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Pennsylvania’s proximity to business and government centers in need of tech professionals makes it a great place to earn a cyber security degree. To peruse the state’s campuses, visit our list of Pennsylvania schools with cyber security programs. But to get a preview of scholarships, degree paths and professional communities for Keystone State students, keep reading.
Studying Cybersecurity in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a whopping three schools in the top 10 of HP’s rankings of the best schools for cyber security: Carnegie Mellon (#4), University of Pittsburgh (#8) and West Chester University of Pennsylvania (#10). Indiana University of Pennsylvania gets an honorable mention at #36.
What are Pennsylvania’s schools doing so well compared to other universities? A few things:
- Adobe. Amazon. Google. Tesla. Those are just a few of the spots where the 2016 class of Carnegie Mellon University’s MS in Information Technology-Information Security ended up after graduation, where they pulled in a median starting salary of $110,000.
- In 2013, the Army Research Laboratory tapped Penn State to head the Cyber-Security Collaborative Research Alliance, a body that researches methods to analyze and detect risks quickly. The alliance will receive up to $48 million in funding over a decade.
- In 2015, Drexel University joined cyber security heavyweights University of Texas at San Antonio and George Mason University when it was contracted to be one of the six official trainers of Army Reserve soldiers in cyber security.
Online Cybersecurity Programs in Pennsylvania
Like many states, a mixture of public and private Pennsylvania colleges put their cyber security degrees online. Or, rather, they put a select few online. In some cases, such as at the baccalaureate level, this leaves prospective students with limited options. But at the graduate level, students have many more master’s and certificate programs to pick from. One notable absence from the online menu is associate degrees. That’s a problem the state’s community colleges will have to address, because as of 2016 none even offered a traditional associate degree in the field.
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Online Associate Degrees In Cybersecurity
Students on the lookout for a two-year degree via distance learning can consider earning a general associate degree online and working with the college to plan out transfer credits. This assumes, however, that you plan on continuing to a bachelor’s degree in cyber security. If not, you can get creative, perhaps by rolling an undergraduate certificate in Security and Risk Analysis at Penn State into an Associate of Science in Information Sciences and Technology.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees In Cybersecurity
A bachelor’s degree is the recommended qualification to become a cyber security specialist, and one can be earned in four years. In Pennsylvania, the hunt for an online degree that qualifies you for most security jobs leads to two spots: Penn State and Robert Morris University.
Penn State’s distance learning format is called World Campus, and many of the same programs at the sprawling State College campus are also offered online, including the Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis – Information & Cyber Security. To get in, you’ll need to be pretty good at math, with an expectation that you’ll have taken Advanced Placement calculus. (Of course, the school can also enroll you in courses to get up to speed.) Once admitted, you’re going to learn basic programming, become conversant in statistics and, of course, go in-depth on network security. The end goal is to develop you into an exceptional security problem solver.
RMU’s on-campus/online BS in Cyber Forensics and Information Security is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. Sure, you’ll be required to complete general credits in science and arts. But you’ll also be able to tackle 30 credits in computer science (e.g. programming, operating systems, systems analysis & design, network security, etc.) and 21 credits in forensics and IT security. We’re talking digital evidence analysis, cyberlaw, IT governance and assurance, mobile & network forensics, and the like. If you’re still not sure about a degree, you might consider taking RMU’s one-year undergraduate certificate in Mobile Forensics and Security, which allows students to roll course credits into the BS.
Online Master’s Degrees In Cybersecurity
With such strong demand for cyber security professionals, a master’s degree isn’t necessary for entry into the field, but it can benefit both tech workers who want to jump into a cyber security role and cyber security pros who want to earn more money.
Penn State World Campus has two programs for two different types of candidates: the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security, which offers options in Information Security & Forensics OR Cyber Threat Analytics and Prevention, and the MPS in Information Sciences – Cybersecurity & Information Assurance. While both programs are designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a tech or math discipline, the former will also give students a strong understanding of government policy and frameworks for approaching threats to U.S. security. The latter, not so much.
- Carnegie Mellon brings its reputation in cyber security online with the MS in Information Technology – Information Security & Assurance. It’s built for people with at least three years of work experience, and the asynchronous delivery style is perfect for part-time students who want to keep working.
- Likewise, Drexel University’s online MS in Cybersecurity is also built for professionals in the field who have a computer or engineering background, but the program has no explicit work experience requirement.
