Headed to the Bluegrass State for a cyber security degree? See our list of programs, or read on for links to Kentucky’s cyber security scholarships, events and employers.
Studying Cyber Security in Kentucky
Kentucky’s private and public postsecondary institutions run enough cyber security degree and certificate programs to give prospective students a real choice. So why go anywhere when you could go to a school that matches your needs?
- The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security recognize three Bluegrass State institutions as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education: Northern Kentucky University and University of Louisville (both public) and University of the Cumberlands (private). Though the distinction is related primarily to academic standards, such schools also tend to stand out in terms of research and programming.
- Western Kentucky University’s Center for Research & Development (CRD) runs the WKU Small Business Accelerator, which has produced Millstone Labs, a provider of cyber forensics software and hardware to law enforcement. Millstone has benefited from its proximity to the WKU Cyber Defense Laboratory, which the Department of Physics and Astronomy runs.
- University of Louisville has its own CyberSecurity Lab at its School of Engineering. Further up I-71 toward Cincinnati, NKU’s College of Informatics boasts state of the art facilities. Its Center for Information Security calls Griffin Hall home and features access to both a virtualization lab and a hardware lab.
- Northern Kentucky University’s Cyber Defense Team placed 6th in the 2014 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. University of the Cumberlands and University of Louisville also support teams that compete in state and regional competitions.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Kentucky
Kentucky’s online offerings for cyber security are most numerous at the certificate level (either undergraduate or graduate). The majority of these programs are offered via the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), so students can pick a home campus from among 16 institutions dotting the state. More can be added at any time, so we recommend double-checking with Kentucky Virtual Campus, which catalogs degrees and certificates from the state’s community colleges and certain four-year universities. For the time being, here’s what’s available:
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
The Information Security track of the KCTCS Computer and Information Technologies (CIT) associate degree builds from core coursework in networking and programming to include offensive and defensive approaches. Graduates should receive enough hands-on practice to apply for entry-level jobs specific to security, rather than more general IT positions.
For-profit Sullivan University’s AS in Computer Network Security and Forensics is also online. It’s a program suitable for IT generalists because it covers programming and basic software and hardware components. But the multiple required courses in forensics ensure that graduates can also recover and decrypt data, skills needed to conduct criminal investigations.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
If you need a Kentucky-based online baccalaureate, your sole option is at Sullivan University, which advertises a BS in Computer Network Security and Forensics. The program is a more advanced version of the associate program of the same name, adding more offensive and defensive coursework so that graduates can prevent attacks and anticipate weaknesses before the fact in addition to investigating them afterward.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Two private college offer relevant degrees for graduate students. For-profit Sullivan University brandishes an MS in Cyber Security. Students should expect a broad course load that covers key legal and policy issues, practical applications, and IT management practices. A Baptist institution, University of the Cumberlands, also makes an appearance by placing its MS in Information Systems Security entirely online. Entry to the latter program is reserved for students with an IT baccalaureate degree and/or work experience.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Undergrads looking for a state education have three online certificate programs to choose from. The most straightforward is the Security+ Certificate from KCTCS. It’s a single course designed to help you pass the CompTia Security+ certification exam, a standard first step for beginners in the field. KCTCS’s Information Security Specialist Certificate is more involved: It’s a lighter-weight version of the CIT degree with the general education classes stripped away; students take four core courses in the discipline plus two CIT electives. The last undergraduate option is through Northern Kentucky University. Its Cybersecurity Certificate is also six courses long but is less focused on attack and defense and more attuned to basics of secure networks, databases and operating systems.
Two other undergraduate options to mention are the Cyber Security Administration Certificate and the Cyber Security Professional Certificate at Sullivan University. The former is suited for people looking for entry-level employment, likely as network administrators. The real hacking comes in at the latter program, which starts off with similar networking coursework and builds up to secure system design.
Graduate students looking to build upon their advanced computer knowledge should first research the online Graduate Certificate in Network and Information Security from University of Louisville. They’ll take four courses (two of which are electives) from the Computer Engineering and Computer Science department.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Kentucky
Much of the time, you’ll be automatically considered for all applicable scholarships just by being accepted to a college or submitting a single application for school financial aid. But that’s not always the case, so it’s good to be aware of department- or major-specific scholarships for cyber security students. Here’s what we’ve found:
Eastern Kentucky University
- Ed Swinford Scholarship: Undergrads in the Department of Technology, which runs EKU’s Network Security and Electronics program, can apply for this award if they have a 3.0. The selection committee prefers the award go to someone interested in teaching in the field.
- Ralph W. Whalin Scholarship: Juniors with a 3.0 who are in the Department of Technology can win a $1,000 scholarship.
