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Want to work protecting the U.S. from cyber attacks just a few blocks from the White House? Start by earning an advanced degree in cyber security in Washington D.C. You can jump to our list of schools with programs. Or take the extended tour, which includes a look at online programs, scholarships, security communities and conferences, and job opportunities.
Studying Cybersecurity in Washington, D.C.
A small but elite group of universities is engaged in cyber security research in D.C., making it a fantastic destination for a graduate degree in the field. But undergrads can still find solid bachelor’s programs and concentrations in cyber security at George Washington University and Howard University, both of which made the cut on a 2014 HP-funded survey of the best schools for cyber security.
Below is a quick survey of what’s on offer in the District of Columbia:
- Georgetown University and George Washington University have the distinction of being National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research — a designation bestowed by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Graduate students at either college can expect to have research opportunities in the field alongside faculty. In fact, both universities received National Science Foundation to offer students full scholarships through the CyberCorps program.
- If you’re headed to George Washington, you may do research alongside two members of the National Cyber Security Hall of Fame. Carl Landwehr is Lead Research Scientist at the Cyber Security & Privacy Research Institute (CSPRI) and Lance Hoffman is co-director.
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Online Cybersecurity Programs in Washington, D.C.
Distance learning programs in D.C. are heavy on leadership and light on tech skills. Part of that goes with the territory, but it’s also a reflection of the types of students most of D.C.’s elite institutions draw. Expect to find plenty of master’s programs and a smattering of certificates, but nothing else. Below is a brief overview of available programs:
Online Bachelor’s Degrees In Cybersecurity
The only online baccalaureate degree in D.C. is from a for-profit provider. University of the Potomac’s BS in Cyber Security and Policy entails a mix of technical and theoretical coursework. Students can choose from five concentrations: government contract management, healthcare management, information management, international business, and management.
Online Master’s Degrees In Cybersecurity
George Washington University entices enrollees with a pair of graduate degrees. The first is the multidisciplinary Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy & Compliance, which takes tech savvy students and teaches them the art of cyber warfare and espionage. The second is the Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Strategy and Information Management, which recruits governmental and private sector professionals who want a deep dive into policy.
Not to be outdone, Georgetown University lets students in its Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management program pursue a concentration in Information Security. The degree emphasizes ethics and analysis over hard skills.
National Defense University more directly targets government staff through its Master of Science in Government Information Leadership. Students can choose a concentration in Cyber Security. Warning: It’s not a purely online format, as students will have an intensive weeklong seminar at Fort McNair during the middle of each class.
There’s one last option if you feel you need it: For-profit University of the Potomac offers a concentration in Cyber Security for its MS in Information Technology degree.
Online Certificate Programs In Cybersecurity
Students at National Defense University can take the Cyber Security concentration as a certificate instead. In the process, they’ll earn four of the six professional certifications from the Committee on National Security Systems: NSTISSI-4011, CNSSI-4012, NSTISSI-4015 and CNSSI-4016.
Cybersecurity Scholarships in Washington, D.C.
Most D.C. cyber security programs are master’s degrees. That means on-campus graduate students can look for departmental fellowships or assistantships to offset tuition and living expenses. Scholarships lurk, too, although they are typically broad, with many open to all IT students or even STEM majors. The following two scholarships are quite specific, however:
George Washington University
- GW CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service: Each year, multiple students headed studying toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cyber security win a full ride for the final two to three years of their degree program. That covers tuition, fees, books, professional development and living expenses. The stipend is enough to find a good place even in pricey Foggy Bottom. After earning your degree, you’ll be required to work for a federal agency for two to three years.
- GW CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service: The specifics for Georgetown’s CyberCorps award, granted by the NSF, were still being ironed out as of 2017, but the school’s Cybersecurity Fellows program will no doubt be similar to George Washington’s full scholarship program.
Cybersecurity Events in Washington, D.C.
Cybersecurity Meetups & Communities In Washington, D.C.
The general D.C. tech community extends as far as the Metro does, with folks flocking from northern Virginia and suburban Maryland to meet up with peers in the nation’s capital, and vice versa. You can read about some of the communities outside the four quadrants by checking out our guide to cyber security programs in Virginia and/or Maryland, which feature descriptions of regional Meetups such as the massive D.C. Cyber Security Professionals in Arlington.
We’ve rounded up a few communities targeting DC residents. Most of the following groups are located firmly within the Federal City’s borders but welcoming to NOVA and Maryland residents:
- CapSec DC: Unlike most professional groups, CapSec DC doesn’t need you to present your graduate thesis. The only expectation is that you come to have a drink/food and socialize. (Whilst you’re meeting people in the field, the conversation will naturally drift to collaborative access control or whatever you’re working on.) The happy hour takes place the last Wednesday of each month at The Queen Vic in Northeast.