- Robert Morris University has a tech-heavy online MS in Cyber Security and Information Assurance built for IT professionals. In addition to core courses in area such as network security, secure programming, and database systems, you’re allowed to choose 9 credits of specialization or a concentration in Enterprise Systems.
Online Certificate Programs In Cybersecurity
Certificates are a quick way to explore a topic, usually in four to six courses. You can earn one as an undergrad before deciding to get a two- or four-year degree. Or wait until later in your academic career and use it to expand your employment opportunities into cyber security. For example, as we mentioned, Robert Morris University’s undergraduate certificate in Mobile Forensics and Security allows you to transfer those courses credits straight into the BS program.
Unsurprisingly, Penn State World Campus also offers online certificate programs. Its undergraduate certificate in Security and Risk Analysis is designed for neophytes and can transfer directly into a number of associate and bachelor’s programs in the field. The postbaccalaureate certificate in Information Systems Cybersecurity is for IT workers who want to level-up on security skills with just a year of coursework.
La Salle’s graduate certificate in Cybersecurity is a great option and, unlike the other programs mentioned above, welcomes not just students with an IT degree but also those with a business or criminal justice background. Don’t need credit, just the information? Try Villanova University’s master certificate in Information Systems Security.
Cybersecurity Scholarships in Pennsylvania
Recognizing that cyber security is new to most college campuses but an essential need in the U.S. labor market, U.S. government agencies have stepped in with scholarships to both encourage colleges to ramp up their degree offerings and incentivize potential students. The most notable example is the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, offered by four Pennsylvania universities. With alumni numbers expanding, colleges’ computer science and IT departments are finding themselves with more donations earmarked for cyber security scholarships. Here are examples of what you’ll find in the state:
Carnegie Mellon University
- American Security Professional Fellowship: One of a handful of fellowships reserved for students in the Master of Science in Information Security Policy and Management program, the American Security Professional Fellowship is worth at least $10,000 per semester and goes to the strongest scholars. No need to apply — enrollees at Heinz College are automatically considered for awards.
- Cisco Scholarship: Two of the Information Networking Institute’s (INI) four degree programs are related to cyber security. Cisco gives $5,000 a year to an INI student. Connect the dots and apply. The INI gives out other awards, including the Director’s Fellowship, which covers tuition. All INI awards require a 3.0 GPA.
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Students in the MS in Information Security and MS in Information Security Policy and Management programs both qualify for this prestigious award funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which covers the complete cost of a graduate education and provides a $34,000-a-year stipend. Recipients must complete a summer internship and two-year work placement with a federal agency. Apply through Carnegie Mellon CyLab.
- MSIT Program Scholarship: Students in the Information Security track of the MS in Information Technology also have funding options just for them. This is just one. To apply for it and others, you don’t need to do anything. Just enroll in the program.
Indiana University Of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
- Cyber Catch Information Assurance Scholarship: Got a 3.2? Majoring or minoring in an information assurance program? Open to working for the federal government for a few years after graduation? Then apply for this scholarship, funded through the NSF’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service. It covers all educational expenses and gives you $20,000 a year to live off of. Not bad for an undergraduate scholarship.
- Outstanding Freshman Scholarship: The Department of Computer Science, which teaches the university’s cyber security courses, wants to recruit top high school students. If you have a high GPA and impressive SAT scores, contact the department directly to apply.
Montgomery County Community College
- Thompson Family Endowed Scholarship: Administered through the Montgomery County Community College Foundation, this scholarship is for students with financial aid, but it’s a bit generic: Anyone in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program can apply. Fortunately, that includes those enrolled in the Cyber Security certificate program. Apply for this and other Foundation awards online.
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
- Anthony M. and Jeanette A. Agnone Trustee Scholarship for the School of Information Sciences and Technology: The College of Information Sciences and Technology, which houses the BS in Security and Risk Analysis, gives out more than 50 scholarships that students can qualify for, depending on their own academic and personal qualifications. This is just one, but you can apply for all of them by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by April 15th.
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: One scholarship you’ll have to apply for separately is the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service funded by NSF. You’ll want to take the extra time to do it, though — it will allow you to stop accruing debt and leads to a two-year job with a federal agency after graduation. Undergraduate upperclassmen and graduate students studying in programs related to cyber security may apply.
