When you think of cybersecurity in the Tar Heel State, you probably think about the Research Triangle and the number of academic, research and engineering pioneers in the technology security industry. But there is a more humble, and maybe more instructive business model in North Carolina that gets at the heart of why hackers sometimes succeed and how cybersecurity professionals have to look at all the angles when locking down important data.
Because North Carolina is one of 22 states that bans electronic devices from landfills, companies that recycle electronics are in demand in the state. One such company, All Green Recycling in Charlotte, offers to pick up recyclable electronics from customers and transport them to their warehouse. Many of those devices still contain sensitive data from their previous owners. So All Green has to employ trained information security personnel who are experts at removing sensitive data before the recycling process can proceed, to ensure that information won’t fall into the wrong hands. All parts of the devices are then either shredded or sold as commodities to vendors, where they recycle and reuse them.
This is just one example of the many ways that knowledge of cybersecurity is important to North Carolina’s economy. Cyberseek, an industry data and job tracking tool administered by NIST, reported in 2020 that North Carolina was one of the hottest states in the union for cybersecurity jobs, with more than 19,000 unfilled job openings and a relatively small number of qualified cybersecurity professionals available to fill them.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce ranks Information Security Analysts as one of its Five Star Jobs for 2019, projecting a more than 28% increase in demand in the category by 2026. And those positions are all likely to come with healthy salaries, particularly for candidates with master’s degrees; Robert Half’s 2020 Information Technology Salary guide estimates the pay rate for those individuals is right around $183,500 annually.
It’s a great reason to get a master’s degree in cybersecurity, either online or at one of the many excellent schools in the state.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity in North Carolina
Online programs offer a level of flexibility not found through conventional campus-based programs, but with the same level of rigor and student engagement. You’ll find that they open up many opportunities for you to achieve the same kind of education that you would get in a traditional program, through mechanisms like:
- Discussion forums with peers and professors
- Mock threat simulations and response drills
- Online problem modules that can be completed at a flexible pace
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer two designation classifications applicable to schools that offer online and campus-based graduate programs in information security and cyber defense:
- 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)
Most graduate cybersecurity programs require applicants to fulfill prerequisites and other requirements that include:
- Holding a bachelor’s degree in computer science, or a related field with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (although some schools require a higher GPA, such as 3.25)
- Passing scores on an entrance exam such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) –usually a GRE verbal score of 450 (150 on the new scale) and a quantitative score of 700 (155 on the new score) are required
- Prerequisite courses such as the following must be completed prior to admission:
- Calculus I and II
- Mathematics courses beyond calculus (like discrete mathematics or switching theory)
- Courses in data structure, computer programming, and computer architecture
Some graduate cybersecurity programs will allow students who are deficient in the above prerequisite coursework to complete undergraduate-level bridge courses prior to admission.
Core Courses and Electives Found in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Graduate cybersecurity program core courses usually include classes with titles such as:
- Computer networking
- Design/analysis of algorithms
- Information, security and privacy
- Network security
- Application security
Graduate cybersecurity program electives may include:
- Computer operating systems
- Penetration testing and vulnerability analysis
- Information systems security engineering and management
- Digital forensics
NSA and DHS Designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in North Carolina
As of 2018, 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:
East Carolina University, Department of Technology Systems
- Security Studies Graduate Certificate
- Master of Science in Network Technology–Information Security Concentration
North Carolina A&T State University, Computer Science Department
University of North Carolina, Charlotte, College of Computing and Informatics (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
- Master of Science in Cyber Security
- Master of Science in Information Technology–Information Security and Privacy Concentration
Additionally, the North Carolina State University, Cyber Defense Laboratory holds the NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers a Master of Science in Computer Science.
Cybersecurity Bootcamps to Prepare for a Master’s Program or the Job Market – in Charlotte or Online
Another option if you are not feeling prepared for or able to afford a master’s program is a cybersecurity boot camp.
