Rhode Island packs multiple cyber security degree and certificate programs into a small area. See the full list, or dive immediately into our guide to distance education programs, cyber security events, and jobs and salaries.
Studying Cyber Security in Rhode Island
Five Rhode Island universities offer cyber security degrees and/or certificates, including Ivy League member Brown University and, naturally, New England Institute of Technology. Let’s look at how the three three other schools are keeping active in cyber security:
- The University of Rhode Island is the state’s only Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, as determined by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. URI’s Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center uses a multi-pronged approach to prepare students for careers. The most obvious is its academic programs; in addition to an undergraduate minor, the school has a master’s degree and certificate programs. Second, students can research alongside faculty. The Center has racked up multiple grants from the U.S. National Institute of Justice, including a $400K award in 2016 for “Deep Patrol,” a program that detects hidden child pornography sites for law enforcement officers, and $500K in funding in 2012 to create a software prototype that determines what to include in warrants involving cloud applications. Last, the Center runs its own lab, which it loans out to law enforcement officers. Lab staff and student interns also assist in investigations, and staff even provide expert testimony in criminal cases.
- The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, which calls Salve Regina University home, is a think tank focused on three things. The first two are in the title; the third is cyber leadership. The Pell Center is deeply concerned that the United States is ill-prepared to tackle cyber threats. Its publications, written by a team of fellows with diverse portfolios, outline what industries, military leaders, and state and federal officials should do to stay ahead of everything from cyberterrorism to data breaches. The Pell Center recruits Salve Regina students for internships and jobs.
- Johnson & Wales University has long been known for its culinary and hospitality management programs, but in 2016 it served up two new degrees at its Providence campus: a BS in Cyber Threat Intelligence & Defense and an MS in Information Security/Assurance.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Rhode Island
Four Rhode Island universities have staked out turf online for their cyber security programs, mostly for graduate-level studies. The University of Rhode Island, the state’s main public university, is one of them. Private institutions Salve Regina University and Johnson & Wales University also run multiple programs, while Brown University offers a blended master’s degree.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Options are thinnest at the undergraduate degree level, but Johnson & Wales delivers an Organizational Risk and Cyber Security Management BSBA. BSBA stands for Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, which signals that this is a business degree rather than a technical one. Expect a strong foundation in accounting, finance and management principles to go along with introductory courses on cyber security issues. The combo gets students thinking about how to arrange staff and resources to prevent hacks and mitigate their effects.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Rhode Island’s higher ed institutions offer four master’s degrees in cyber security, each for a different type of student.
Johnson & Wales’ MS in Information Security/Assurance is a more conventional cyber security degree than the school’s BSBA. The 10-course program recruits students with an IT background, and then introduces them to the world of information security. Whereas on-campus enrollees have two focus areas to choose from, technical or business, the distance education version restricts students to the latter. Thus, graduates should be able to find employment in IT management and consulting roles.
Salve Regina University runs a 36-credit MS in Administration of Justice and Homeland Security. Such degrees typically delve into political institutions and traditional forms of terrorism, as is true of this one. What makes it unique are two optional concentrations, one in Cybersecurity and Intelligence and another in Digital Forensics. While both are geared toward aspiring law enforcement officials, the former covers theory and policy while the latter develops technical proficiency.
The University of Rhode Island has something called a Professional Science Masters in Cyber Security. A PSM, unlike the Master of Science degrees above, don’t require a capstone project or thesis to graduate; instead, students complete an internship. The program admits students with or without technical backgrounds – those without take a self-paced program to get up to speed before joining their colleagues for nine required courses. They’ll have to decide whether to take the Security track, which gives them a broad toolkit of technical skills, or the Forensics & Incident Response track, which is more narrowly tailored to solving cybercrime after the fact.
The Executive Master in Cybersecurity from Brown University is akin to URI’s PSM in that both are designed for working professionals. They differ in that Brown’s program requires a final project and doesn’t have tracks. Instead, all students get a mix of management and technical courses that skew toward breach prevention rather than hack investigation. The program is constructed to accommodate incoming techies who need exposure to policy as well as managers who need tech skills. One other thing to consider: Brown’s program is blended and requires students to attend four weeklong residential sessions over 16 months.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Remember how the Salve Regina master’s program has two concentrations, one in Digital Forensics and the other in Cybersecurity and Intelligence? Well, those can each be taken as stand-alone graduate certificates. The Certificate of Graduate Studies in Digital Forensics is a four-course program (including two electives) exploring the technical skills needed to reverse engineer malware and monitor network usage. The Certificate of Graduate Studies in Cybersecurity and Intelligence is similarly structured but is adamantly non-technical; it provides a policy perspective that international politics junkies and/or criminologists would appreciate.
