In early May of 2021, Kansas once again plays host to Secure World Expo, a con that brings together hundreds of cybersecurity specialists from around the world. Taking place at Overland Park Convention Center, the keynote speaker will be a supervisory special agent of the FBI, while sponsors include Corelight, GuidePoint Security, and Okta among other cybersecurity luminaries.
This regular event highlights the growing attention being given to cybersecurity not only in Kansas, but across the country. According to Forbes, the first six months of 2019 alone saw more than 3,800 publicly acknowledged data breaches, exposing 4.1 billion personal records… and most breaches remain unacknowledged. The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance estimates the annual cost of such crimes in 2018 to be over $45 billion. It’s the cybersecurity professionals with graduate-level training that get called in to combat these data breaches and protect businesses and governments from both known and emerging cyber threats. Despite what the proliferation of cybercrime might make you think, they’re surprisingly good at it.
Kansas has marshaled support from the public and private sectors to help state agencies and business commit themselves to the fight, with a number of top universities making vital contributions to solving the problem of persistent attacks. In early 2020, the K-state CyberCorps program received a 5-year renewal and a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue its work, for example. This represents a prime example of technology and policy working together for the benefit of society.
The most talented master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals find no shortage of opportunities available to them in Kansas’s defense, healthcare, finance, retail, academic and business sectors. Among them are chief information security officers (CISO), senior cyber security analysts and directors of product security. With the right education, you could be one of them.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity in Kansas
Master’s degree or graduate certificate programs in cybersecurity may go by many different titles, depending on the school and the concentration they offer. You can find degrees structured as purely cybersecurity programs, as well as engineering and more general IT programs with a concentration in information security:
- Master of Science in Cyber Security
- Master of Science in Information Technology — Information Security/Assurance Specialization
- Master of Science in Engineering – Security Specialization
Graduate certificates include:
- Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
- Graduate Certificate in Information Security/Assurance
Both on-campus and online cybersecurity master’s programs are available to graduate students in Kansas. Master’s programs in cybersecurity often consist of about 18 credits of core courses and 18-20 elective credits, though this can differ by specialization.
A post-bachelor’s cybersecurity certificate program would consist of about half as many credits.
Some of the more respected graduate programs in cybersecurity require that applicants meet the following qualifications:
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering or a related field with a 3.0 minimum GPA
- Good scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
- An average of three letters of recommendation
- Completion of the following prerequisite courses:
- Calculus (one year)
- One mathematics course beyond calculus, such as linear algebra, discrete mathematics or differential equations
- Programming course using C++ or Java
- Courses in data structures and systems architecture
Many schools will offer undergraduate-level bridge courses to satisfy the computer science and mathematics requirements listed above.
Upon completing a cybersecurity graduate program, graduates should be able to:
- Design new systems that are inherently secure
- Protect web and mobile systems, and other critical infrastructures
- Perform systems assurance through application of mathematical logic
- Conduct analysis and detection of malware and other cyberattacks
- Perform data mining and anomaly detection to identify suspicious cyber behavior
Core Courses Found in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Core courses that are foundational to most graduate level cybersecurity programs include:
- Network and computer systems architecture
- Authentication and access management
- Intrusion detection and system monitoring
- Encryption techniques and technologies
- Information theory
Electives Available in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Programs may be customized by selecting electives available in these programs, which can expand your knowledge in technical areas such as:
- Fundamentals of data and knowledge mining
- Advanced computer architecture
- Machine learning
- Malware analysis
NSA and Homeland Security Designated Research and Education Institutions in Kansas
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer designations specific to two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in 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 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:
Fort Hays State University, Department of Informatics
- Master of Professional Studies in Information Assurance Management
- Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Security
University of Kansas, School of Engineering
- Master of Science in Information Technology – Cybersecurity
- Graduate Certificate in Information Security and Assurance
Additionally, one school in the state holds the CAE-R designation for its contributions to cyber research:
Kansas State University, Department of Computer Science
- Master of Science in Engineering – Security Specialization
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems Cybersecurity Certificate
Bootcamps to Prepare for Master’s-level Training or a Cybersecurity Career – Online or in Overland Park
Overland park hosts the Secure World Expo for a good reason: it’s the home of the University of Kansas and the university’s world-class information security faculty and program. But in addition to their superb formal educational offerings, KU has joined another trend in cybersecurity training: the cybersecurity bootcamp.
