The May 2016 Wyoming Cybersecurity Symposium in Cheyenne brought together a host of experts to provide insight into the cyber vulnerabilities that exist in nearly every industry and sector in Wyoming and how hackers and cyber terrorists attempt to exploit them.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time. For example, in February 2016, the Wyoming Medical Center had a data breach that compromised the private records of nearly 3,200 patients.
It’s an uphill battle, but one that Wyoming is prepared to face. A major line of defense in cybersecurity is Wyoming’s Department of Homeland Security, which serves as a front line stakeholder in the state’s efforts to protect critical infrastructure at the tribal, territorial, local, and state levels. The work of the Department of Homeland Security has contributed to the information sharing, capacity building, and coordination efforts needed to develop robust and effective cybersecurity capabilities for the state.
Cybersecurity professionals are a valuable asset to nearly every industry and sector in Wyoming. Engineers, analysts, architects, and advisors in cybersecurity work for state agencies, such as the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, and the Wyoming Department of Corrections, as well as for some of Wyoming’s largest corporations, like Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, First Interstate Bank in Sheridan, and Jackson State Bank & Trust in Jackson Hole.
And their value is only expected to increase. Wyoming state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require all state agencies to enforce a policy regarding the “collection, access, security, and use of data,” which would require cybersecurity professionals to conduct employee training and implement plans to identify and respond to security breaches.
Earning a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Wyoming
A master’s degree in cybersecurity prepares students to design, develop, implement, operate, and manage secure information systems and to protect an organization’s information assets.
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 with cybersecurity programs that meet specific cybersecurity-related curriculum standards (called knowledge units).
Universities and colleges in the CAE program with graduate-level cybersecurity programs may receive one or more cybersecurity classifications:
- CAE-CDE: National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education
- CAE-R: National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research
Although no Wyoming institutions hold the CAE designation as 2016, students in Wyoming can still complete a cybersecurity master’s degree program through one of the many online master’s degree programs in cybersecurity offered through CAE designated schools.
Online master’s degree programs provide a distance-based curriculum that includes interactive, online courses and support, virtual cyber threat response drills, and discussion forums with classmates and professors.
Standard Admission Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Programs
Being considered for admission into a cybersecurity master’s degree program typically requires the following:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in related discipline, such as computer engineering, information technology, or computer science
- A minimum undergraduate GPA (3.0 or above)
- The completion of undergraduate coursework in:
- Discrete mathematics or linear algebra
- Data structures
- Computer programming (Java, C++)
- Computer organization
- Letters of recommendation
- Admissions essay
Applicants lacking a strong undergraduate GPA must often submit GRE scores for admission consideration. Typical minimum GRE scores include:
- Verbal: 150 or higher
- Quantitative: 155 or higher
- Analytical: 650 or higher
Core Courses and Electives
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity generally consist of 30 credits (15 of which are core courses, 15 of which are electives) that take between 12 and 18 months to complete. Students may also pursue post-bachelor certificate programs in cybersecurity, which consist of 15 credits.
Students of cybersecurity graduate programs learn about the principles of data protection and network security through a core that includes:
- Computer systems architecture
- Laws and ethics of information assurance
- Principles of cybersecurity
- Database security
- Managing security risks
Electives allow students to customize their cybersecurity graduate degree and focus their study on a particular area of interest, such as:
- Computer forensics and investigation
- Ethical hacking
- Offensive security
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Wyoming
Master’s degree programs in cybersecurity prepare leaders and senior-level professionals in cybersecurity, from security system administrators to chief information security officers to senior IT security consultants.
According to a 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies, job posts in Wyoming increased a whopping 245 percent between 2010 and 2014, making it third in the nation for job growth in cybersecurity during that time.
Although not designed to reflect current job opportunities or provide an assurance of employment, the following job posts provide a glimpse into the many types of jobs available to master’s-prepared professionals in cybersecurity in Wyoming:
Cybersecurity Engineer, Core Client Tech: Department of Veterans Affairs, Cheyenne
- Provides network infrastructure support
- Assists personnel in resolving vulnerability issues on network systems
- Resolves network equipment vulnerability issues
- Ensures compliance of all regional network equipment
- Continuously remediates security deficiencies on VA’s network infrastructure
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, information technology, cybersecurity, or a related field
- At least 10 years of experience
Systems and Infrastructure Specialist II: State of Wyoming: Casper
- Oversees daily administration, configuration, upgrade, and maintenance of systems, including databases and storage backups and infrastructures
- Assists in establishing and maintaining standards and procedures
- Evaluates the development and maintenance of software as required
- Leads and mentors other IT support specialists
- Bachelor’s degree and at least 2 years of progressive work experience in systems and infrastructure