Idaho is truly the Gem State when it comes to cyber security programs. Jump straight to our list of degrees and certificates, or take our tour of the state’s online programs, scholarships, professional networks, and job possibilities.
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Studying Cyber Security in Idaho
Idaho has few degree-granting public institutions, but most of them have a cyber security program in some form. More than that, several have well-funded programs oozing with research possibilities. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) have designated three Gem State institutions as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education: Idaho State University, University of Idaho and the two-year North Idaho College.
- The Center for Secure and Dependable Systems (CSDS) at the University of Idaho has been kicking around since 1998. It helped UI become one of the first seven schools in the country to receive NSA/DHS recognition — and one of the first five to get National Science Foundation funds to offer full scholarships to cyber security students. In addition to putting out reams of research papers every year, CSDS faculty and graduate students organize a three-day academic conference, the Cybersecurity Symposium, every year.
- In 2017, Idaho State University offered up land near its Idaho Falls campus (an hour away from the main campus in Pocatello) for a new Cybercore Integration Center at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a federal research facility that explores ways to combat attacks to the nation’s power and water supplies. The university’s goal is to partner with the facility on government projects, creating a direct link between ISU students and some of the best cyber security researchers in the country.
- Boise State is already partnering with the Idaho National Laboratory. The state legislature granted the university $1 million to build a new cyber security lab in 2016, with technical guidance provided by INL.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Idaho
Although there are multiple outlets for distance education throughout the state, University of Idaho is the only one dabbling in cyber security. Still, that’s only at the graduate level, meaning you should look out of state for online associate or bachelor’s degrees.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
University of Idaho runs an online MS in Computer Science that allows students to pursue a security focus. It’s designed for students who excelled in programming and advanced mathematics at the undergraduate level, and it comes in two varieties: thesis and non-thesis.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
University of Idaho also offers the hands-on Graduate Certificate in Secure and Dependable Computing Systems, which includes two core courses plus two electives drawn from the Department of Computer Science.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Idaho
A trio of public universities plus one community college offer scholarships for students in their cyber security degree programs. Some are institutional awards provided through a department or college foundation, while others are lucrative grants made possible through federal funding. Regardless, you’ll have to apply for each one in order to be considered:
Boise State University
- Ada Lovelace Computer Science Scholarship for Women: This award goes to female Computer Science majors (who may or may not minor in Cyber Security) with a 3.0. Undergraduates of any year may apply, including freshmen, but they’ll need a letter of recommendation.
- Hutchison Computer Science Scholarship: Anyone majoring in Computer Science can apply for the Hutchison Scholarship, although upperclassmen will need a 3.0 GPA to get it.
- Keynetics Inc. Computer Science Scholarship: This scholarship from an Idaho software company also targets female undergrads in the Computer Science program. You’ll need a 3.0 and sophomore status or above to be eligible.
Idaho State University
- Scholarship for Service: MBA students with an emphasis in Information Assurance — as well as juniors and seniors in the Informatics program — can get their degree completely paid for plus earn a $32,000 annual stipend. Competition is steep, but the school hands out multiple awards every year. Winners must work for a federal agency in the field of cyber security for up to two years after graduation.
North Idaho College
- North Idaho College CITE Program Scholarship: NIC is the only two-year National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education in Idaho. The school houses its information assurance courses in the Computer Information Technology (CITE) AAS degree, which offers this appropriately named scholarship.
University of Idaho
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: University of Idaho also offers the prestigious SFS, a full scholarship that comes with a monstrous annual stipend ($22,500 for undergrads and $34,500 for graduates). Only enrollees in Computer Science or Computer Engineering are eligible. Those who win must work for the federal government for up to two years after earning their degree.
Cyber Security Events in Idaho
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Idaho
Boise is the main hub for cyber security communities in Idaho, although public higher education institutions like University of Idaho in Moscow and Idaho State University in Pocatello promise access to informal gatherings of likeminded professors and students. Here are five groups that make a habit of meeting up:
- Boise 2600: 2600 is a worldwide movement of anyone intrigued by InfoSec, particularly hackers. Members of the Boise edition hang out and swap stories every first Friday of the month at the Boise State University Student Union.
