Arizona features a small but active group of schools with cyber security programs. To jump straight to them, see our list of degrees and certificates within the state. Otherwise, stick around to learn about Arizona-based research initiatives, scholarship opportunities, and professional communities.
Studying Cyber Security in Arizona
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security has designated four Arizona institutions as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE): Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Estrella Mountain Community College, and the for-profit University of Advancing Technology. The CAE-CDE designation should give you some idea of where the action is, but let’s see what exactly three of those schools are up to:
- The Arizona State University Global Security Initiative addresses challenges facing the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies. It houses the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics (CDF), which Samsung blessed with $1.5 million in 2017 for student scholarships and fellowships. CDF regularly watches large checks roll in. In 2015, the center received a $1.2 million Department of Energy grant to take part in the Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium (CREDC), which defends the nation’s power grids, refineries and pipelines from hacks.
- Estrella Mountain Community College leads the Arizona Sun Corridor-Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC), which received a $13.5 million grant from the Department of Labor in 2012 to build a pipeline of talent between the state’s community colleges and energy companies. Students at EMCC can now attain an AAS in IT and Power Systems Security, while earning an IT Security Certificate in the process.
- University of Arizona launched the Defense and Security Research Institute (DSRI) in 2014 in a bid to partner with area military installations and defense contractors, such as Fort Huachuca and Raytheon. Since the aerospace and defense industry in Arizona makes up a large chunk of its economy, DSRI provides students interested in the sector a leg up on employment opportunities.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Arizona
Arizona is that rare state where you can find online cyber security programs at nearly every academic level. Although your first instinct may be to turn to Arizona State University, which helped popularize distance learning, University of Arizona and the for-profit University of Advancing Technology actually feature a greater range of programs. We get into specifics below:
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
Cochise College’s AAS in Cybersecurity is just four 200-level courses shy of being a fully online program. If that’s close enough for you, register. The degree focuses on fundamentals of networks and operating systems, while also providing theoretical and practical instruction on network defense and computer forensics.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Two public universities — and one private one — have developed online cyber security curricula at the baccalaureate level. Arizona State University’s online BS in Information Technology allows for a Networking and Computer System Security concentration once you’ve finished your underclassman coursework. Over in Tucson, the Bachelor of Applied Science in Cyber Operations at University of Arizona targets students who already have an associate degree or professional experience in an IT field. That means you should expect to hit the ground running, with minimal introductory level courses to slow you down.
Tempe is our last stop. University of Advancing Technology places two relevant degrees online: the BS in Network Security and the BS in Technology Forensics. The former trains students to become network security specialists through a mix of research and hands-on coursework. The latter is designed for students who enjoy sleuthing, either in a law enforcement capacity or at a business.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
You have two choices for distance degrees at the graduate level. Students in University of Arizona’s MS in Management Information Systems learn to analyze business problems and apply IT solutions. Navigating to the degree’s Security and Information Assurance track guarantees you’ll be able to solve security challenges plaguing the public and private sectors.
At UAT, you don’t have to take a concentration to delve into cyber security topics — there’s a full program for that: the Master of Science in Information Assurance. It emphasizes system design and management, so if you need something tailored to skills like hacking and penetration testing, you’ll want to pursue that during your undergraduate career.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
The University of Arizona Enterprise Security Certificate is a three-course program that prepares graduate students for certifications as information systems security professionals, senior systems managers, risk analysts and system administrators. Each course counts toward the MS in Management Information Systems, should students decide to continue their studies.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Arizona
Two major scholarships loom large in the Grand Canyon State, the result of the state’s flagship public universities receiving multimillion dollar grants from the National Science Foundation. We’ll cover those and a few other enticing awards for security students at specific schools below:
Arizona State University
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Upperclassmen, grad students and PhD candidates enrolled in the Information Assurance concentration can apply for a full ride through this scholarship. That’s not just tuition — it’s also money toward health insurance ($1,200 annually), professional development ($3,000), textbooks ($1,000) and living expenses ($20,000 to $30,000). If selected for this prestigious renewable scholarship, students must take summer internships and government jobs after graduation.
- Raytheon Scholarship/Internship for Engineering and Cybersecurity: Defense contractor Raytheon hands out five awards per year to former military members who pursue engineering or cybersecurity degrees at Cochise. Those who win the $1,000 scholarships will be offered summer internships with the company.
University of Arizona
- AZSecure Cybersecurity Fellowship: Master’s degree seekers (and occasionally undergrads) who come to UA for one of its cyber security programs may be able to walk away debt-free thanks to this fellowship. It covers tuition and fees, and students receive $34,000 a year toward living expenses. In return, they’ll work for a government agency for one to three years after graduating.
