West Virginia is almost heaven for cyber security students who want to break into the capital region’s tech market. While nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can study cyber security at any of the schools on our list. We’ll explain the advantages of each, plus delve into online offerings, job and scholarship opportunities, and events just for you.
Studying Cyber Security in West Virginia
Two schools – West Virginia University and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College – are Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, according to the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. We’ll highlight some positives of these and other Mountain State institutions:
- The Center for Applied Cyber Security at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College offers a certificate and associate degree in the discipline, both of which are focused on network security. Once you’ve completed the first two years of a cyber security degree at BRCTC or elsewhere, you can earn a baccalaureate at private University of Charleston, which runs a degree completion program in Cyber Security.
- West Virginia University is the biggest research institution in the state. The Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering is responsible for projects in computer forensics and security. The school also partners with University of Arizona’s National Center for Border Security and Immigration, where Professor Bojan Cukic has studied biometric identification problems at border control stops. Elsewhere at WVU, researchers within the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources won a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Energy in 2016 to find cyber security enhancements that would reduce consumption at small- and medium-sized enterprises.
- Want a bit of fun to go with your degree? Cyber WVU is a cyber defense club that competes annually in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, runs a Capture the Flag competition, and meets weekly to discuss projects.
- For a graduate degree or certificate aligned with criminal justice, you may want to go to school in Huntington. The Marshall University Forensic Science Center (MUFSC) dedicates one laboratory purely to digital forensics, and a state digital forensics police unit is based at the center. Grad students pursuing the Digital Forensics emphasis in the Forensic Science program can apprentice with the unit to investigate everything from fraud to homicide.
Online Cyber Security Programs in West Virginia
The schools mentioned above have yet to put their cyber security programs into a distance learning format. For that, you must mostly rely on American Public University System, which is actually a private, for-profit college. APUS has traditionally recruited military members. Since soldiers desire flexibility and programs relevant to their interests, APUS developed a ton of online cyber security programs that would appeal to law enforcement and military types. But civilians constitute about 40 percent of the student population, so you’re free to go there for anything from an undergraduate certificate to a master’s degree:
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
American Public University System promotes two technically focused baccalaureates: a BS in Cybersecurity and a BS in Information Systems Security. The programs overlap significantly, but the key difference is that the former should appeal to budding cyber security analysts and forensic investigators, whereas the latter is a tad more generalized. Thanks to concentrations, both degrees are flexible enough to be of interest to students headed to either military and government careers or corporate jobs. BS in Cybersecurity enrollees can opt for a concentration in Wireless and Mobile Security, while those in the BS in Information Systems Security program choose from eight concentrations, from Cloud Computing to Homeland Security.
A third option is mostly nontechnical: The BS in Security Management, which is focused on terrorism and legal policies, comes with an optional concentration in Information Security. Students who choose it get five courses behind the keyboard analyzing attack and defense techniques and developing strategies to prevent hacks.
If APUS’s programs don’t speak to you, Salem International University’s BS in Information Technology with a specialization in Cybersecurity might. It’s broad enough to help enrollees find entry-level work in an IT department yet features enough security coursework to qualify graduates for a graduate program in the discipline.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
At the graduate level, American Public University System offers a combination of programs and concentrations that should appeal to a range of students.
The MS in Cybersecurity Studies is a multidisciplinary degree that marries the technical knowhow to repel massive cyber attacks with policy perspectives that illuminate how such attacks threaten national security. To be able to hang with their cohort, enrollees should already hold at least an IT minor or have significant work experience in cyber security. If telecommunications security is your niche, take the MS in Information Technology and choose the concentration in Information Assurance and Security. The MSIT program also carries a Digital Forensics concentration for those headed to law enforcement careers. Both concentrations require students to have technical certifications, an associate degree or higher in an IT field, or relevant work experience in the concentration area.
Two options exist for less technically inclined students. The Master of Arts in Homeland Security and the MA in National Security Studies sound the same but they hardly converge. The former is tailored to students who want DHS jobs, while the latter is more applicable to military careers. Both have concentrations in “Cyber.” The MA in Homeland Security allows students to choose any four of eight courses to fulfill the requirement, some related to policy and others detailing the evolution of particular intelligence gathering strategies. The MA in National Security Studies is stricter, with students in the concentration taking a prescribed set of courses covering cyber policy.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Remember all the concentrations within APUS’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs? Those can be reconfigured into 18-credit undergraduate or graduate certificates.