University Of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: There are two routes to this full-ride scholarship and the $32,000-per-year stipend it comes with, and they both involve studying information security at the graduate level. The first is to enroll in the Master’s of Science in Telecommunications program. The second is to register for the Master’s of Science in Information Science degree. Successful applicants will take a job at a federal agency for two years after graduating.
Cybersecurity Events in Pennsylvania
Cybersecurity Meetups & Communities In Pennsylvania
The more education and professional certifications you rack up, the more opportunities you’ll have to join organizations of your peers, such as ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), which has chapters in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But before you get to that point, you can join local meetups or communities that don’t care about your credentials — just your interests. Here are a few:
- OWASP Philadelphia: The Open Web Application Security Project is a global initiative with local chapters. Although it’s a professional association, you don’t have to be a member to attend their meetups, which feature talks from local security experts.
- OWASP Pittsburgh: Surprise! There’s also a chapter in Pittsburgh. It meets somewhat haphazardly, but it intends to hold four meetings a year that mix chapter business with educational presentations.
- Philly Security Shell: With at least one event a month, the Philly Security Shell is a great bet for both professional edification and socializing. With a new hacker space, membership in the Security Shell should be about more than attending interesting presentations — it’s about creating a community.
- Steel City Information Security: This users’ group alternates informal social events with hands-on labs. Plus, it’s explicitly open to everyone, so don’t feel like you need to have experience to grab a cocktail or come for a presentation.
Cybersecurity Conferences & Workshops In Pennsylvania
The first place to look for conferences, workshops, symposia and seminars in Pennsylvania is its colleges. Though often small, events such as Pitt’s half-day Computing Services and Systems Development Technology Conference and the irregularly scheduled Penn State Security Conference allow you to network and keep on top of the latest research. Below are a few bigger annual events that meet these standards:
- BSides Philadelphia: BSides conferences are local events meant to give the security community a chance to engage on issues important to them. That makes BSides Philly a great time to see what other researchers and professionals in the community are up to and how you can work together.
- Philadelphia Tech Security Conference: Half tech expo, half speaker forum, this daylong Data Connectors event can earn you continuing privacy education (CPE) credits if you’re looking to maintain a professional certification.
- PumpCon: Decidedly unserious, PumpCon attendees meet in a bar for the weekend and listen in on talks with such playful titles as “The Fault in Our Logs” and “Something About Cars.” The entrance cost? Whatever you get to drink.
- SecureWorld Philadelphia: SecureWorld runs annual events in 14 U.S. cities, including Philadelphia. It brings along exhibitions from security companies and a long list of speakers to choose from. Basic admission is cheap, but if you want to attend additional workshops or CPE-qualifying trainings, that costs substantially more.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s cyber security job market has yet to fully take off. According to Burning Glass Technologies, it lands squarely in the bottom half of states for job demand — the rate is just 59 percent of the national average.
By introducing state government or business initiatives, Pennsylvania could retain more of its cyber security graduates in professional roles. It certainly has a large enough corporate and tech presence to do so. A good place to look for cyber security jobs in the corporate world is the financial sector. Try PNC Financial Services Group, Lincoln National or Erie Insurance Group, all Fortune 500 companies in the business of investing consumers’ money and, thus, among the biggest employers of cyber security specialists in the country (although only PNC is among Pennsylvania’s top 50 employers). The state also houses a handful of big tech firms known for their security services, including Unisys and Sungard.
In the meantime, Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions provide avenues to employment in research and teaching, though these roles are reserved for top master’s and doctoral degree holders. As one example, CyLab at Carnegie Mellon bills itself as “the largest university-based cybersecurity research and education institute in the United States.” Even so, it’s comprised of around just 50 faculty and 100 graduate students.
Cybersecurity Salaries in Pennsylvania
As of May 2015, the median average salary for an information security analyst in the U.S. was $90,120. In Pennsylvania, it was $84,360, placing it outside the top 20 states for salaries. Given that the state also has a higher cost of living than the national average, this disparity could explain some of its lackluster cyber security employment figures. But another explanation is that it’s smack in the middle of two major, high-paying markets for cyber security professionals: Washington, DC, and New York, with commuters from Philadelphia able to get to the latter in under 90 minutes. So, whether you stay in Pennsylvania or leave after graduation, you don’t have to go far to find a high-paying job.
All Cybersecurity Programs in Pennsylvania
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 24 Pennsylvania schools.
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