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Colorado has longstanding connections to the defense and high-tech industries, making it an ideal breeding ground for cyber security innovation. A great way to get into a Colorado cyber security career is by attending college there. If you can’t wait to see your options, skip to our list of schools with programs. But we recommend you first read our straightforward guide to current research, scholarships and professional communities in the Centennial State.
Studying Cybersecurity in Colorado
One of the best ways to sniff out worthy colleges in the sector is by studying the list of National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense or Information Assurance Education, which is produced by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Eight Colorado schools made the cut in 2017. Here’s what four of those institutions are up to:
- At the governor’s urging, the state legislature created a National Cybersecurity Center to be housed at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. The center will provide training for students (with UCCS students having easy access) and government officials, as well as a research laboratory that can transfer research results from academia to products and protocols for local industry.
- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gave CU-Boulder $2.8 million in 2016 to create methods to identify vulnerability in military and industrial software algorithms.
- Cyber security is a research focus for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty at the Colorado School of Mines, which has created the Center for Cyber Security and Privacy (CCSP) to house their projects. The university received a $277,000 National Science Foundation grant in 2015 to integrate cyber security throughout the Computer Science curriculum.
- University of Denver, which runs the Colorado Research Institute for Security and Privacy (CRISP), launched a one-year MS in Cybersecurity in 2016 for students looking to earn a graduate degree in half the typical time. It gives all successful applicants a 50 percent discount off of the university’s normal tuition.
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Online Cybersecurity Programs in Colorado
Graduate cyber security students can choose from extensive options at the degree and certificate levels in Colorado, with four major players worth mentioning: Colorado State University-Global Campus, Regis University, University of Colorado Boulder and University of Denver.
Baccalaureate-seekers have much less variety in terms of distance learning degrees in Colorado, with just one for-profit school making a foray into the sector. And although Colorado’s community colleges do not yet make their cyber security associate degrees available via distance learning, individual courses toward such degrees are online. Keep tabs on them at Colorado Community Colleges Online.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
Cyber security bachelor’s degrees have yet to take off in the Centennial State, either online or on campus. If you want to attain a four-year degree online in the state, you must look to Colorado Technical University’s bachelor’s programs in Cyber Security (with several concentrations) and Criminal Justice with a concentration in Cybercrime and Security. Although it is a for-profit school, Colorado Tech is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
At the master’s level, your program options open up. Let’s look at degrees at public universities first. The online MS in Information Technology Management at CSU’s Global Campus allows for a specialization in Cyber Security. Taking that route gives students a mix of technical skills in defending attacks but doesn’t get too far away from its emphasis on managing threats.
Elsewhere, University of Colorado Boulder’s MS in Telecommunications comes with a Network Security track. An interdisciplinary program, the degree combines policy, business and technology, giving it broad appeal to all types of four-year degree holders. But UC Boulder also offers the MS in Telecommunications with a dedicated Cybersecurity track. This 24-month degree is deliberately geared toward working professionals. In addition to network and system security, it also covers areas like policy, risk management, and economics—topics that cyber security managers often need to consider.
As for private institutions, there are two to consider. Regis University promotes an MS in Information Assurance, which allows for further specialization in Cybersecurity or Information Assurance Policy Management, depending on your career track. Either way, you’ll be set to sit for industry certification exams such as Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) and Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP). University of Denver is the other private school to consider. Through its University College, it runs two programs: a Master’s in Security Management with a concentration in Information Security and an MS in Information And Communications Technology with a concentration in Information Systems Security. The former is more policy than hands-on practice and is geared toward aspiring business leaders. The latter is where you’ll get your hands on a keyboard.
Online Certificate Programs in Cybersecurity
With the exception of University of Colorado Boulder, the same players who hand out master’s degrees also offer comparable certificates. At CSU-Global Campus, you don’t have to take the full MS in Information Technology Management — you can take the four courses within its Cyber Security specialization on their own. It’s called the Certificate in Cyber Security, and you can take it at the graduate or undergraduate level.
Likewise, University of Denver’s Information Security and Information Systems Security concentrations can be taken as graduate certificates. You’ll just take the four concentration courses. Regis University does the same, making its two specializations within the MS in Information Assurance — Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Policy Management — available as standalone certificates.
Cybersecurity Scholarships in Colorado
As a relatively new academic discipline, cyber security lags behind many established majors in scholarship funding — a byproduct of having fewer alumni to fund such awards. But some Colorado schools are stepping in to make the field an attractive avenue for students. Here are a few:
Red Rocks Community College
- Cyber Security Scholarship: An award worth $7,500 a year is huge for associate degree students — and your odds of getting one are decent, with 12 scholarships handed out each year. To qualify, you’ll need to be a full-time student with a 3.0 studying toward a Programming Specialist, Web Development, Network Specialist, Cyber Security Specialist, or Computer Science credential.
United States Air Force Academy
- Cadet Benefits: If you’re fortunate enough to be accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy, you won’t pay a cent for your education, no matter the major.