- Boise InfoSec Meetup: This small but dedicated group of professionals only really gets going in the summer and fall as it prepares to host BSidesBoise, a major event for the local security community.
- Boise ISSA: Student membership with the Information Systems Security Association is affordable and worth the investment. With it, you’ll get invited to the Boise chapter’s monthly lunches, where you’ll be able to network with local professionals, participate in moderated discussions, and hear expert presentations.
- ISACA Boise: Members of the former Information Systems Audit and Control Association (now just ISACA) can find a home in Boise. The local chapter accepts student members and even gives out a $1,000 scholarship to students studying computer science or information systems at a state university. Members meet regularly for luncheons with themed presentations as well as for workshops, where they can earn continuing professional education credits.
- Pocatello 2600: The same basic rules apply to Pocatello’s iteration of the 2600 meeting: Come to the Flipside Lounge around six on the first Friday of the month to talk all things hacking and security.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Idaho
We recommend attending at least one conference a year to network with peers, earn CPE credits, and just see what’s new. Keep tuned to the Idaho Technology Council website, which often runs events for cyber security professionals, such as the 2017 Energy Connected Conference. You can count on the following four events taking place year after year:
- BSidesBoise: BSidesBoise, which is organized by local volunteers, costs next to nothing to attend. The event places some of the most thoughtful Treasure Valley technologists center stage to put irreverent spins on standard topics such as pen testing, automation, and ransomware.
- Boise ISSA Annual Information Security Conference: ISSA has hosted its one-day conference since 2003. It’s not exclusively for members, so anyone can grab tickets and listen to keynotes, stroll around the exhibition pavilion, and partake in hands-on workshops with featured experts.
- Cybersecurity Symposium: The University of Idaho’s Center for Secure and Dependable Systems sponsors an annual gathering of academics, industry leaders and government officials in Coeur d’Alene. Students gain entry for half the ticket price, which gets them access to a full day of workshops plus two days of research presentations.
- Idaho Cybersecurity Interdependencies Workshop: Since 2014, the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security and the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Center for Disaster Resilience have joined forces to host workshops that help government staff, small business owners and tech workers coalesce around a shared plan for responding to hacks against the state’s infrastructure.
Cyber Security Jobs in Idaho
There are actually a good number of jobs in cyber security in Idaho. Don’t assume, however, that they’re all in the capital. According to 2015 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Pocatello had the fourth-highest concentration of information security analysts in the country, thanks in part to the presence of ON Semiconductor, the largest employer in the city that wasn’t a school or hospital. By the end of the decade, Pocatello will probably have the highest concentration of security analysts in the country. That’s because in 2016, the FBI began shuttering data centers across the country and migrating information to one massive new secure data facility in…you guessed it, Pocatello. Soon thereafter, cyber security contractors Buchanan & Edwards opened a branch there, bringing even more cyber security jobs to the area.
An hour away from Pocatello, you can also find work in Idaho Falls. The Idaho National Laboratory, which employs thousands of highly skilled researchers, has been conducting control systems security testing for federal agencies for a decade, including the DHS, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense. The much-discussed addition of the Cybercore Integration Center will bring even more R&D jobs to INL.
But although Pocatello and Idaho Falls have highly concentrated security workforces, Boise still leads in terms of volume. It’s where Micron Technology, the state’s only Fortune 500 company, is based. Micron employs more people than anyone else in Idaho and just happens to specialize in storage data security (among other things). TechTrend, which provides IT enterprise solutions in the realm of information security, is another major employer in the City of Trees.
Cyber Security Salaries in Idaho
Now that we know what jobs are available in Idaho, let’s look at how well they pay. According to the BLS, pretty well. While salaries are lower than their Pacific Northwest neighbor Washington, they’re substantially higher than those in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. The median annual salary for information security analysts is $84,000, compared to a national rate of $90,000. But get this: The top 10 percent of earners command $153K or more, compared to the U.S. figure of $143K. Since the state boasts the sixth-lowest cost of living, you’ll be doing well by forging a long career in Idaho.
All Cyber Security Programs in Idaho
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 4 Idaho schools.
Boise State University
College of Western Idaho
Idaho State University
University of Idaho