“I have said often that Colorado Springs has what it takes to become the cybersecurity capital of the nation. With our concentration of technological experts, both military and civilian, our outstanding educational institutions in UCCS and the Air Force Academy and our available workforce, we are ready to embrace this opportunity and look forward to the positive impact that such a designation will have on our city’s economic vitality.”
-Colorado Springs Mayor, John Suthers (KRDO)
As of 2020, more than 100 private cybersecurity companies call Colorado Springs home, as well as the National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit center for cyber innovation and awareness that is leading efforts including:
- Secure the Vote to deliver secure, auditable voting processes and increasing voter confidence in election returns.
- NCC Student Alliance to advocate for cybersecurity education at the K-12 level to lay the groundwork for an upskilled information security workforce.
- Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center to take cyberdefense skills into the global space industry and into orbit.
Tech industry recruiting firm Burning Glass Technologies reported that the cybersecurity job market expanded by 94% during the seven-year period leading up to 2020. And every one of those jobs comes with a healthy salary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that information security analysts in Colorado Springs can expect to punch right through the six-figure mark with an average salary of $108,520 as of 2019. And it’s not like there are only an elite few working here. The area actually ranks 4th in the nation for the highest concentration of those positions.
All throughout the state, companies in every industry have the need for trained professionals to architect and defend secure cyber systems – from independent cybersecurity firms and defense contractors to retail chains to nonprofits. VMWare Carbon Black, in Boulder, pioneers cloud-native endpoint protection; Payfone, in Greenwood village, offers mobile and digital identity authentication; ProtectWise, in Denver, delivers real-time and retrospective AI and ML technologies to analyze data breaches.
In a job market like this that refuses to stop growing, master’s-prepared professionals can step in with the kind of confidence that comes with having exactly the skillset and credentials employers are looking for.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Certificate in Cybersecurity in Colorado
Colorado is home to a number of National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated schools that offer cybersecurity master’s programs and post-bachelor certificates.
The NSA and DHS offer designations for two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in cyber defense and information security:
- 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 programs)
The NSA and DHS also recognize several universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Online programs offer curriculum that can be completed remotely, including online problem modules and forum discussions with professors and fellow students. NSA and DHS designated online programs are highly respected by employers throughout the country.
Both online and traditional master’s programs are made up of 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits focusing on electives in cybersecurity.
IT professionals interested in gaining more advanced training in information security may also pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. Post-bachelor’s certificate programs are generally 15 credits and can be completed in about a year. The programs focus on information security management, system defense, threat intel and mitigation, and current trends in cybersecurity.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Applicants to cybersecurity master’s programs are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, an excellent showing in their undergraduate courses, and prior knowledge of basic information security concepts such as applied mathematics and programming languages.
Minimum requirements for admission include:
- One year of calculus
- One year of a mathematics course beyond calculus
- Courses in data structures and programming language like Java or C++
- Studies in systems architecture
If the applicant has lower than a 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework, the school may require GRE scores. Admissions departments look for:
- Verbal scores of 150 or higher
- Quantitative scores of 155 or higher
- Analytical scores of 650 or higher
Core Course, Electives and Program Objectives
Core coursework for NSA and DHS designated cybersecurity master’s programs will typically include subjects like:
- Electronic and physical security systems
- Network Security
- Database Design and programming
- Applied cryptography
- Cyber forensics
Elective topics may include:
- Website design and management
- Disaster recovery and ops security
- Information systems security in healthcare
- Cybersecurity and terrorism
- Cloud and internet law
Using a combination of IT technology and innovative strategies, graduates of cybersecurity master’s programs will learn how to construct defenses in depth through a thorough understanding of the technological building blocks that make up secure networks and systems. Through programming, forensics, and threat intel courses, graduates will learn about current trends in cybersecurity and their applications in real-world situations.
NSA and DHS Designated Research and Education Institutions in Colorado
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:
Colorado School of Mines
Colorado Technical University
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
- Master of Science in Technology, Cybersecurity and Policy
- Graduate Certificate in National Security Intelligence
University of Denver
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Information Systems Security
- Information Security Certificate
- Master of Science in Information and Cyber Security
- Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
- Graduate Certificate in IA Policy Management
Cybersecurity Bootcamps for Master’s Program Preparation or Transitioning Straight Into Your Career – Denver and Online
A slightly different path to a cybersecurity career runs through a new route on the cybersecurity educational roadmap, called a cybersecurity boot camp.
All the intensity of a real bootcamp without the physicality, cybersecurity bootcamps are just as rigorous as the real thing, but their field of effort is cyberspace, and the muscles you’ll build are those of the mind. It’s a fast-paced, intense course of instruction that focuses on practical uses of actual tools on real-world scenarios you are likely to encounter in the field.
Bootcamps are offered at every possible skill level and in a wide variety of specializations. At the high end, you may need years of experience and a variety of current certifications to get into specific programs; at the other end of the spectrum, entry-level camps take individuals with almost no experience and give them the foundations they need to expand their cybersecurity capabilities.
That’s where you’ll find the University of Denver Cybersecurity Boot Camp, offered in both Denver and online. While many bootcamps are put on by private organizations, colleges like UD are increasingly offering camps as another path to offering their resources and experience to interested students. Lasting 24 weeks on a part-time basis, the program starts off at the ground level and builds students up with topics like:
- Windows and Linux system administration
- Bash shell scripting and elementary Python programming
- Use of tools like Searchsploit, Nessus, and Wireshark
- Cloud computing concepts and security
- Intrusion detection and response
- Web technologies
- Defensive and offensive cybersecurity
A career services team is part of the package at many bootcamps, to either polish up your resume in preparation for applying to a master’s program, or skipping traditional education entirely and getting you a slot directly in Colorado’s expanding cybersecurity workforce.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Colorado
Colorado’s cyber security force continues to grow in both the public and private sectors. With the opportunity to work on military bases or for government offices, nonprofits, or corporate chains, Colorado cybersecurity specialists are in an excellent position to move into some of the top jobs in the industry.
The following job listings represent the kind of opportunities that may be available to cybersecurity specialists in Colorado. These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily represent current openings or offer any assurance of employment.
Cyber Info Assurance Analyst—Qualis Corporation in Colorado Springs
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum
- 8 years of experience in IT and information security
- Ability to obtain DoD clearance
- Provides evaluations, compliance audits, and vulnerability assessments
- Establishes program control processes and obtains accreditation of systems
- Performs analyses and recommends additional security measures as necessary
Information Security Analyst—Hitachi Data Systems in Englewood
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field
- Minimum of seven years of experience in information security
- Plans control assessments of existing systems
- Implements information security controls
- Analyzes and identifies information security weaknesses
Cyber Security Analyst—Decisive Analytics in Colorado Springs
- Bachelor’s degree in a technical field
- Six years of experience in a related field
- Conducts risk assessments and evaluates systems and networks
- Performs penetration/vulnerability assessments
- Briefs leadership on vulnerabilities
- Architects secure systems