South Dakota’s shortage of cyber security workers is real. But the state has some really strong degree programs to change that. Check out our list of schools with degrees and/or certificates, and then read up on online programs, full scholarships, events and employers you should know about.
Studying Cyber Security in South Dakota
Three South Dakota schools offer cyber security programs. Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown) and Southeast Technical Institute (Sioux Falls) grant associate degrees to students looking for a quick infusion of entry-level skills. But Dakota State University is the prime spot for cyber security studies within the Mount Rushmore State. It’s been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and Research by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here are some factoids:
- Dakota State students are really good at having fun. They won the National Cyber League competition in 2014 and again in 2015 before finishing second in 2016. They also represented their region at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition four times between 2009 and 2016, finishing second in 2013.
- DSU runs a degree completion program for NSA employees at the agency’s National Cryptologic School. The relationship has served DSU students well, with several finding employment at the NSA after graduation.
- DSU doesn’t rest on its laurels. In 2016, it began planning for a cyber security center called the Madison Cyber Labs. MadLabs is an $18 million project that will house multiple research institutes, including the Cyclops Lab for classified operations involving federal agency partners; the PATRIOT Lab, which researches threats to the Internet of Things; BaSe Lab, dedicated to banking security; and the DigForCE Lab, which concentrates on digital forensics enforcement tools.
Online Cyber Security Programs in South Dakota
Dakota State University dominates the market for online cyber security programs. In fact, it is the market, offering an associate degree, two baccalaureates, two graduate certificates, a master’s and a doctorate through its distance learning platform. We outline each program below:
Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security
Dakota State’s Associate of Science in Network and Security Administration is a basic degree designed to stand alone for entry level work as a network or systems administrator or build into the four-year degree of the same name.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
The Bachelor of Science in Network and Security Administration picks ups where the associate degree leaves off. The extra two years give students the chance to learn management skills while gaining exposure to offensive and defensive security tactics and forensics.
Dakota State undergrads might also enroll in the BS in Cyber Operations. This major is less for people aiming for a job in an IT department – that’s the Network and Security Administration degree – and more for students who have watched War Games 50 times. Expect a much heavier focus on technical skills for dealing with hacks and malware across not just networks and operating systems but also mobile devices, software and web applications.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
The Master of Science in Information Assurance and Computer Security pulls in students who graduated with a 3.0 from a computer science or computer engineering baccalaureate program. It’s a two-year program that draws on the skills a computer scientist would be expected to have, such as programming. In just 10 courses, students go from core principles of computer security to a full immersion in the fundamental areas of information assurance.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Cyber Security
Dakota State has one of the few online doctorates in Cyber Security in the country. The admissions requirements for the Doctor of Science program are similar to the master’s, but students also need a graduate degree in any field prior to entry. The doctorate is aimed at those who want to teach in the field or do hardcore R&D work. To prepare them, it presents a gauntlet of advanced classes plus research courses to be completed before a 25-credit dissertation. Note: The program also requires three on-campus seminars, each spaced a year apart.
Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security
Some people can’t get enough pen testing, so Dakota State has developed an online program just for them. The Ethical Hacking Graduate Certificate is three courses devoted to offense. If you’d prefer a more defense-oriented certificate, try the Banking Security Graduate Certificate, which is also three courses and focuses on reducing the risk of serious financial data breaches. Both programs admit applicants with computer science-related degrees and work experience in IT.
Cyber Security Scholarships in South Dakota
The staggering shortage of tech workers in South Dakota has motivated the state’s educational institutions to step up recruitment efforts. Every college in the state with a cyber security program also offers those students full scholarships:
Dakota State University
- Cyber Corps Scholarship: Dakota State gives out eight to 10 full scholarships to cyber security students each year who are in a master’s program or planning on moving into one. The award is extremely competitive because it comes with a $20K-$30K annual stipend, a paid summer internship, and a job with a government agency after graduation.
Lake Area Technical Institute
- Build Dakota Scholarship: Students majoring in Computer Information Systems are eligible for the Build Dakota Scholarship, an award that pays all school expenses to students who agree to work in their field in South Dakota for three years upon graduating.
