Powered by Fortune 500 companies in Atlanta and the U.S. Army Cyber Command in Augusta, the market for cyber security professionals in Georgia is strong. If you already plan on studying for a tech career there, skip to our list of Georgia schools with cyber security programs. But for more information about campus developments, annual events and scholarships, keep reading our guide to Georgia’s cyber security scene.
Studying Cyber Security in Georgia
To find the top cyber security programs, it can be helpful to look at the Centers of Academic Excellence as determined by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NSA and DHS recognize six Georgia schools for their instructional ability and/or the quality of their research. Here are details about what each is up to:
- Students at Armstrong State University’s Center for Applied Cyber Education shadow members of the campus police’s Cyber Forensics Division — a one of a kind unit — to learn how to “secure data, investigate intrusions and prosecute cyber-crimes” in a real-life setting.
- In late 2016, Augusta University (Georgia Regents University) opened its 9,000-square-foot Cyber Institute, which includes a $2.5 million laboratory. The school is positioning itself to feed graduates into the United States Army Cyber Command at nearby Fort Gordon.
- TSYS is a global payment service provider based in Columbus. In an effort to recruit the best minds to join its cyber security workforce, it’s partnered with Columbus State University down the road. In 2015 alone, TSYS gave Columbus State $2.5 million to create the TSYS Cybersecurity Center for Financial Services, fund research and pay for cyber security scholarships.
- In a 2014 survey, cyber security professionals judged Georgia Tech to have the 16th-best cyber security program in the country. The school’s Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP) is the hub for cyber security research in the state, coordinating research across nine campus information security labs to solve problems for national security experts, financial businesses and private citizens.
- Georgia Tech is a lead producer of postgraduate cyber security research, but Kennesaw State University has the most degree programs and student activities, making it a desirable spot for undergrads and graduates alike. The school’s Center for Information Security Education hosts the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, publishes the Journal of Cybersecurity Education, Research and Practice, and partners with SunTrust Bank to put students into internships.
- University of North Georgia is one of only six senior military colleges in the U.S., so its graduates are well-placed for employment in government as well as private industry. In 2016, UNG opened the Center for Cyber Operations Education to expand study and job opportunities for students in the field.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Georgia
Georgia’s two-year technical colleges have yet to make their cyber security programs available via distance learning. That leaves it to several of the state’s four-year state universities to provide online cyber security degrees and certificates, with options ranging from cyber crime to information assurance to business administration with a tech focus.
The biggest provider of online cyber security education is Kennesaw State University, which offers multiple bachelor’s programs and certificates (both undergraduate and graduate) as well as a master’s degree via distance learning. But there are other options. Find the online degree you’re looking for below.
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
An associate degree is a great introduction to cyber security because in two years students can complete their general education courses while being introduced to foundational topics that carry over to a bachelor’s degree. But although several of Georgia’s two-year colleges offer cyber security degrees (including Augusta Technical College, Chattahoochee Tech and Gwinnett) none has placed a full program online. That doesn’t mean it will never happen; keep tabs on the Georgia Virtual Technical Connection for the latest program additions.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
If you’ve gotten an associate degree in a computer-related field, you can apply it toward a four-year bachelor’s in cyber security. And if you haven’t, you can start fresh by taking general education and foundational courses before moving onto advanced cyber security coursework.
Regardless of the starting point on your baccalaureate journey, you’ll want to look at Kennesaw State University’s two online programs in the field: the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Information Security & Assurance and the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT) with a concentration in Information Security and Assurance. The BBA is practically a dual major, requiring students to take a heavy dollop of accounting, economics and management to go along with intensive cyber security coursework covering topics such as security for networks, client systems and servers. It’s meant for people who want to work in middle management at tech firms or in IT departments. The BSIT degree option merely requires students to take three electives in security, hacking and forensics.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Grad school is a fine time to begin learning about cyber security if you’ve already got a BS in a computer science field. In two years, you can morph into an information assurance specialist who can handle an employer’s data security needs. There are at least two online programs in Georgia that can get you there.