- Ben Strickland Memorial Scholarship: Although not strictly for Management Information Systems enrollees, they’re among the targeted recipients of the Strickland Scholarship, which goes to full-time upperclassmen and second-year grad students with financial need and 3.0 GPAs.
Cyber Security Events in Arizona
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Arizona
Cyber security professionals are by nature problem solvers. And since there’s rarely just one way to solve a problem, you might benefit from seeing others’ approaches. That’s why we recommend joining a community of lifelong learners. Here are four from throughout the state:
- AZ Cyber Warfare Range: The AZ Cyber Warfare Range hosts “live fire exercises.” To get in on the InfoSec action, join the Mesa-based Meetup group of the same name, which welcome newbies to the field.
- Linux HackFest: You’ll find this Meetup group at the DeVry CyberSecurity Range in Phoenix every second Saturday of the month, where members put on presentations for other attendees. As the title suggests, they love Linux’s security advantages.
- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Phoenix: OWASP Phoenix meets about eight times a year to listen to speaker presentations covering everything from blocking robocalls to reverse engineering malware. Students and professionals alike are welcome.
- Tucson Computer Forensics and Information Security: The “Forensicators” meet regularly for presentations from external speakers and hands-on workshops. Often meeting on the UA campus, the group is geared just as much toward students as it is toward pros.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Arizona
Arizona’s sunny climate makes it a popular venue for conferences. In 2017, for instance, University of Arizona hosted the Women in Cybersecurity Conference and Scottsdale welcomed both the Symposium on Electronic Crime Research and the Conference on Data & Application Security & Privacy. Several conferences and workshops have even made the Grand Canyon State their permanent home. Here are six:
- Arizona Cybersecurity Summit: The Arizona Technology Council is the main sponsor of this burgeoning gathering for government and business leaders. The daylong event in Scottsdale is an affordable way to see new products, network with professionals and learn about emerging concerns in cyber security.
- CactusCon: Hackers descend on Pheonix for two days of workshops, networking and talks by presenters with names like Heisenberg and b1ack0wl.
- Cyber Southwest: A 2016 entrant to the scene, this Tucson symposium is built around panel discussions covering the protection of the state’s infrastructure. Cyber Southwest’s primary goal is workforce development, so expect conversation to center on certifications and training strategies.
- (ISC)2 Secure Phoenix: (ISC)2 members get a discount to attend their local chapter’s annual one-day event, which is broken into five presentations on threat intelligence.
- Phoenix Tech-Security Conference: More expo than conference, this free gathering is ideal for discovering vendors and seeing how companies are attacking threats for clients.
- SANS Scottsdale: The SANS Institute runs intensive certification workshops for learners across the country. Every year, instructors come to Scottsdale for a week to deliver a variety of condensed courses for everyone from the technologically illiterate to information security managers. Warning: These courses are not cheap, but they are probably the quickest way to build expertise in key areas of cyber security.
Cyber Security Jobs in Arizona
The Greater Phoenix area has more information security analysts than just about anywhere else in the country. Cyber Security Canyon, a coalition of Arizona business and government leaders, aims to introduce prospective employees to the area’s tech job scene. It highlights employers like BeyondTrust, LifeLock and Trusona, all of which made the Cybersecurity 500, a list of the best companies in the sector. Wells Fargo, the state’s fifth-largest employer in 2016, according to the Arizona Republic, is a common sight on cyber security job boards, as are computing giant Intel (#7), electricity provider Salt River Project (#28), and defense contractor General Dynamics (#34).
Looking outside of Phoenix, it’s still possible to find work. Fewer than 50,000 people live in Sierra Vista, but it has one of the highest concentrations of cyber security personnel. That’s due to the presence of Fort Huachuca, home to the United States Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) and the United States Army Intelligence Center.
Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson has an onsite cyber security team, giving professionals an option for employment between Phoenix and Fort Huachuca. The company announced in late 2016 that it would be adding more than 2,000 jobs in Tucson through 2021, most of them in engineering and other highly technical areas.
Cyber Security Salaries in Arizona
Unfortunately, cyber security wages in Arizona trail behind the rest of the nation. In 2015 the median annual salary for an information security analyst in the U.S. was $90,000, but just $76,000 in Arizona, according to government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indeed.com tracks wages in real time but it paints the same picture for similar job titles. For instance, IT security specialists make $97,000 in Arizona…15 percent less than the national average. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Security engineers pull in $99,000, right on par with their U.S. colleagues. And network security engineers cash in at $126,000 a year, which is 15 percent higher than the national average.
All Cyber Security Programs in Arizona
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 6 Arizona schools.
Arizona State University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Mohave Community College
University of Advancing Technology
University of Arizona