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
- Dakin Scholarship: The Dakin Scholarship, worth $5,000 to $7,500 is reserved for undergraduate and graduate Cybersecurity students who hold a 3.0 GPA.
Cybersecurity Events in Colorado
Cybersecurity Meetups & Communities in Colorado
When it comes to expanding your security knowledge, you can take several routes, ranging from joining formal chapters of professional societies, such as ISSA Denver, to popping in for midweek mixers put on by some IT pros downtown. Here are five of the most active meetups and communities in Colorado:
- Colorado Springs Cybersecurity Meetup: Open to amateurs and aficionados alike, the Colorado Springs Cybersecurity Meetup is extremely active. If you’re new to the group, just show up for the First Fridays Mixer each month to socialize. The group usually holds four other events every month — Security 101 and Security 102 workshops, Capture the Flag and the Guest Speaker Series.
- DC719: This DEF CON-affiliated group welcomes anyone from the 719 area code interested in hacking to attend its monthly workshops and presentations.
- Denver CitySec: Denver CitySec is a group of security professionals who eschew membership dues and presentations in favor of beer and pretzels. They congregate twice a month in the Denver/Boulder area.
- Denver Cloud Security Meetup Alliance: Hundreds of “cloud defenders” working to keep their organizations’ data safe gather for periodic chapter meetings and speaker events. They ask only that you bring your curiosity and sense of humor.
- Denver/Boulder Cybersecurity Meetup: Great for both neophytes eager to jump into the cyber security scene and seasoned pros looking to hone their skills, these meetups make things fun with their Security 101 workshop series and Capture the Flag competitions. Learn about the Denver Cybersecurity Meetup here, and the Boulder Cybersecurity Meetup here. FYI: The Denver/Boulder Cybersecurity Meetup organizers and events overlap significantly with Learn Cybersecurity Denver.
- (ISC)² Pikes Peak Chapter: The Pikes Peak chapter of (ISC)² is open to Colorado information security professionals near Denver and Colorado Springs. Membership is $25 annually, and allows you to network, share knowledge, find new professional opportunities, and learn about hot topics in the field. Local (ISC)² chapters, like Pikes Peak, are a great place for students to find mentors and establish relationships in their local information security communities. Visit their website for more information on how to get involved.
Cybersecurity Conferences & Workshops in Colorado
As a large American city, Denver takes its turn hosting large events such as the 2017 Security Professionals Conference. And groups like the SANS Institute regularly schedule weeklong information security courses in the Colorado capital. Some events are more permanently rooted in the state, however, with homes in Denver, Colorado Springs and Aspen. Here are six of the most prominent:
- Aspen Security Forum (ASF): The Aspen Security Forum brings together VIP government officials, top businesspeople, academics and journalists to discuss the most pressing national security issues. Student and guest passes are available if you have $1,300 lying around, and ASF scholarships can lower the price.
- BSides Denver: BSides is part of a national movement to make cyber security conferences fun and accessible. Those interested in information security needn’t pay a thing to explore the Lockpick Village, participate in Capture the Flag or settle in for intimate presentations from their Coloradan peers.
- Cybersecurity Training & Technology Forum (CSTTF): Hosted by the Colorado Springs chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), CSTTF is a multi-track conference for security professionals, filled with speakers from the government and private sectors.
- Rocky Mountain Information Security Conference (RMISC): This three-day Denver conference emphasizes workshops and networking, so IT professionals should come prepared to enhance their skills and fill their address books.
- Space Symposium: If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the top secret government security clearance needed to attend the Cyber 1.7 Classified track at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Maybe this time next year, though.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Colorado
Although Denver is the Centennial State’s capital, most of the action in the cyber security industry lies in Colorado Springs, where the defense and high-tech industries are the biggest employers. In fact, Colorado Springs boasts the eighth-highest concentration of information security analysts in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is driven in part by root9B, a Colorado Springs-based company that Cybersecurity Ventures ranked the top employer in the sector in 2016. The state is hoping to cash in on the area’s thriving tech economy by creating the National Cybersecurity Center to train future professionals and connect them with industry partners.
Other big security employers extend their reach across the state, among them Fortune 500 behemoths Level 3 Communications and Cybersecurity 500 stalwarts Webroot, both headquartered between Denver and Boulder in suburban Broomfield. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to a 2015 report from Burning Glass, Denver’s demand for cyber security employees grew at a rate of 176 percent between 2010 and 2014, better than all but Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.
Cybersecurity Salaries in Colorado
A 2016 study published by Indeed.com found that, after adjusting for cost of living, Denver was the fifth-highest-paying city for information security specialists, better than hotspots like New York and D.C. The U.S. government, which tracks wage and employment data for information security analysts, comes to a similar conclusion about the state of Colorado as a whole: The average analyst there pulls in $98,000 a year, compared to $90,000 nationally. The gross earnings are even higher outside of the capital, with workers from Boulder, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins compensated at a higher rate than their Denver peers.
All Cybersecurity Programs in Colorado
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 15 Colorado schools.
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