Kentucky State University
- Graduate Assistantships: Two assistantships through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) are worth over $20K each. Winning Computer Science students will collaborate with University of Kentucky researchers. An additional $13,000 annual stipend is available through the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. Finally, the Computer Science department itself funds multiple $18,000-a-year awards for teaching and research assistants.
- National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates: In exchange for conducting up to 20 hours of research, students in the KSU Computer Science department can earn $600 a month toward their studies.
- Wood Taylor Memorial Scholarship: Sophomore and junior Computer Science majors, including those pursuing the Computer Information Security option, can apply for a one-time $1,000 award by writing a compelling essay.
Northern Kentucky University
- Eva G. Farris Informatics Scholarship: Incoming freshmen in the College of Informatics, including those ticking off courses toward the Certificate in Cybersecurity, can apply for this award. To be considered, you must have graduated in the top quarter of your class and scored 23 or better on the ACT.
- Mazak Scholarship: All students working toward a degree from the College of Informatics qualify for this award. You need a 3.0 and a 23 on the ACT to be eligible.
Cyber Security Events in Kentucky
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Kentucky
Kentucky features just a few networks specifically for cyber security professionals. Although the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) lists two chapters in the state — one in Bowling Green and the other in Louisville, both border on being inactive. The same holds true for the Kentuckiana Chapter of ISACA (formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association). Nonetheless, emailing the chapter leaders may prove fruitful. Here are three groups that do meet regularly:
- (ISC2) Kentucky Triangle Chapter: InfoSec professionals holding advanced credentials can join this chapter of the International Information System Security Certification Consortium for regular meetings, which include presentations from government officials and tech specialists. The location hops around from Louisville and Fort Knox all the way into southern Indiana.
- ISSA Kentuckiana: The Information Systems Security Association maintains a presence in the Louisville metropolitan area. Although ISSA is a professional organization, it welcomes student members to its monthly chapter meetings, where members soak up talks from area experts. Members also benefit from discounts on certification trainings.
- Louisville Hidden/Dark Web Meetup: If you want to tour the virtual netherworld of the Dark Web, this meetup will show you how to do it safely and explain how the Dark Web can enhance personal privacy. Everyone is welcome to join the group, which convenes the fourth Tuesday of every month.
Keep track of other events of interest in Derby City by bookmarking this handy (but unofficial) Louisville Technology Event Calendar.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Kentucky
If it’s networking you’re after, you’ll likely have luck on the conference circuit. Here are the four biggest annual events in the state:
- DerbyCon: This is the event Kentucky’s information security pros and hackers look forward to all year long. It features five days of trainings, workshops and presentations in the heart of Louisville.
- Louisville Metro InfoSec Conference: ISSA Kentuckiana has been sponsoring this annual one-day gathering since 2003. Members get in free, while all others must pay for entry to a packed agenda of security experts from the private sector.
- Kentucky Digital Government Summit: Designed for state and local officials, the daylong Kentucky Digital Government Summit sticks to introductory-level sessions. Still, the content should intrigue those hoping to collaborate with Kentucky agencies.
- NKU Cybersecurity Symposium: Composed of just four hourlong sessions, the NKU Cybersecurity Symposium makes up for its lack of length with a broad agenda. Participants choose between six tracks that cover specialties from healthcare cyber security to computer forensics.
One more event to keep an eye on is BSides Lexington. Security BSides events have popped up across the world over the last decade to showcase the top thinkers from local InfoSec communities. BSides Lexington appears to be next, having set up a website in 2016.
Cyber Security Jobs in Kentucky
It’s relatively simple to find a cyber security job in Kentucky, at least above entry-level. That’s because between July 2015 and June 2016, there were more job openings for employees holding Certified Information Systems SecurityProfessional (CISSP), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), or Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) credentials than workers in Kentucky who held those certifications.
Louisville is seeking to address its tech shortage by participating in President Obama’s TechHire initiative. That led to Code Louisville, which trains former miners to become junior software programmers. But cyber security specialists may want to focus their energies on a few big-name employers, such as Humana, a Fortune 100 healthcare company based in Louisville that regularly hires security analysts. Government contractors such as SAIC and Agil3 Technology Solutions also advertise for positions at Fort Knox.
Cyber Security Salaries in Kentucky
First, the bad news: Kentucky places in the bottom 10 of states for information security analyst strategies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the average worker receiving $72,000 a year. The good news is that it’s in the top 10 for cost of living, meaning your wages will go further. And salary aggregators like Indeed.com are more optimistic than the BLS, showing IT security specialists commanding over $100K a year, in line with national figures. That suggests that, at least in some job capacities, salaries are increasing to attract employees.
All Cyber Security Programs in Kentucky
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 7 Kentucky schools.
Eastern Kentucky University
Kentucky Community and Technical College System
Kentucky State University
Northern Kentucky University
|Highland Heights, Kentucky||NSA
University of Louisville
University of the Cumberlands