There aren’t too many industries out there that have to balance the need for extremely tight controls on information and processes while at the same time relying on a team-based approach that brings in the best and brightest from multiple agencies. But then again, there aren’t too many people drawn to this line of work that don’t have the kind of unbending integrity it takes to safeguard sensitive data and the networks they reside on. The consolidated approach to expanding measures to combat cyberthreats in Ohio has involved finely tuned joint efforts, bringing in Ohio Homeland Security, the State Highway Patrol/Public Safety, the Ohio National Guard, the state’s Emergency Management Agency, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Cooperative efforts like the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center have resulted in common cybersecurity protocols and best practices being shared among government agencies at every level.
Individual departments have also expanded their internal capabilities and extended efforts down to the county level, creating jobs and expanding demand for cybersecurity expertise. In January of 2020, SB 52 went into effect, appointing a Chief Information Security Officer within the Secretary of State’s office to support the information security efforts of every one of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Today, major stakeholders in Ohio routinely share cyber intelligence about emerging threats that could affect state government agencies and the private sector. This involves security analysts with the state Fusion Center conducting cyber intelligence analyses designed to inform coordination efforts and uniformly implement a statewide security response in real time as credible threats emerge.
Ohio’s universities have a key role to play in these efforts, and the state Department of Education is offering support through up to $750,000 in research incentive grants through 2020 and 2021. That means graduate students and university research departments in the state will have the resources they need to participate at the cutting edge in cybersecurity efforts.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in Ohio
Cybersecurity master’s degree programs prepare graduates to design new systems that are:
- Inherently secure
- Capable of detecting and analyzing malware and cyberattacks
- Protective of web, mobile, and critical infrastructure systems.
Ohio is home to two universities designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as Centers of Academic Excellence (CAEs).
Although CAE designation is not a requirement for colleges and universities offering cybersecurity master degree programs, it has become a distinction that many aspire to, as well as an indicator of quality for master’s degree candidates. Only those institutions offering a robust degree program closely aligned with specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units qualify for the CAE designation.
Schools offering master’s degree/certificate and post-bachelor certificate programs may achieve one or more of the following CAE 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)
Institutions offering online master’s degrees in cybersecurity may also qualify for the CAE designation, dramatically opening up the program options available to Ohio students. Online master’s degree programs in cybersecurity allow students to complete their graduate study through a flexible, online curriculum that involves interactive classes and frequent communication with program advisors.
Standard Admission Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Programs
Applicants of graduate degree programs in cybersecurity can expect a highly competitive and selective admissions process. Enrollment into these programs often requires that candidates possess:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a related field such as computer science, computer engineering, or information technology
- A minimum undergraduate GPA (usually a 3.0)
- A comprehensive resume highlighting related professional experience
- An admissions essay or statement of purpose detailing their career goals and reasons for applying to the program
- The completion of specific undergraduate coursework, including:
- Discrete mathematics or linear algebra
- Data structures
- Computer programming (Java, C++)
- Computer organization
Applicants lacking a strong undergraduate GPA and/or related work experience must often submit GRE scores as part of the admissions process. Many institutions require minimum scores of:
- Verbal: 150 or higher
- Quantitative: 155 or higher
- Analytical: 650 or higher
Core Courses and Electives
A cybersecurity master’s degree program generally includes 15 credits of core courses and another 15 credits of electives. Core courses include topics such as:
- Applications of cryptography and cryptanalysis
- Cyberspace and information security
- Security systems
- Secure systems engineering
- Distributed systems and network security
- Computer and network forensics
Electives provide students with the opportunity to focus their graduate program on a specific area of cybersecurity, such as:
- Web security and privacy
- Network security
- Computer and cyber forensics
- Information security management
- Crisis, disaster, and risk management
NSA and DHS Designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Ohio
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:
The Ohio State University, Computer Science and Engineering
University of Cincinnati, Cybersecurity
Additionally, Air Force Institute of Technology, Center for Cyberspace Research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base holds the NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers a Master of Science in Cyber Operations.