The KU Cybersecurity Boot Camp is a part-time, six-month crash course with hands-on training in networking, systems, web technologies, databases, and defensive and offensive cybersecurity offered to students without any prior experience in the field.Through a dynamic curriculum, you’ll develop the fundamental skills to complete the Boot Camp ready to use your knowledge in the workforce.
This all happens in the course of projects that mimic real-world scenarios and use real tools common in the industry like Kali Linux and Hashcat. That kind of project oriented training is a common feature of bootcamps, which eschew theory for hands-on experience that lines right up with the latest trends and techniques in the field.
And also like many other bootcamps, it offers preparation for vital industry certifications like the CompTIA Security+ and CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) certs. And, like others, it offers career preparation that will help you develop a project portfolio, hone your interviewing skills, and plug you into the network of local companies hiring infosec professionals.
Bootcamps can range from days to months in length, and some of them are more advanced than what KU offers, focusing on specialty expertise at a high level—and with correspondingly higher entry requirements. But it’s a fast-paced, relatively inexpensive path to preparing for a master’s degree or for moving directly into a job in cybersecurity.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Kansas
Cyberseek found that there were fewer than 7,000 cybersecurity professionals employed in Kansas as of 2020, but also that the state ranked very low in the ratio of supply to demand in the profession. Almost 3,000 current job openings were unfilled at the time of their analysis.
As home to three different military installations, Kansas may be the perfect place for cybersecurity graduates to begin a career in the public sector. While some cybersecurity jobs at military bases such as Fort Leavenworth, McConnell Air Force Base and Fort Riley are for military members only, others are open to civilians with secret or top-secret clearance. Kansas is also home to many private sector military contractors, offering even more career opportunities for graduate-educated cybersecurity professionals.
The following job listings offer some insight into the kind of professional opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity graduates in Kansas, but are not intended to imply current availably or any assurance of employment:
System Administrator/Risk Management Framework (RMF), Trideum Corporation –Leavenworth, KS
- Validate, gather, organize and manage artifacts and documentation to support RMF for Army Mission Command Training Centers (MCTC)
- Provide technical support and assistance for RMF questions
- Facilitate RMF meetings
- Bachelor’s degree in systems management, engineering, cyber security, computer science or a related field required; master’s degree preferred
- Five or more years of experience in implementing cyber security solutions required
- Secret Clearance required or must be attainable
Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Cyber Security, Friends University- Wichita, KS
- Coordinate the Friends University Center for Cyber Defense Education
- Instruction of cyber security courses and serve as mentor/advisor for student-led activities
- Develop and maintain Cyber Security and Cyber Defense courses and curriculum conformance with NSA National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense specifications
- Advise institutional IT department on matters of institutional cyber security
- Master’s degree in Cyber Security
- At least two current contributions to peer-reviewed publications on CD topics
- At least two current presentations of CD content at major regional/national/international conferences and events
- Current membership as a subject matter expert for accrediting bodies and institutions such as ICEE or ACM
Cyber SDD Writer OG X/Military Trainer, Northrop Grumman – Fort Leavenworth, KS
- Generate and configure cyber storylines meeting the demands of the new war-fighting domain of cyberspace
- Inject cyber storylines through the SDD IO Cell to ensure sequencing does not have a negative effect on overall exercise sequence
- Provide scenario products and subject matter expertise in the areas of cyber offensive and defensive operations
- Coordinate storyline development and support dynamic scripting during exercise
- Master’s degree in Cyber Security
- Ten years of military service
- Familiar with current Army/Joint doctrine
- Ability to obtain DoD Top Secret clearance