New York. San Francisco. Minneapolis-St. Paul? That’s right. The Twin Cities have great cyber security jobs that pay better than those in coastal hotspots. The best way to snag work in Minnesota is to study there. We’ll take you on a tour of degrees (including online options), networking functions for students and recent grads, and scholarship opportunities. Already set on the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Jump straight to our list of schools with cyber security programs.
Studying Cyber Security in Minnesota
As you’ll soon see, there’s so much going on in Minnesota’s distance learning sphere that on-ground studies and research take something of a back seat in the state. That’s not to say there aren’t worthy accomplishments to speak of:
- The University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute was a founding partner of the state’s annual Cyber Security Summit, which launched in 2011. The conference has grown to attract attendees and speakers from several continents.
- In 2015, Saint Cloud State University won a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation funding to provide multiple students each year with full scholarships to study cyber security. The university even provides some awards to students at Century College, Lake Superior College and White Bear Lake who choose to transfer into the cyber security program at St. Cloud.
- Two-year colleges can be legitimate pathways to cyber careers. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designate Lake Superior College a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Minnesota Community and Technical College holds a similar distinction for information assurance education.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Minnesota
Maybe Minnesota’s cold winters are keeping all the students at home. Why do we say that? Because the state has a truly exceptional range of online cyber security programs at nearly every level – from undergraduate certificates to doctorates.
Minnesota’s biggest player in online learning is for-profit Capella University. Everything at Capella is online. The same is true of another for-profit, Walden University. Though proprietary institutions, both universities are regionally accredited and have gained recognition as NSA/DHS National Centers of Academic Excellence. If you’d prefer a public education, Lake Superior College makes a strong showing at the certificate and associate degree levels. You can find plenty more cyber security certificates and degrees at the online learning section of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MnSCU) website, which covers seven universities and 30 two-year colleges. Although the University of Minnesota has been slower to roll out cyber security degrees, keep tabs on any online program additions at University of Minnesota Online.
Out of a job and need to get retrained? You may qualify for money through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). If so, search for online cyber security programs that are WIOA-certified at the MnSCU CAREERwise website.
You could do a school-by-school hunt to see what’s available, but we won’t make you do that. We’ve done the research into what’s available for you:
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
At the associate level, you’ll have your pick of four online programs, all of which are certified by the WIOA:
- The 60-credit Associate of Applied Science in Cyber and Information Security at Minnesota State College Southeast positions itself to attract students interested in working with criminal justice agencies to investigate and prevent hacks.
- The 60-credit AAS in Information Security and Assurance from Minnesota West Community & Technical College is a collection of introductory courses for aspiring IT network professionals.
- Similarly, the 66-credit AAS in Network Administration and Security from Minnesota State Community and Technical College and the 72-credit AAS in Network Administration and Cyber Security at Lake Superior College are marketed at those looking to establish and secure networks for businesses. Either degree should be enough to secure employment as the sole IT staff person at a small company.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Three online baccalaureates are available from Minnesota schools, all from for-profit providers:
- Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Capella with a concentration in Information Assurance and Security. It’s a four-year degree designed to prepare graduates for multiple CompTIA certifications and pursue employment as analysts and security specialists.
- A similar path at a different university exists. Students can enroll in the BS in Computer Information Systems degree at Walden University and specialize in Cyber Security for Information Systems.
- More investigatorial-minded students might choose the Cyber Security and Forensics concentration in the BS in Information Technology program at Walden.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Options are still open at the master’s level, with four schools offering relevant online degrees:
- Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Professional Science Master’s Degree program in Information Assurance and Information Risk targets applicants with an undergraduate IT degree and helps them develop the management skills to become leaders at their companies.
- Concordia University-Saint Paul’s online MBA in Cybersecurity has roughly the same mission but is structured in such a way that an enrollee with a business background could get the technical expertise needed to transition toward risk management.
- Capella University’s MS in Information Assurance and Security comes in three specializations, all of which are designed for students with a computer science background: Digital Forensics for tech professionals interested in criminal justice; Health Care Security for aspiring information security officers in the medical field; and Network Defense for those eying government and military jobs.