URI does much the same thing as Salve Regina. The Forensics and Incident Response track under its master’s degree becomes the Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics. Students don’t need any technical training upon entry, but they should be prepared to get a lot of it over the next four to five courses as they learn how to pinpoint the source of illicit hacks and survey the damage. (That fifth course can be scrapped if students enter with a CompTIA A+ certification or equivalent knowledge.) The Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security is similarly structured. Students who wouldn’t be comfortable sitting for the CompTIA Net+ certification can take a primer before embarking on coursework. They’ll learn the technical skills needed to avoid damaging hacks in the first place.
Undergrads looking for a certificate can also find an online home at URI in either of the above areas: Digital Forensics or Cyber Security. The primary difference between the programs has nothing to do with curriculum – they’re the same – and everything to do with title: Instead of a graduate certificate, those who complete the program earn a “professional certificate.”
Cyber Security Events in Rhode Island
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Rhode Island
Although you can choose to connect with Boston-based cyber security communities (see our Massachusetts guide), which are more abundant, don’t neglect the scene in and around Providence:
- DC401: DefCon groups are dedicated to discussing security and hacking issues. Rhode Island’s group took a long holiday before reemerging in 2017. Meetings are built around informal and snappy presentations and demonstrations by members. If you don’t know anything about the area yet, no one cares – it’s a supportive (and free!) learning environment.
- ISACA Rhode Island Chapter: ISACA is a professional organization, which means it costs money to join. Nonetheless, non-members can pay a small fee to attend occasional chapter-sponsored workshops eligible for continuing professional education credits – and network with others interested in systems audits and controls.
- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Rhode Island Chapter: OWASP RI aims to meet monthly but in reality structures its calendar around the availability of outside experts. Recent speakers have presented on iOS device management, federated identity, and legal developments in the field.
- Providence 2600: 2600 groups have a similar ethos to Def Con groups, so expect some overlap in membership and discussion topics between Providence 2600 and DC401. Providence 2600 meets every fourth Wednesday of the month to chat about hacking and tech issues.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Rhode Island
The Ocean State has its fair share of cyber security events, thanks to the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Pell’s Rhode Island Corporate Cybersecurity Initiative organizes regular events for the state’s business leaders and government officials, such as tabletop exercises, panel discussions, preparedness workshops, and seminars. Those outside of upper management have a different event they can attend:
- Providence Business News Cybersecurity Summit: The PBN Cybersecurity Summit is a half-day panel discussion featuring educators from the state’s top academic institutions, policy think tanks and businesses.
Cyber Security Jobs in Rhode Island
Governor Raimondo formed the Rhode Island Cybersecurity Commission in 2015, which is charged with creating a workforce development plan. While that plan starts to bear fruit, graduates can find work with a bevy of Department of Defense contractors in the state. They’re there because Rhode Island is the epicenter of submarine construction for the U.S. Navy. In fact, General Dynamics Electric Boat, which makes submarines, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which develops weapons systems for them, are two of the state’s top employers.
At least three contractors for these groups recruit cyber security pros. Progeny Systems International maintains a Middletown office that hires those with sufficient computer engineering expertise, Epsilon Systems Solutions hires cyber security analysts to work in Newport, and Raytheon hires cyber systems engineers in Portsmouth. If you want a way into any of these careers, don’t wait until after graduation. The Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) runs a paid internship program for students at Rhode Island colleges.
Outside of the defense industry, Citizens Financial Group, based in Providence, is the fourth-largest employer in the state and looks for auditors for its retail and commercial banking wing.
Cyber Security Salaries in Rhode Island
Rhode Island pays a better-than-average rate to its information security analysts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median wage in 2016 was north of $100,000 a year, or about eight percent above the national rate. Although the higher earnings are more than cancelled out by a high cost of living, don’t worry: Salaries are catching up. The average was just $91,000 in 2012. Most of the more than 1,000 open cyber security jobs require advanced technical certifications, such as CISSP or CISA, meaning that average salaries should continue to rise to attract a highly skilled workforce.
All Cyber Security Programs in Rhode Island
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 5 Rhode Island schools.
Providence, Rhode Island
Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island
New England Institute of Technology
East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Salve Regina University
Newport, Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, Rhode Island