Bootcamps in Cleveland and Online as Preparation for a Master’s Application or a Career in Cybersecurity
A much newer and faster option for getting into the cybersecurity workforce is available through focused bootcamps. Although bootcamps were originally run by independent providers, certification agencies and industry trade groups, colleges have been deploying their resources and expertise into the effort as well. Perhaps the best example of this in Ohio is the Case Western Reserve University Cybersecurity Bootcamp offered in Cleveland and online. Here students receive hands-on training in defensive and offensive cybersecurity, networking, systems, web technologies, and databases, while also benefiting from our CompTIA Partnership.
Cybersecurity bootcamps are generally offered in various specializations and aimed at different outcomes; the CWRU program, for instance, is very much an entry-level effort, designed to impart general knowledge in cybersecurity topics and principles to students without previous experience in the field. As such, it accepts applicants with no experience, while camps that teach more high-level and focused skills often demand years of experience and expertise in the field.
All bootcamps focus on practical knowledge and demonstrated expertise, usually in a series of projects you work on with your cadre of fellow students and experienced instructors.
While many programs last only a few weeks, the CWRU bootcamp is 6 months in length and is offered in a part-time format, only three days a week, with convenient evening and weekend hours. In that time, you’ll be taught essential skills including:
- Industry-standard programs like Wireshark and Metasploit
- Basic risk assessment
- Windows and Linux OS configuration essentials
- Shell scripting
- Ethical hacking
You can use all that as a basis to test for common certifications like the CompTIA Security+ exam and the Certified Ethical Hacker credential. Other bootcamps may focus on other certs, or even offer them as part of the package,
It’s an excellent way to bone up on your skills in preparation to apply to a master’s program, but often, those certifications and the type of experience offered at a bootcamp are all you need to get a job in the field.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Professionals in Ohio
According to CyberSeek, an industry data and job tracking tool administered by NIST, in 2020 Ohio had more than 13,000 job openings for cybersecurity professionals, signaling a tremendous unmet need- among the highest in the nation. The Columbus area alone had more than 5,000 current openings, primarily in operational slots, with the CISSP certification identified as the cert that is most in-demand.
The following job posts provide a glimpse into just a few of the senior-level opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity engineers, analysts, advisors, and consultants in Ohio. They do not represent an assurance of employment or current job offers:
Examiner/Senior Examiner, Information Technology: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cleveland
- Ensures systems are operating in a safe and sound manner and in compliance with applicable banking laws, regulations, and policy statements
- Acts as the IT lead and/or assists on IT examinations of banks and bank holding companies to identify weaknesses and facilitate corrective actions
- Determines implications of new information security and cybersecurity risks and standards to financial institutions
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science (advanced degree preferred)
- CISA and CISSP designations
- 5+ years of related work experience (audit, compliance, or regulator experience)
- General knowledge in areas of vendor/third-party management, technology risk management, technology governance, internal audit, business resiliency, and fraud
Cybersecurity Analyst Support, Senior: Wright Patterson Air Force Base
- Telecommunications concepts and principles, operating modes, systems, media, equipment, equipment configuration, and related software systems
- Implements procedures and methods for protecting systems and applications
- Understanding of computer science principles, information management principles, automated data processing, software system structures, computer programming languages, and data processing functions
- Bachelor’s degree and 18 years of experience directly related to subject matter or a master’s degree with 10 years of experience
Information Security Manager: Signet Jewelers, Akron
- Leads and evolves the management of IT risk and security architecture and operations program
- Performs security risk assessments, penetration testing, and application security review activities
- Identifies IT risk and vulnerabilities to drive awareness, understanding, and remediation of potential exposures to the business
- 5+ years of direct managerial experience with building risk and security architecture programs
- 5+ overall experience in cybersecurity
- Bachelor’s degree or higher preferred
- Industry certifications such as CISSP, GSEC, CEH, and/or Sec+
Cybersecurity Subject Matter Expert: Wright Patterson Air Force Base
- Supports the management, execution, and oversight of tanker systems cybersecurity programs
- Develops, coordinates, and maintains all documentation required to achieve interim approval to test, interim approval to operate, and approval to operate
- Master’s degree in business, engineering or science
- At least 15 years of experience
- Current working knowledge of applicable security DoD and Air Force instructions and policies with respect to platform information technology and platform information technology interconnections information assurance/cybersecurity