- Cyber Risk Wednesday: Wednesday sure is popular. This group is an extension of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, meaning it brings together experts from multiple disciplines once a month for panel discussions on “international cooperation, competition, and conflict in cyberspace.”
- DC, MD, VA CISSP Meetup Group: The area CISSP group welcomes novices to biweekly study meetings. The goal is to get you trained up to pass the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification.
- Washington, D.C. OWASP Chapter: OWASP stands for Open Web & Application Security Project, which gives some indication as to what the monthly meetings focus on. Think presentations on VoIP platform vulnerabilities and runtime application self-protection.
- White Hat Academy: The White Hat Academy meets several times a month for workshops and hacking competitions like Capture the Flag. It’s great for people looking to quickly ramp up their hacking skills and get better at defending against hacks.
In addition to these free groups, you might also consider joining a professional association that accepts student members. Such groups provide invaluable networking opportunities and get you discounts to training, workshops and conferences, which we discuss more below. Some associations with active D.C. chapters include Control System Cyber Security Association International, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), ISACA (formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association), and Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).
Cybersecurity Conferences & Workshops In Washington, D.C.
Due to the well-crossed border between the nation’s capital and northern Virginia, we’ve actually listed a bunch of cyber security conferences in the District of Columbia over at our guide to cyber security programs in Virginia, including the Digital Government Institute Cyber Security Conference & Expo and the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals National Conference. That doesn’t even include all the events that cycle through the nation’s capital (e.g., the International Cryptographic Module Conference 2017), which is just as popular a venue as Las Vegas or New York.
Below are five more events that keeping come back to Washington:
- B-Sides DC: The principles behind Security B-Sides events are to expand the conversation about security, make them accessible, and encourage people to join. At the D.C. event, that manifests itself in three days of presentations and trainings, with multiple tracks so young learners and seasoned experts can all find something that interests them — or even just play Capture the Flag.
- Billington CyberSecurity Summit: This annual fall forum puts the leading security thinkers in government and the private sector center stage for a day of presentations. Students receive a highly discounted rate.
- D.C. Metro Cyber Security Summit: Okay, so this one is aimed at big time corporate execs, who sit with industry experts for a day of panels and catered meals. But if you land in a government or military job, you can attend for next to nothing.
- (ISC)² CyberSecureGov: Students get a massive discount for the CyberSecureGov conference, which includes three days of presentations and training for tech professionals across the public, private and academic sectors. With three tracks and multiple presentations throughout the day, expect to learn a lot about your area of interest.
- The Synergy Forum: Cognitio Corporation puts on a one-day series of breakout sessions for business leaders and public sector IT pros to learn how to better secure their data.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Washington, D.C.
D.C. is small enough that most statistics on it incorporate northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, presenting a somewhat skewed representation of what’s available within the capital itself. To read a comprehensive overview of the job scene in NOVA, go to our guide to cyber security programs in Virginia. For a heads-up on jobs at the National Security Agency and other employers in the Old Line State, head to our guide to cyber security programs in Maryland.
Either of those guides will tell you that you’re in the right place for cyber security jobs, as there are a ton in the region. When you look at the D.C. metropolitan area as a whole, the employment figures are staggering: Burning Glass Technologies found 27,000 job postings there in 2014 alone; New York City was a distant second, with just under 18,000 postings. There’s more. Individually, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. each place in the top five for concentration on information security analyst jobs in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in D.C. proper, there are more than 1,000 people holding that title, not to mention those with other monikers.
What type of work do they find? In a mere 68 square miles, D.C. hosts a whopping six companies on the Cybersecurity 500, a list of the best firms in the field. All of those companies are clustered in the Northwest quadrant. For perspective, NW Washington, D.C. has just one fewer on the list than all of Washington state. Thycotic makes security tools for privileged account management. Star Lab develops software for high-tech industries like aerospace. Ridge Global was created by the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help executives get their company security policies and protocols up to snuff. The Chertoff Group, founded by another Secretary of the DHS, walks governments and multinational corporations through how to protect their infrastructure from cyber warfare. Good Harbor sticks to risk management consulting services for executives. And Virtru develops email and digital privacy solutions for private consumers.
Cybersecurity Salaries in Washington, D.C.
More good news: Not only are there jobs in D.C., but they are also high-paying. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, D.C. information security analysts jobs pay $116,000 a year, nearly five percent higher than the second-best paying state for such professions, New York. Indeed, which tracks salary figures for each job posting on its site, backs some of this up for starting salaries at similar occupations: Recruited cyber security engineers in D.C. make more than 20 percent above the national average, while IT security specialists make about the average.
All Cybersecurity Programs in District of Columbia
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 5 District of Columbia schools.
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