Boot camps are intended to be as intense as they sound: a few days or a few weeks worth of lessons packed with practical, hands-on instruction in up-to-date trends and technologies in a constantly changing field of study. A bootcamp experience is learning on rails, conforming to a very specific curriculum with a clearly defined outcome, which may be general or specialized depending on the intent and level of the camp.
For the same reason, admissions criteria and starting skill levels can vary widely, with some camps catering to current professionals seeking to advance specific skills, and others open to a more general audience hoping to build a foundation in cybersecurity.
At the entry-level, you’ll find the Cybersecurity Boot Camp at UNC Charlotte, one of an increasing number of bootcamps run by existing universities in a new, part-time, six-month format. No experience is required, and the program builds your skills from the ground up with courses in:
- Windows and Linux administration and hardening
- Cloud computing security and network architecture
- Digital forensics
- Modern cryptographic techniques
- Using tools such as Metasploit, Kali, and Nessus
You will get hands-on training in defensive and offensive cybersecurity, networking, systems, web technologies, and databases, and benefit from our CompTIA Partnership. Through immersive instruction and lab environments, learn both the theory and application of tools used by industry professionals. The skills and experience you will pick up along the way are equally applicable to master’s degree applications and will give you a strong credential that admissions committees will recognize.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in North Carolina
North Carolina is home to an area known as the “Research Triangle,” a region including the Raleigh and Durham areas, full of a number of high tech companies and enterprises. This is a mecca for cybersecurity and information technology. Jobs for cybersecurity professionals are not just found in this area of the state, however; you’ll find them everywhere.
The following job listings offer insight into the types of professional opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity graduates in North Carolina (may not reflect positions actively being filled and is not intended to offer any assurance of employment):
USPS Threat Management Specialist (Tier 1 and Tier 2), USPS Cybersecurity Operations Center- Raleigh, NC
- Monitor network security and incident response and coordinate with other government agencies to record and report incidents
- Monitor and analyze security information and event management to identify issues that need remediation
- Recognize potential, successful and unsuccessful intrusion attempts and compromises
- Communicates alerts to agencies regarding intrusions and compromises to network infrastructure
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, cyber security or related field required; master’s degree preferred
- Six years in an incident responder/handler role required
- Knowledge of intrusion detection systems and SIEM technologies required
- citizenship with Public Trust or higher clearance required
Adjunct Instructor, Information Systems Security, Wake Tech Community College- Raleigh, NC
- Instruct and guide class efficiently and effectively
- Maintain accurate records of student work and attendance
- Grade and return student work in a timely manner
- Communicate with instructors from other divisions to keep courses updated
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field required, master’s degree preferred
- Two years of work experience in a computer security related field required
- Industry certifications (such as CISSP or Cisco Security certification) preferred
- Teaching experience preferred
Director of Global Cybersecurity, Hanesbrands – Winston-Salem, NC
- Develop, implement and monitor a strategic, comprehensive enterprise information security and IT risk management program
- Manage the enterprise’s information security organization
- Facilitate information security governance
- Develop, maintain and publish updated information security policies, standards and guidelines
- Graduate degree in technology or business related field required
- Professional security management certification (CISSP, CISM, CISA or other) preferred
- Eight to ten years of experience in risk management, information security and IT jobs required
- Knowledge of relevant legal and regulatory requirements required
Cybersecurity Incident Threat Responder- Tier 1, Northrop Grumman- Raleigh, NC
- Perform network security monitoring and incident response
- Maintain records of security monitoring and incident response activities
- Monitor and analyze Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
- Communicate alerts to agencies regarding intrusions and compromises
- Master’s degree in information technology, information security or related area
- One year of related experience in information security and/or technology
- Experience in Cybersecurity Operations Center (CSOC) preferred
- Security certifications such as CompTIA Security+, SANs GSEC, GCIH, GCIA, CISSP, CISM preferred