It seems like a lifetime ago that the Oregon Digital Government Summit was held in Portland. And according to the warp-speed timeline the tech industry follows, that pre-Trump era conference in mid-2016 might as well have been last century. That’s a clip that state government can’t come close to keeping pace with, though, and the discussions that were taking place there on how to out-innovate hackers and combine public and private sector resources to better secure corporate and government information systems laid the groundwork for policy decisions that are still being hashed out today.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the state is still in desperate need of cybersecurity innovation and well-trained professionals – in government more than anywhere else. The Secretary of State conducted an audit in 2020 that found significant deficiencies in Oregon State Police information security practices, determining ultimately that OSP lacked even basic cybersecurity safeguards and required immediate action to develop security management and compliance policies. Problems spanned the gamut from a failure to manage devices connected to local networks to a lack of secure baseline configurations to a failure to audit logs, or even obtain the tools necessary to do so.
Those kinds of issues are widespread, and part of the reason can be traced to the fact that more than 4,500 cybersecurity positions in the state remained unfilled in 2020 according to a report put out by Cyberseek, a tech industry job data reporting tool administered by NIST. Candidates with the right education and experience are in enormous demand, and the best are rewarded with hefty salaries and benefits packages.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Oregon
Graduate degrees and post-bachelor’s certificates in cybersecurity are widely available through flexible online programs, which cybersecurity professionals tend to prefer. With courses you can complete any time, day or night, it’s easier to shift online studies around your current professional or personal obligations.
Those master’s degree or graduate certificate programs teach students how to architect secure systems and monitor security threats, proactively implement defense strategies, mine and interpret data, and provide risk assessments.
Admissions requirements and prerequisites for graduate-level cybersecurity programs usually include:
- Having a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering, or a related field
- Keeping a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate coursework
- Some, but not all, graduate schools require applicants to pass an entrance exam such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- Some graduate cybersecurity programs also require applicants to provide three letters of recommendation
- Applicants must usually write an essay or statement describing experience in and reasons for applying to cybersecurity graduate program
Applicants must complete prerequisite coursework that typically includes:
- Calculus and more advanced math courses such as differential equations, discrete mathematics or linear algebra
- Courses in computer architecture and programming languages
- Education in computer law and ethics
Graduate programs may provide applicants with the opportunity to fulfill computer science and math prerequisites such as those listed above through undergraduate-level bridge courses. These courses are taken prior to beginning graduate coursework, often in the summer immediately before the start of the fall quarter. These are simply lower-division classes typically offered by the university.
Core Courses and Electives Found in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Cybersecurity graduate programs typically require students to complete core coursework that includes:
- Networks and protocols
- Secure operating systems
- Risk management
- Network security
- Information assurance
- Security tools for information security
Electives that students may find in a cybersecurity graduate program include:
- Software engineering
- Software design and implementation
- Systems concepts, issues and processes
- Theory and practice of intrusion detection
- Digital forensics and incidence response
NSA and DHS Designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Oregon
Selected cybersecurity programs across the nation have been recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for meeting the highest quality standards. The two designations applicable to schools that offer graduate programs are:
- 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)
University of Oregon, Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy in Eugene holds the CAE-R designation for its research-intensive graduate programs and contributions to innovation in the field of cyber defense and information security, offering a Master of Science in Computer Science – Specialization in Cyber Security.
Online master’s programs and post-bachelor’s certificates through schools that hold the NSA/DHS CAE-CDE and CAE-R designations are also widely available.
Enrolling in a Cybersecurity Bootcamp in Portland or Online to Develop the Skills You Need for a Master’s Program or the Job Market
Master’s programs are expensive and hard to get into, but they’re not the only option for preparing for a career in information security. In fact, you can build your skills to qualify for a master’s program and enhance your career potential at the same time by enrolling in a cybersecurity bootcamp.
Bootcamps offer a rigorous, stair-stepped training regimen that focuses on the practical aspects of information security and hands-on skill development in real-world scenarios that explore the same tools and techniques that you would use on the job. Typically lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, you can find bootcamps aimed at every level of expertise and for all types of specializations within the field. That means their entrance requirements are similarly diverse, with some requiring that you already have a master’s or advanced certification, and others open to anyone, even without any experience in the field.
The latter is the type of program available at the University of Oregon Cybersecurity Boot Camp, offered on-site in Portland or online through a virtual classroom experience. At six months, it’s on the long side, but since it’s part-time, conducted in the evening and on weekends, the total hours are comparable to many similar camps. And like those other camps, you will learn critical skills in basic cybersecurity fundamentals like:
- Windows and Linux administration and hardening
- Basic shell scripting and Python programming
- Use of tools like Nessus and Hashcat
- Penetration testing and defensive analysis
- Cloud security concepts
It’s all hands-on training in networking, systems, web technologies, databases, and defensive and offensive cybersecurity. Through a dynamic curriculum, you’ll develop the fundamental skills to complete the Boot Camp ready to use your knowledge in the workforce. This program puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with similarly skilled fellow students and local professionals while you build connections in the industry. And because it’s a CompTIA partner program, it sets you up for the Security+ certification exam, one of the big ground-level certs often required in the industry.
It’s a good step to both build your essential skills for a master’s application, or to get a job directly in the thriving cybersecurity industry in and around Portland.
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Experts in Oregon
The Silicon Forest is home to offices for Tripwire, IBM, Cisco, Galois, Symantec, and Intel, among many other companies with both regional and international clientele. With the importance of information security to all areas of business, Oregon is becoming a major player in the cybersecurity arena.
A 2020 report published by job market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies found that cybersecurity job postings increased by nearly 100 percent between 2013 and 2020. Employment opportunities in this field in Oregon show no signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, the state’s Employment Department estimates the role for information security analysts here will expand by 30.8 percent by 2026.
The following job listings illustrate the kind of professional opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity graduates in Oregon, but may not be currently active and are not intended to imply any assurance of employment:
Cyber Security Analyst, Nike – Portland, OR
- Provide first tier support for all request coming into department
- Understand security technology and log collection, correlation and alerting technologies
- Follow best practices, good judgment and problem solving skills to execute security operations
- Make good decisions under pressure
- Bachelor’s degree in cyber security or related field; master’s degree preferred
- Network+ and/or Security+ certification required
- Experience with Windows Server/Workstation and Mac OS
- Experience using Splunk, Unix, and Linux preferred
Security Specialist, Legislative Administration, State Capitol – Salem, OR
- Create and execute applications and infrastructure security projects and initiatives to protect, defend against and respond to cyber security threats
- Implement and perform operational best practices in protecting, defending and responding to activities
- Provide multi-tiered support of security technologies in the legislative branch of state government
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field required; graduate degree preferred
- Excellent problem solving and troubleshooting skills
- Skill in analyzing complex written materials
- Experience in configuring and managing network firewalls
Cyber Threat Analyst, Intel – Hillsboro, OR
- Provide all source intelligence and intrusion analysis by responding to advanced adversary attacks and penetration testing
- Provide assistance and support in other risk management or information security projects
- Bachelor’s degree in cyber security or related field required; master’s degree preferred
- Three or more years of experience in intrusion analysis for a large-scale enterprise environment
- Fluency in Python, Ruby, Power Shell, C#, Bash, Perl and/or C++ preferred
- Certified Information Security Systems Professional certification preferred