Ohio may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of cyber security. But thanks to world-class research universities and multiple Fortune 500 companies, there is plenty of tech activity in the Buckeye State. Read on to learn more about Ohio’s schools, online degrees, institutional scholarships, and networking and career opportunities. Or skip to our complete list of degree programs to navigate on your own.
Studying Cyber Security in Ohio
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated three community colleges and three universities in Ohio as National Centers of Academic Excellence in the areas of information assurance or cyber defense. These schools typically represent the best starting point for exploring degrees in the state because they have better access to research funding and educational grants. Let’s explore what each is up to:
- The Air Force Institute of Technology has direct links to the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Air Force. AFIT’s Center for Cyberspace Research oversees six laboratories covering hardware reverse engineering, industrial control systems, malware testing, radio frequency signals exploitation, top secret research capabilities, and wireless/cellular exploitation. We’d tell you exactly what AFIT is researching, but it’s top secret.
- The Ohio State University is a huge research institution, and faculty at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering take on numerous interests. They’re particularly interested in smart grids, wireless network security for mobile phones and IoT devices, and homomorphic encryption. In 2016, for example, an assistant professor won seed money to continue her research into how to shut down cyber attacks on power grids.
- University of Cincinnati has the most distinctive program in the state, with the School of Information Technology, School of Criminal Justice, and the Department of Political Science all sharing responsibility for the Foundations of Cybersecurity program. But it’s still a hardcore research university, having recently won grants from the National Science Foundation, National Security Agency, the World Bank and NASA for cyber operations research.
- Through the Center for Cyber Defense Education, students at Clark State Community College participate in state and national competitions, including the National Cyber League. The center also runs a dual enrollment program for area secondary students who want a head start.
- Computer Information Systems students at Sinclair Community College practice their skills fixing malware and diagnostic problems at the SCOPE Lab. (SCOPE stands for “Students Correcting Open-door PC Emergencies.”) For more complex maneuvers, they head to the Cyber Security Center, which is stocked with hardware to be used for studies and student competitions.
- Terra State Community College is the most recent Ohio school to earn the earn the National Center of Academic Excellence designation, which it snagged in February 2017.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Ohio
Online cyber security degrees are hard to come by in Ohio, and online certificates are impossible to find. But that can change instantly, so we urge you to use the search function at the Ohio Learns degree catalog, which links to every online degree in the state. In the meantime, here is what’s currently available:
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
Sinclair Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems/Secure System Administration. It’s ideal for students who want to sit for Microsoft and/or CompTIA certifications in security, networking and/or Linux. The degree plus certifications should be enough to snag an entry-level job working in a company’s IT department.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
There are two schools to research for online baccalaureates. Franklin University features an online BS in Cyber Security as well as a “subsequent” BS in Cyber Security for students who’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. Both are technical degrees that should qualify graduates to establish and manage company networks and computer systems.
Another option is Kent State’s Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies with a concentration in Applied Computer Security and Forensics Technology (Computer Technology), which builds students networking abilities as well as threat detection skills. The university also offers a Computer Forensics and Security minor online.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
If you’re dead set on an online graduate degree in Ohio, you may find yourself pursuing a more general program such as the Online Master of Science in Information Technology at University of Cincinnati, which allows students to choose cybersecurity as a focus area. Students without an IT program can apply but will be required to fulfill prerequisites before starting the core coursework.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Ohio
Plenty of scholarships exist for tech students. For instance, most public and private colleges in Ohio participate in the Choose Ohio First Scholarship program, which distributes scholarships to STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) majors in eligible programs. More specific options exist as well, such as the McKenna Memorial College Scholarship, which goes to students studying IT in Southwest Ohio. But let’s stick to strictly cyber security scholarships offered by individual Ohio colleges. In addition to the awards we list below, graduate students should pursue departmental fellowships or assistantships.
Air Force Institute of Technology-Graduate School of Engineering & Management
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Civilian students plugging away at a master’s in Cyber Operations can get two years of free tuition, a $25,000 annual stipend, and professional development funds. Upon graduation, they’ll be expected to spend two years working for a government agency.
- Information Assurance Scholarship: This award, which is not available every year, is funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). It gives master’s and doctoral candidates at AFIT and other participating schools the opportunity to receive full tuition and sizable stipends in exchange for working with the DoD after graduation.
Ohio State University-Main Campus
- College of Engineering Scholarships: Undergrads focusing on Information Security while pursuing either a BS in Computer and Information Science (BS CIS) or BS in Computer Science and Engineering (BS CSE) are eligible for multiple departmental scholarships within the College of Engineering.
- Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP): Although it’s been in hiatus for a few years, hopefully the IASP will come back to OSU soon. When it does, students in the CSE or CIS programs can land large financial awards and internships with the National Security Agency.
Sinclair Community College
- Kittyhawk Chapter of Association of Old Crows (AOC) Scholarship: Computer Information Systems is just one of five majors eligible for a $750 award from the AOC, which rewards students interested in cyber defense careers.
- Larry and Kathleen Adkins Memorial Scholarship: This award is explicitly for adult enrollees in a Computer Information Systems program. To be eligible, students must have eight credits of prior college coursework under their belt.