The first is Kennesaw State University’s Master of Science in Information Technology with a specialization in Information Security and Assurance. It’s an advanced version of the school’s BSIT program but with more opportunities for security electives. The second is Columbus State University’s MS in Applied Computer Science with a concentration in Information Assurance. It’s not too different with one exception: Students in the Information Assurance concentration have stricter requirements regarding which courses they can enroll in.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Certificates are generally for two types of students: 1) undergrads looking for a pre-associate degree introduction to cyber security and 2) graduates working in IT who want to increase their employability in cyber security roles. Georgia has both in a distance learning format.
Kennesaw State University again makes a strong showing, offering an undergraduate certificate in Information Security & Assurance and a graduate certificate in Information Technology Security. The latter prepares students to be aware of security issues, respond to incidents, formulate defense strategies, manage configurations and navigate legal issues. Students also get hands-on practice at the terminal. The undergrad certificate is scaled back, with less focus on strategies and management and more time for basic principles and practice.
For a different approach to cyber security, look at Armstrong State University’s Cyber Crime certificate. It’s a criminal justice program, so expect coursework on forensics and investigative procedures. Unlike Kennesaw State’s programs, this is less of a gateway to a cyber security associate degree than a resume builder for a budding law enforcement officer.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Georgia
School scholarships come in two basic varieties: need-based and merit-based. Many campuses have a healthy amount of both, and students are often considered automatically for relevant awards by submitting an admission application or a supplementary scholarship application form. Here’s a taste of what’s out there for Georgia students pursuing a cyber security degree:
Clark Atlanta University
- Computer Science Scholarship: This award is reserved for graduate students in the Department of Computer and Information Science, so MS seekers with a concentration in Computer Networks and Security should apply.
Columbus State University
- TSYS School of Computer Science Academic Scholarship: A renewable scholarship may be in the cards for cyber security master’s- or certificate-seekers if they’ve taken CPSC 1301, CPSC 1302 and CPSC 2108 and done well in them.
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: The Scholarship for Service is the best award for cyber security students out there. Through it, exemplary students have their tuition and academic fees paid for and receive a living stipend so they can concentrate on their studies. Recipients are required to work for the federal government for several years after graduating.
Kennesaw State University
- Assurant Scholarship: Upperclassmen seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration (including the Information Security & Assurance major) are among those who qualify for this award. The scholarship tends to go to nontraditional students or first-generation college-goers and is given based on financial need.
- Bank of America Scholarship: BofA targets high-performing scholars at the Coles College of Business, where the Information Security & Assurance degrees are housed, for its eponymous award.
- Jolley-Mortin Business Administration Endowed Scholarship: Upperclassmen with financial need who are enrolled in a BBA program definitely want to send in the Kennesaw State University master scholarship application, if only to qualify for the Jolley-Mortin Scholarship. That’s because it’s not open to students from other majors, increasing their odds of receiving it. Earn a 3.0 to be eligible.
- Lori Brown Memorial Scholarship: From Cobb County and getting a bachelor’s degree in business (such as the BBA in Information Security & Assurance)? Apply for this award.
- Virginia Hicks and Howard Schaffer Business Admin Endowed Scholarship: Business Administration students from Cobb County and Marietta City can receive this award. Unlike the Lori Brown Memorial Scholarship, this one factors in financial need.
University of North Georgia
- National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholarship: Minoring in Cyber Security at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus is enough to qualify you for one of the school’s 12 S-STEM Scholarships of $4,362, provided you’re majoring in a science, technology, engineering or math field.
Cyber Security Events in Georgia
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Georgia
Whether it’s through a professional society or an informal meetup, getting together with peers in the field can quickly increase your exposure to employment and training opportunities, gain you friends and improve your skills. Here are five cyber security communities in Georgia to consider joining:
- AWS Atlanta: To be clear, the AWS meetup is organized by Amazon Web Service devotees, so don’t join if you don’t use AWS. If you do, expect the group to regularly tackle cloud security at its meetings.
- BFEG: Cyber Security Meetups: Augusta co-working space TheClubhou.se began a structured meetup for its programmer members who are interested in offensive techniques. Though originally slated to run through fall 2016, it may become a permanent fixture on the organization’s calendar.
- Cyber Discovery Group: Don’t know anything about cyber security? Know a lot? Either way, Cyber Discovery Group in Augusta is for you. The group mixes study sessions, workshops and social gatherings. With up to four events happening each month, just pick the one that fits your style.