Starting with undergraduate certificates, there are six programs to look at. Cybercrime Essentials is a forensics-intensive program that goes into detection, investigation and prevention techniques for everything from cyberbullying to full-on cyber warfare. Meanwhile, the Digital Forensics Certificate is all about getting the data needed to put those guilty of cybercrime behind bars. The certificate in Cybersecurity is also forensic-based and designed for students seeking IACIS certification. Moving away from forensics, IT Infrastructure Security is all about networks – learn how to set one up that isn’t going to get hacked. The Information Security Planning credential integrates defensive and offensive techniques with IT management policies. Last, Information Systems Security Essentials looks at the importance of five things in creating a secure ecosystem: networks and policies, but also hardware, software and people.
On the graduate side of things, APUS has four certificates of note. The graduate certificates in Cybercrime, Digital Forensics, and Information Systems Security are each more advanced versions of their undergraduate certificate counterparts, in that they require previous work or academic specialization in IT. The Information Assurance graduate certificate, meanwhile, turns IT specialists into network and telecoms security ninjas.
Cyber Security Scholarships in West Virginia
The more specific the scholarship, the better your odds of getting it. As schools add cyber security programs to their catalogs, you’ll find more awards specific to cyber security or IT, like the one below:
Mountwest Community and Technical College
- Advanced Technical Solutions Excellence in IT Scholarship: Full-time Information Technology majors, such as those with a concentration in Network Systems Security, can snag some money if they have a 3.0 and financial need.
Cyber Security Events in West Virginia
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in West Virginia
Professional associations are in short supply in the Mountain State. But there is one quite active group to connect with:
- ISSA Blue Ridge Chapter: Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) members in Martinsburg convene every second Tuesday of the month. The group uses its proximity to Washington, DC, to schedule an engaging set of speakers each month. Presenters hail from corporations such as Reston-based Clarabridge and government agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Students receive discounted membership.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in West Virginia
Two moderately sized cyber security events take place in West Virginia annually:
- SecureWV/Hack3rCon: A group of Charleston information security junkies launched Hack3rCon in 2010. SecureWV came along in 2015, and ever since the events have gone together like peanut butter and jelly. Organizers typically break the three-day affair into multiple tracks. Pros can sit in on the speakers track, which consists of hourlong talks from interesting people. Another track get attendees with minimal exposure to InfoSec up to speed. The organizers have also arranged for forensics classes to be taught by Marshall University professors. Though not free, the event remains inexpensive so as to attract a diverse audience of students and practitioners.
- West Virginia Cyber Security Conference: The state’s Office of Technology puts on an annual event each October. The half-day agenda features expert practitioners who discuss best practices in risk mitigation. The event, aimed at state employees, is also free to the general public.
Cyber Security Jobs in West Virginia
West Virginia’s concentration of cyber security workers is half the national rate – and lower than all but four states. On the one hand, it demonstrates there aren’t a lot of cyber security jobs in the state. On the other hand, it shows untapped room for growth.
Yet with Maryland, Virginia and DC next door, graduates have plenty of options if they want to wait for things to pick up. But they probably won’t need to take them. The U.S. Coast Guard Operations Systems Center sits in Martinsburg, along the eastern panhandle that cuts through Maryland and northern Virginia. Several government contractors have set up small shops there to serve the center, including TISTA Science and Technology Corporation, which specializes in cyber security engineering, operations and risk management. And Virginia-based government contractors extend as far as Morgantown. NCI Information Systems, Inc. and ManTech International in Clarksburg both work in information assurance, and SC3 provides infrastructure protection and conducts vulnerability assessments out of Fairmont. Plus, there’s one local firm to look out for: KeyLogic in Morgantown. It does project management in information assurance and creates customer-specify network defense strategies.
Cyber Security Salaries in West Virginia
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average information security analyst in West Virginia earned $76,000 a year in 2016. Indeed.com’s salary estimate for IT security specialists is nearly identical. In both cases, that’s below the national average. But because West Virginia has the second-lowest per capita income in the U.S. ($23,450 in 2015), few are complaining.
All Cyber Security Programs in West Virginia
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 8 West Virginia schools.
American Public University System
|Charles Town, West Virginia|
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College
|Martinsburg, West Virginia||NSA
|Huntington, West Virginia|
Mountwest Community and Technical College
|Huntington, West Virginia|
Salem International University
|Salem, West Virginia|
University of Charleston
|Charleston, West Virginia|
West Virginia Northern Community College
|Wheeling, West Virginia|
West Virginia University
|Morgantown, West Virginia||NSA