Cyber Security Events in Ohio
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Ohio
To transition seamlessly between a college degree in Ohio and employment in the field, you’ll want to network. The best way to do that is by finding cyber security professionals and picking their brains. Here are a few communities that allow you to do just that:
- Columbus Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP): This local branch of OWASP meets once a month to listen to seminars from outside speakers and get their fingers limber with security workshops. As a bonus, a sponsor often provides lunch.
- GiveSec: Cleveland professionals come together every few months for hands-on tutorials, informal presentations, and a bit of networking.
- ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association): ISACA is a membership organization for IT professionals, with its primary focus on security and risk mitigation. Student memberships are inexpensive and provide access to chapter meetings and workshops, where you can network with potential employers. The Buckeye State is large enough to maintain four active chapters: Central Ohio, Cincinnati, Northeast Ohio, and Northwest Ohio.
- ISSA (Information Systems Security Association): The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) is a worldwide membership organization for cybersecurity pros. Because it accepts student members, you may want to join up with one of its chapters in Cincinnati, Dayton or Northeast Ohio. There, you’ll have access to chapter meetings, which tap into local networks of security experts for a variety of seminars and workshops.
- Northeast Ohio Information Security Forum (NEOISF): InfoSec enthusiasts in the Cleveland-Akron area come together at OEConnection in Richfield every third Wednesday of the month to listen to speakers and munch on free food.
- Ohio Information Security Forum: This Dayton group meets monthly for grub and speaker presentations from area InfoSec experts.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Ohio
Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are all big enough cities to attract cyber security conferences. Joining a Meetup group or professional organization should help you discover one-off events such as the Ohio Cyber Dialogue with Industry in Dayton or the SecureWorld conference in Cincinnati, both held in 2017. But here are six annual events to consider registering for:
- Central Ohio InfoSec Summit: Head to Columbus for two days of professional presentations. The organizers create multiple tracks, so IT department staff, managers and executives should all feel at home.
- Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection Conference: The Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at Cleveland State University began hosting its own two-day conference in 2016 with the goal of “connecting lawyers, policymakers, managers and technologists to address critical risks.”
- Information Security Summit: The summit caps off Security Summit Week, which features trainings, happy hours, speaker presentations and hacking competitions in the Cleveland area.
- Ohio Information Security Conference (OISC): Sponsored by Technology First, an industry trade association, OISC is geared toward IT managers. However, with multiple tracks, there’s a little something for nearly every type of security professional.
- Ohio LinuxFest: Since Linux is a preferred platform of security experts, this annual two-day conference in Columbus features multiple workshops on vulnerability assessment, pen testing, and client authentication for SSL.
- Security BSides: BSides is an alternative conference, perfect for information security beginners and professionals alike because it features a ton of local speakers. Come learn something new, no matter your skill level, and network with the main players. Because BSides is hyper-local, there are annual conferences in each of the three C’s: Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
Cyber Security Jobs in Ohio
Ohio is making steady progress toward becoming an employment leader in cyber security. In 2015, Burning Glass Technologies reported a growth rate of 141 percent between 2010 and 2014 for cyber security job openings in the state. That was good enough to rank 13th for jobs in the field, but it still had far fewer job openings than its population would suggest. So it kept at it. In 2015, just one company made the Cybersecurity 500, a list of the world’s most innovative firms. By 2017, it was up to three, representing each of the state’s main population centers: TrustedSec in greater Cleveland, Morphick in Cincinnati, and Panopticon Labs in Columbus.
The last city seems to be the one to look toward for future growth. In 2014, seven large corporations in Ohio’s capital — including Fortune 500 stalwarts Nationwide Insurance, Cardinal Health, American Electric Power, and L Brands — got together to form another company: the Columbus Collaboratory. The Collaboratory has two primary goals: to make the city a national tech leader in cyber security and data analytics, and to provide solutions in these areas to the founding companies. But even just joining one of the seven founding companies gets you in to Collaboratory events, such as speaker series, and allows you to work on cross-company R&D projects.
Additionally, don’t overlook the ability of the state’s educational institutions to power job growth. One example is the the Miami Valley Research Park in Dayton, which is a collaboration of Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton, Wright State University and Air Force Institute of Technology. It hosts established tech companies for R&D activity and fosters young tech startups such as the network specialists at Chapel Romanoff Technologies and the security product developers at LunarLine.
Cyber Security Salaries in Ohio
No matter the title — from IT security specialist to information security analyst to cyber security engineer — salaries in Ohio are around 10 to 20 percent below the national average. At least some of this, of course, can be attributed to the lower cost of living in the Midwest.
Keep in mind, also, that the numbers vary by city. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that Cleveland-based information security analysts actually make a salary more in line with the national average. Indeed.com also notes a bump in earning potential for cyber security pros of all stripes in Cleveland.
All Cyber Security Programs in Ohio
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 9 Ohio schools.
Air Force Institute of Technology-Graduate School of Engineering & Management
|Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio||NSA
James A Rhodes State College
Kent State University at Kent
Ohio State University-Main Campus
Owens Community College
Sinclair Community College
University of Cincinnati
Wright State University