- Walden University’s MS in Information Technology with a specialization in Information Assurance and Cyber Security is about threat detection and defense for workplaces.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Cyber Security
Most states don’t have a single online doctorate in cyber security. Minnesota has two, albeit both at the same college. Capella’s PhD in Information Technology with a specialization in Information Assurance and Security is for master’s degree holders in the field who are looking to score faculty jobs. While such graduates could also obtain executive-level corporate positions, the Doctor of Information Technology with a specialization in Information Assurance and Security is a better route for professional goals outside the realm of academia.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Lake Superior College dominates the online undergraduate certificate field with two options:
- The Network Administration & Security Certificate is a one-year, 30-credit program training students to sit for CompTIA+ certifications and qualifying them for entry-level jobs as systems and network administrators.
- The 58-credit Network Administration & Cybersecurity Diploma is a cross between the certificate and associate degree. Like the latter, it requires a two-year commitment. Like the former, students don’t take general education courses.
Another online program worth mentioning is the Information Security Management Certificate at Minnesota West Community & Technical College. After six courses, students will have a theoretical — if not entirely technical — understanding of network security and will be able to take on jobs as IT managers.
Certificates are also an option at the graduate level, with three colleges in on the action:
- Concordia’s online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity contains the technical portions of the school’s MBA in Cybersecurity without the business courses.
- Metropolitan State University’s Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and Information Technology Security is a mouthful, but it essentially boils down to a six-course program for IT professionals with managerial aspirations.
- Two of Capella University’s three MS in Information Assurance and Security specializations are available in certificate form: Digital Forensics and Network Defense. Each just cuts out the core IT coursework. Alternatively, you can do just the core coursework and earn an Information Assurance and Security Graduate Certificate.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Minnesota
Many institutional scholarships don’t require a lot of work to earn because the college or department automatically considers you upon receiving your enrollment application. At the graduate level, provided you’re not an online student, you’ll want to look for fellowships and assistantships that may require teaching or research in exchange for funding. We’ve highlighted a few awards reserved for cyber security students:
- Bachelor’s IT Career Advancer + Sophia Scholarship: This scholarship incentivizes students to enroll sooner rather than later by shaving $5,000 off the price tag over 10 quarters and throwing in four free Sophia Pathways courses that can count toward students’ general education and elective requirements.
- Master’s IT Career Advancer Scholarship: Win $3,000 toward your degree if you make a quick decision on enrolling in any specialization of the master’s degree in Information Assurance and Security. The scholarship is spread out over the length of the program.
Inver Hills Community College
- Thomas Reuters Scholarship: Full-time enrollees in an IT program, which includes network security majors, can win the Reuters Scholarship. The committee tends to look for graduates of Apple Valley, Como or Humboldt High Schools and wants recipients to have a strong academic record and demonstrable financial need.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
- Cathy Paulson Memorial Scholarship: Information Security and Assurance students at the Granite Falls campus are eligible for a $250 award. Incoming and returning students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits and have a 2.5 GPA to be considered.
- Computer Support Technology Scholarship: The same requirements as above apply for this award. The only difference is the funding available: Students can score between $200 and $500.
Saint Cloud State University
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Want free tuition and an annual stipend worth $22,500 to $34,000? Full-time undergrads and grad students in the school’s IT security and information assurance programs are eligible for the prestigious CyberCorps Scholarship. Accepting the award comes with a commitment to seek government employment in the field for several years after graduation.
- Information Assurance Scholarship: $500 is available to graduate students in the MS in Information Assurance program with strong academic credentials.
- Kodak Professional Imaging Scholarship for Information Technology Security: IT Security majors with a 3.0 may qualify for this award, which varies in value.
Cyber Security Events in Minnesota
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Minnesota
Whether you’re an online student holed up in your bedroom or an on-campus student stationed in the library, you should get out once in a while to network. It’s an easy and fun way to build your skills and meet people from companies you might want to work for. Below are seven communities for Minnesotan cyber security enthusiasts, which tend to cluster around Minneapolis-St. Paul:
- CryptoPartyMN: This open group meets every two weeks at a restaurant or bar in the Twin Cities to review how they can use encryption and other techniques to make their web browsing and computing habits safer.
- DC612: Born from the annual Las Vegas DEF CON events, DC612 gives MSP hackers a chance to come together once or twice a month for nourishment, hack challenges and/or member presentations.
- (ISC)2 Twin Cities: The International Information System Security Certification Consortium is a membership organization that can help you attain CISSP certification. The group only meets a few times a year but provides valuable connections to specialized training.
- Minnesota Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) : The Minnesota Chapter of ISSA was selected from over 100 ISSA chapters as the world’s best in 2016, which should let you know how active it is. Become a member to network with corporate sponsors, get a leg up on job postings, attend luncheons and chapter meetings, and relax during its “AfterHours” mixers.