- Cyber Security for Control Systems Atlanta: This group is pretty niche, but you’ll want to join if you work in systems related to operating technology, industrial control, SCADA, transportation, building control or the internet of things. It meets about once a month to network and listen to talks from area professionals.
- OWASP Atlanta: Members of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) in Atlanta get together to learn about new methods and to expand their skills on different applications.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Georgia
Atlanta is the United States’ fourth-most popular location for meetings and events, thanks to a surfeit of hotels and a massive airport. While some events come and go, others are there to stay. Here are six cyber security conferences within driving distance of the capital:
- Cyber Security for Defense: The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) first put on this event in 2015. As the name implies, the three-day annual conference in Augusta is concerned with national defense, and the speakers are military commanders and defense contractors specializing in cyber security.
- Georgia Tech Cyber Security Summit: This long-running conference on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus is just a day long. Attendees listen to speakers from government and business and view Tech students’ research in the morning before choosing from multiple breakout sessions in the afternoon.
- Hacker Halted: Hacker Halted is an annual Atlanta staple, but it’s actually two different events rolled into one. It starts with four days of optional trainings that can lead to professional certifications in, for example, ethical hacking or forensic investigations. The last two days are loaded with presentations and debates featuring cyber security practitioners.
- Industrial Control Systems Cyber Security Conference: ICS’s conference is also held at Georgia Tech every year, but it’s meatier than the Cyber Security Summit listed above. That’s because it’s four days worth of trainings, workshops and panel discussions on issues specific to industrial organizations, specifically those in the energy, utility, chemical, transportation or manufacturing sectors.
- Security BSides: BSides is the relaxed little sibling of big security conferences. Its events are planned by local innovators and professionals who want to bring people together for a few days of interesting discussions. Two annual BSides conferences are based in Georgia: BSides ATL and BSides Augusta.
- TAG Cybersecurity Simulation: Need some practice? The Technology Association of Georgia’s annual simulation on the Kennesaw State campus will provide it. If you’re a TAG member, you can listen in on morning presentations about how government and businesses work together to halt cyber attacks before working with a team in the afternoon to (pretend to) do just that.
Cyber Security Jobs in Georgia
Georgia ranked eighth in 2014 for total cyber security job postings. Over 75 percent of those postings were in Atlanta. Indeed, all five Georgia members of the Cybersecurity 500, a list of the best employers in the sector, are based in Atlanta: SecureWorks (#39), Pindrop Security (#40), NexDefense (#340), Ionic Security (#414) and Damballa (#432). And many relevant Fortune 500 companies were born in Atlanta. There’s First DATA, for instance, which created the STAR system for ATMs. For similar opportunities, NCR Corporation in nearby Duluth is behind the hardware and software that make ATMs and automated financial services work. And just a further 10 minutes past that, ARRIS Group needs members for its Information Security Operations team, which oversees the safety of the telecommunications equipment it markets.
Also in Atlanta, there’s Delta Airlines, which lost tens of millions in revenue in August 2016 due to what many believe was a cyber attack. They’ll no doubt be investing in cyber security over the coming years. So too will SunTrust Banks, which needs experts to protect its more than $100 billion in assets. And you might even find jobs with heavy hitters Coca-Cola and UPS.
Want a government sector job? Those exist too. Fort Gordon in Augusta is home to the United States Army Cyber Command, which employs both civilian and military experts in the field.
Cyber Security Salaries in Georgia
The annual median wage for an information security analyst in Georgia is $86,580, compared to a national rate of $90,120 — about 96 percent. That tracks well with the state’s cost of living, which is 91 percent of the national average. It’s also about spot on with Atlanta’s slightly higher cost of living, where most of the cyber security jobs are located. In other words, as a cyber security specialist in Georgia, you’ll get a salary in line with national standards.
All Cyber Security Programs in Georgia
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 7 Georgia schools.
Armstrong State University
Clark Atlanta University
Columbus State University
Georgia Regents University
Kennesaw State University
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT) concentration on Information Security and Assurance (ISA)
Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) specialization in information security and assurance
University of North Georgia