Ready to enroll in a cyber security degree in the Ozarks or Rock Town? You can see our list of Arkansas degree programs or let us give you the grand tour of scholarships, salaries and research studies.
Studying Cyber Security in Arkansas
The University of Arkansas dominates cyber security research, which makes sense because it’s one of two institutions in the state to be designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (University of Arkansas at Little Rock is the other). We round up the contributions of it and the state’s other higher ed institutions to cyber security education below:
- The Center for Information Security & Reliability at University of Arkansas runs three facilities: the Database Security Research Lab, the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) InfoSec Lab, and the Trustable Logic Circuit Design Lab (for students who want to take a hardware approach to building secure systems). Meanwhile, the separate Arkansas Security Research and Education (ASCENT) Institute, also at U of A’s Fayetteville campus, collaborates with the Center for Information Security & Reliability, but broadens its vision to explore the intersections between cyber security and infrastructure, transportation and even food security.
- In 2015 the University of Arkansas won a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the brand new National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (NCREPT), where it is already busy researching and testing tools meant to secure the U.S. power grid.
- Moving away from Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock hosts the Center for Excellence for Assurance, Security, and Software Usability, Research, and Education (ASSURE). ASSURE won a grant in 2014 to create the CyberSAFE@UALR program. Although that project ended in 2016, it produced research that may well earn the school more funding, including a project to protect smart cars from external hacking.
- The University of Arkansas System runs the Criminal Justice Institute, which is based in Little Rock. The institute’s Cyberterrorism Defense Initiative provides free training to IT professionals across the U.S. who want to become first responders in case of attacks on American infrastructure.
- Six Arkansas two-year colleges are members of the Cyber Security Education Consortium (CSEC): Pulaski Technical College, Northwest Arkansas Community College, Arkansas State University-Beebe, Arkansas State University-Mountain Home, University of Arkansas Community College Batesville, and Phillips Community College. The CSEC exists to provide community colleges with training and support to develop and refine their cyber security programs, which means these schools should always have up-to-date cyber curricula.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Arkansas
The major player in online cyber security education is Southern Arkansas University. In fact, as of early 2017, SAU was the only provider, meaning there are no distance degrees below the baccalaureate level.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
The bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (Privacy and Cyber Security Option) at Southern Arkansas University is actually a hybrid program. The computer science component will expose you to theory and build up your programming knowledge so that as an upperclassman you can delve into coursework covering cyber defense, privacy engineering, and digital forensics.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Southern Arkansas University also offers an MS in Computer and Information Science (MCIS) that is completely online. The program, which features an optional focus on Cyber Security & Privacy, requires enrollees to have a solid programming background. Taking the concentration will give them hands-on training in assessing vulnerabilities, designing compliant systems, creating secure wireless and mobile networks, and investigating breaches.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Arkansas
Southern Arkansas University
- Alumax-Magnolia Division Endowed Scholarship: Alumax distributes eight awards a year to students in a handful of majors, including Computer Science, which allows for a cyber security concentration. Extra consideration goes to children of Alumax employees.
- Hallman Scholarship: Incoming female students in specified STEM majors, including Computer Science, can compete for a renewable $17,000 scholarship by notching an ACT score 30 or higher. Fell just shy? Those who score between 26 and 29 can compete for a $12,000 annual prize.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- Arkansas Academy of Computing Scholarship: Computer Science and Information Science majors — which includes students minoring in Information Assurance or earning the technical certificate — can apply for this award from the Department of Computer Science. They’ll need a strong academic record and financial need to get it.
- Betty Kay and Charles E. Hathaway Endowed Scholarship: The Kay and Hathaway Scholarship is reserved for juniors with a 2.8 GPA and financial need. All students within the College of Engineering and Information Technology can apply.
- Mary L. Good Endowed Scholarship: This one from the Society of Women Engineers applies to all female students within the College of Engineering and Information Technology. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA.
Cyber Security Events in Arkansas
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Arkansas
There are a couple of communities for cyber security grads in the Natural State:
- InfraGard Arkansas: Membership to InfraGard isn’t guaranteed: It requires an FBI security clearance because the group works with law enforcement to protect the state’s infrastructure. Expect periodic seminars on physical and cyber security as well as quarterly chapter meetings.
- ISACA Fayetteville Chapter: In the Ozarks, you’ll find a group dedicated to information systems audit and control. The professional organization, which welcomes student members, runs chapter meetings and facilitates trainings and talks on security topics.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Arkansas
In 2016, Little Rock hosted the 4th International Symposium on Digital Forensics and Security. Unfortunately, few events are annual affairs, with the exception of the following two:
- Arkansas Digital Government Summit: This event is held for government employees with limited tech exposure. They use the presentations and breakout sessions as reminders to practice security hygiene.
- Arkansas IT Symposium: A daylong conference, the Arkansas IT Symposium in Little Rock is strictly for public and private sector IT professionals. Although the conference is not only about cyber security, it’s a main focus. Multiple breakout sessions and presentations cover topics such as data breaches, secure access for vendors, and social engineering.
Cyber Security Jobs in Arkansas
Arkansas has the second-highest concentration of information security analysts in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those jobs are primarily clustered in the Little Rock area, with a good chunk of them located at the Little Rock Air Force Base, although Fortune 500 companies Dillard’s and Windstream Communications employ thousands of people between them. But definitely don’t overlook the northwest corner, especially Bentonville. That’s Walmart headquarters, and the company regularly posts jobs for its massive Technology and Software Development team.
Cyber Security Salaries in Arkansas
Arkansan cyber security pros are on the lower end of the salary spectrum nationally. Even the top information security analysts pull in below $100,000, while entry-level positions can pay a third of that. Most, however, earn somewhere in between. Up-to-date data from Indeed.com bears this out, showing positions for IT security specialists advertised in the $60,000 range.
But there’s good news: The Fayetteville metropolitan area, which includes Bentonville, has much higher salaries for entry-level jobs than Little Rock. Folks there can expect to earn around $50,000, which is consistent with the national average. Furthermore, Arkansas as a whole has the fourth-lowest cost of living in the country, so a tech job at Walmart is probably more lucrative than a similar one in Austin, Texas.
All Cyber Security Programs in Arkansas
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 2 Arkansas schools.
Southern Arkansas University Main Campus
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Little Rock, Arkansas