Southeast Technical Institute
- Build Dakota Scholarship: Computer Network Security Technician is deemed a “high-need workforce program.” Students who enroll in it can apply for a full scholarship that covers tuition, fees and books. Those who win will work for three years in the state as a security technician after graduation.
Cyber Security Events in South Dakota
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in South Dakota
As one of the least populous states in the Union, South Dakota isn’t able to sustain as many professional societies and interest groups as other places. We did find one group for aspiring information security pros, though:
- Sioux Falls 2600: 2600 meetings come from the quarterly hacker magazine, 2600. Informal groups of hackers meet the first Friday of the month without agenda (but with food) to get to know each other. Those in Sioux Falls descend upon the Empire Mall Burger King.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in South Dakota
We’ve found two fancy multi-day conferences that welcome anyone with an interest in information security – one on either side of the state – plus a summer camp that replaces smores and campfires with, naturally, computers.
- DakotaCon: Where else would the region’s biggest information security conference be held but at Dakota State University? DakotaCon is free, so no need to fret over getting a badge. On Day 1, choose between two tracks of hour-long presentations featuring researchers and practitioners from across the country, or skip out and play Capture the Flag all day. For Days 2 and 3, pick a training to attend. In 2017, expert teachers taught attendees how to hack hardware, analyze malware and safely stage attacks. Oh, and you’ll probably notice a lot of college students at DakotaCon. That’s because it hosts the North Central Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, the winner of which heads to San Antonio for the national finals.
- DSU GenCyber: Several colleges across the country run weeklong camps for high school students interested in studying cyber security, regardless of whether those high schoolers already know anything about computers. Dakota State hosts students from around South Dakota and, thanks to federal funding, pays for all 200 of them to attend.
- Wild West Hackin’ Fest: The Spearfish-based company Black Hills Information Security got tired of all the fun happening on the eastern edge of the state. So, in 2017, it created its own infosec convention, a four-day event featuring two days of trainings followed by two days of presentations around the theme of stunt hacking. (It’s when you break IoT devices like smart fridges.) Unlike DakotaCon, it’s not free, but scholarships are available.
Cyber Security Jobs in South Dakota
South Dakota has the lowest cyber security workforce supply/demand ratio in the country. To translate that into English, there are a lot of jobs but not enough qualified workers to fill them. Let’s look at specifics: Between July 2015 and June 2016, employers in the state advertised 241 positions requiring a CISSP. How many South Dakotans held that certification? Only 74. Employers also needed 200 staffers with a CISA, though the pool of CISA holders was just 33. And 89 companies needed somebody with a CISM. They had to fight over a mere 12 qualified applicants. The moral of the story: Get a degree that sets you up for an advanced certification before you go job-hunting.
Just about all of the state’s top employers hire cyber security staff, though none in overwhelming numbers. Try Sanford Health, South Dakota’s #1 employer, which has a medical facility in Sioux Falls. Citibank also has a big office there, and DSU students who have earned the Banking Security Graduate Certificate should fit in easily. Those grads can also schedule interviews with SBS CyberSecurity (née Secure Banking Solutions), a consulting and audit firm in Madison. Sticking to Greater Sioux Falls, SDN Communications, a business broadband provider that specializes in educating clients about security risks, may be an option for students with a network security background.
On the western side of the state, up against the Black Hills, lies Ellsworth Air Force Base, the state’s #2 employer. Though the base isn’t directly involved in information security, you’ll need a clearance to work for any of the defense contractors on the base, such as AECOM. Off base, Black Hills Information Security is filled with security analysts who like to penetrate clients’ defenses, tell them about it, and then charge good money to fix the weaknesses.
Cyber Security Salaries in South Dakota
South Dakota pays its information security analysts well, with the average salary above $88,000. The national average is about $4,000 more, but Sioux Falls isn’t San Francisco. And don’t get too attached to that figure, either. With a shortage of workers, there’s not a lot of data to draw from. As qualified applicants start slotting in to jobs requiring advanced certifications, the average salary may increase further. The only way to find out is to be there.
All Cyber Security Programs in South Dakota
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 3 South Dakota schools.
Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Lake Area Technical Institute
Watertown, South Dakota
Southeast Technical Institute
Sioux Falls, South Dakota