- MN IT Security Group: This Burnsville-based group sponsored by Broadview Technology Solutions brings a handful of security nuts together once or twice a month for discussions around security and networking on Linux/UNIX platforms. The group often meets via Google Hangout in the winter to increase accessibility.
- OWASP MSP: Sign on for membership to the local chapter of the Open Web Application Security Project to attend chapter meetings, where you’ll get to hear professional members and outside speakers present tricks and tools of the trade.
- Twin Cities Identity & Access Management User Group: TCIAMUG members meet quarterly to hear professional presentations on all things IAM.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Minnesota
To get a concentrated dose of the professional development and networking found in the communities above, we recommend regularly attending cyber security conferences. Here are six events in Minnesota to put on your calendar:
- Cyber Security Summit: Every fall since 2011, tech professionals, business managers, government staff and academics from across the country have descended on Minneapolis for two days of talks and expert panels. The summit incorporates multiple specialized events within the two days, including a small business forum.
- Minneapolis Tech Security Conference: This free one-day conference is a chance to meander among the vendor booths and see the latest product offerings. You can also pop in to a sponsored talk or earn continuing education credits.
- MN Digital Government Summit: Government Technology magazine sponsors one-day conferences in nearly every state, including Minnesota. Government staff head to St. Paul every year to get clarity on the state of cyber security in the state.
- Secure360 Twin Cities: A two-day conference (with a third day of pre-conference sessions) in MSP, Secure360 works hard to be relevant to everyone in the field. It’s stacked with speakers, allowing attendees to choose between five and six talks during any given time slot.
- Security B-Sides MSP: Spend a weekend with a diverse community of Minnesota information security professionals. Tickets are cheap and the organizers coordinate hacking competitions and hands-on workshops while also managing to arrange multiple speaker tracks, where you can learn about the latest advances in the field. Take off school/work the Friday before for extra training workshops and fun events at BrrCon, a free side conference.
- Student360: Student360 alters the Secure360 format slightly. First, it’s one day instead of two. Second, it offers fewer tracks to give a more focused agenda. Third, the conference emphasizes career sessions to a greater degree, even giving attendees a chance to interview with area companies.
Cyber Security Jobs in Minnesota
In case you couldn’t tell by looking at the locations of cyber security communities and conferences, jobs in the field in Minnesota are highly concentrated in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. All three of the businesses on the Cybersecurity 500, a list of the industry’s best companies, are located within Hennepin County: cloud security and data recovery experts Code42, encryption software providers SDS, and information security consultants Secure Digital Solutions. And don’t overlook the potential of security Meetups and conferences to connect you with other small local companies such as RedTeam Security Consulting, a group of St. Paul trainers. Such companies helped land Minneapolis at #15 for total job postings in a 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies. The state as a whole ranks 18th, slightly better than its population would indicate.
Of course, the state also hosts its fair share of Fortune 500 companies who staff their IT departments with security teams. They include Brooklyn Park’s very own Target, which is still making amends for a large data breach in 2014; Minnetonka’s UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest insurer; and Xcel Energy in Minneapolis, which needs to keep its massive transmission system clear to supply natural gas and electricity to residents in eight states.
Cyber Security Salaries in Minnesota
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts in Minnesota earn an average salary of $88,700, slightly below the national figure. And statistics from Indeed.com show that those with the title of IT security specialist can command between $105,000 and $115,000, which is on par with national numbers.
But hold on. When you drill down and look specifically at Minneapolis, the picture brightens. In fact, by Indeed’s calculations, Minneapolis is the best-paying city for information security specialists in the country. How do they figure? By controlling for cost of living, the metropolis jets above high-paying but expensive cities like Seattle, New York and San Francisco. What’s more, unlike some other tech havens, the Twin Cities are nowhere near saturation point, meaning it’s still possible to actually land a high-paying job in the sector.
All Cyber Security Programs in Minnesota
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 11 Minnesota schools.
Inver Hills Community College
|Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota||NSA
Lake Superior College
Metropolitan State University
|Saint Paul, Minnesota||NSA
Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical
Minnesota State University-Mankato
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
|Granite Falls, Minnesota|
Saint Cloud State University
|Saint Cloud, Minnesota||NSA
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
University of St. Thomas
|Saint Paul, Minnesota|