to architects and advisors, careers in cybersecurity abound in West Virginia, in nearly all industries and sectors. For example, By Light, in Martinsburg, provides cybersecurity monitoring and response support for the Department of Veterans Affairs, while Cyber 51 in Harpers Ferry provides cyber intelligence services to clients throughout the U.S.
Earning a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in West Virginia
Graduates of cybersecurity graduate programs are prepared to engineer, maintain, and enhance the protection of enterprise-wide information assets and the infrastructure they reside on.
The National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program, a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA), designates colleges and universities throughout the country that offer cybersecurity programs that meet these agencies’ strict knowledge unit requirements.
Universities in the CAE program with graduate-level cybersecurity programs may receive one or more of these 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)
As of 2016, there was just one university in West Virginia to earn the CAE designation. However, designated online cybersecurity programs are available to graduate students in West Virginia, providing plenty of program options and the opportunity to earn a master’s degree through a flexible distance learning format designed for working professionals.
Standard Admission Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Admission into a cybersecurity master’s degree program requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as computer science or computer engineering. However, because these programs are highly selective, institutions also require the following for admission consideration:
- Strong undergraduate GPA (usually a 3.0 or above)
- A resume detailing related professional experience
- The completion of specific undergraduate coursework:
- Linear algebra or discrete mathematics
- Programming (C++ or Java)
- Data structures
- Computer organization
Students lacking a strong undergraduate GPA and/or related work experience may also need to submit GRE scores.
Core Courses and Electives
The core of a cybersecurity master’s degree program, which consists of about 15 credits, includes study in:
- Foundations of cybersecurity
- Information assurance
- Leadership and communication
- Risk analysis and compliance
- Managing cyber operations
Electives often include courses such as:
- Cryptography and data security
- Network security
- Communications networks
- Cyber warfare
- Machine learning
NSA and DHS Designated Center of Academic Excellence in West Virginia
As of 2016, the following school has met the rigorous criteria required to earn the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation for its master’s degree and graduate certificate programs:
West Virginia University, Institute for Information Assurance Studies
- Master of Science in Computer Science – Information Assurance
- Master of Science in Computer Engineering – Information Assurance
- Master of Science in Software Engineering – Information Assurance
- Graduate Certificate in Biometrics and Information Assurance
- Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics
- Graduate Certificate in Software Engineering
Opportunities Available for Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in West Virginia
Jobs in cybersecurity range from IT security specialists to cyber intrusion analysts to network consultants to IT auditors. The following job posts (sourced in June 2016), although they do not provide an assurance of employment or indicate current openings, do provide insight into the types of opportunities available to cybersecurity professionals in West Virginia:
Information Assurance Specialist, CACI: Clarksburg
- Ensures risk management framework
- Establishes and leads an enterprise-wide information security and assurance function
- Ensures confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information systems and assets are identified and managed
- Cybersecurity, security management, and administrative experience
- Experience establishing and leading an enterprise-wide information security and assurance function
- Excellent communication skills
- Minimum bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, cyber engineering, or a related discipline and 8 years of experience; or a master’s degree plus 6 years of experience or doctorate and 5 years of related experience
- Working knowledge of current government and commercial information assurance and cybersecurity policy, regulations, and standards
Information Assurance/Cyber Security Specialist, Sotera Defense Solutions: Clarksburg
- Performs periodic vulnerability testing using approved tools
- Provides security services, including intrusion detection system support, vulnerability scans, information assurance vulnerability assessment compliance, etc.
- Provides security support in developing security documents, assisting security inspections, reviews, and investigations
- DoD Secret Clearance
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, cyber engineering or a related discipline and 5 years of experience; or master’s degree and 3 years of experience
- CISSP Certified