Cybersecurity Programs in Texas
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Although overshadowed by Silicon Valley, Texas has been a tech innovation hub for even longer. If you doubt it, ask NASA. And the state’s cybersecurity degrees — both public and private — are proof it’s on an upward trajectory. Already planning on lifting off to Houston or one of the state’s other tech hotspots? Skip ahead to our list of Texas schools with cybersecurity programs. If not, keep reading.
- A lot of Texas’ cybersecurity activity is clustered in San Antonio. The Department of Homeland Security tapped the University of Texas at San Antonio to lead its Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAO) Standards Organization. In this role, UTSA is responsible for developing a standardized system for private companies and the government to share cybersecurity info. As if that’s not enough, the U.S. Army Reserve named UTSA a member of the the Army Reserve Cyber Private Public Partnership Program, or Cyber P3 initiative, along with only five other universities. It will be responsible for training reserve soldiers in cybersecurity.
- The University of Texas at Dallas is another major player. It set the goal of becoming a national leader in cybersecurity back in 2012. Its latest effort is to narrow the gender gap among cybersecurity specialists; in 2016, it formed the Center for Engaging Women in Cybersecurity.
- In 2015, the University of Texas at Austin opened the Center for Identity, which looks at identity theft, fraud and privacy in both the virtual and physical realms. It quickly partnered with Equifax, a Fortune 1000 company that sells products designed to keep consumers’ online identity — and, therefore, credit — secure. The Texas Cybersecurity, Education, and Economic Development Council cited the center as a model for schools looking to attract private and federal funding to expand cybersecurity programs.
- Not one to be left behind, Southern Methodist University opened the Darwin Deason Institute for Cybersecurity in 2014 after receiving a gift from Deason for nearly $8 million dollars. The next year it announced a strategic partnership with defense technology giant Raytheon, which has two of its five business divisions based in Texas — one in McKinney and one in Austin.
- And don’t overlook Texas A&M. As one of just 60 U.S. research universities invited for membership to the Association of American Universities (UT Austin and Rice University are the others in Texas), the school receives more than its fair share of research funding. It’s beginning to spread that toward cybersecurity programs. In 2016, it gave out $250,000 in seed grants to five cybersecurity research teams.
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Studying Cybersecurity in Texas
If you’re not looking to the Lone Star State for a cybersecurity degree, you’re not looking. The number one stopping point is the University of Texas at San Antonio. Experts ranked it the nation’s top school for cybersecurity in 2014. But there are strong university-based research and academic programs all over the map, and six of the state’s universities (University of Houston, University of North Texas, University of Texas, UTD, UTEP and UTSA) receive CyberCorps Scholarship funding from the National Science Foundation. Students there are eligible for free tuition plus attractive stipends. Here are a few of the other happenings on Texas campuses:
Online Cybersecurity Programs in Texas
The state of cybersecurity education in Texas is strong. Whereas Silicon Valley is known generally as the tech capital of the world, Texas has made a name for itself by carving out a niche in cybersecurity, with UTSA leading the way. Thanks to Texas’ foresight in 2011, when it created the Texas Cybersecurity, Education, and Economic Development Council (TCEEDC), other state schools aren’t far behind. Now degrees and certificates in cybesecurity are popping up across the state’s whopping six public university systems, not to mention state-run technical and community colleges and private universities. Not all of them are available online, but many are.
Here’s an overview of the distance ed cybersecurity programs you’ll find in college catalogs:
Online Associate Degrees in Cybersecurity
Many Texas two-year schools have cybersecurity associate programs, but as of 2016, most (including Del Mar College, Alamo College and the schools within the Texas State Technical College system) weren’t online. That isn’t to say individual courses toward a cybersecurity degree aren’t available via distance learning.
For a purely online program, look to the AAS in Information Security from Central Texas College. It’s designed for future security managers and includes an internship, so it’s ideal for students with limited technical experience. Four-year institutions are geared toward baccalaureates and above, but a few offer online associate degrees. South Texas College, for instance, has online Computer Science and Computer Information System associate degrees. However, these basically cover general education and programming, laying the foundation for students to specialize in cybersecurity later.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
None of the state’s major schools run online cybersecurity baccalaureate programs. Instead, students can enroll in a campus-based program and take any courses toward the degree that are offered online.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
The master’s degree level is where online programs start becoming more plentiful. That’s where two of the major university systems, Texas A&M and University of Texas, have focused their distance learning efforts. Unfortunately, they haven’t put their cybersecurity programs online yet.
One public school with strong online offerings is Sam Houston State University. Its MS in Information Assurance and Security takes students with strong technical backgrounds and gives them the skills to become security pros for businesses or government agencies. And its MS in Digital Forensics is for computer science or criminal justice majors who want to synthesize the knowledge from those two fields into one degree.
The private universities are really leading the way in terms of online cybersecurity graduate programs. SMU is a highly regarded school with online master’s degrees in the discipline — two of them. Students can choose between an MS in Computer Science (Security Concentration) and an MS in Security Engineering. The former is for high-level programmers. Students admitted to the latter can’t be slouches in this regard, but considering the title, their coursework is much narrower in focus than the CS degree.
The Master of Science in Information Systems and Security (MS-ISS) at Our Lady of the Lake University is a one-year program that gives students tons of practice with database management, systems analysis, network security and information assurance. The short timeframe for completion is ideal for current IT pros looking to move into a security role at their organization, and the program is designed to give students an edge when applying to posts with federal agencies. Students who have a bachelor’s in a degree outside the computer science sphere can apply as well, but they must first complete a semester-long cybersecurity bootcamp, which covers programming, networks, databases, systems design and basic security concepts.
Online Certificate Programs in Cybersecurity
Certificates come in both undergraduate and graduate forms. And Texas students have strong options thanks to a proliferation of online programs at a few public schools.
For undergraduate certificates, Central Texas College is the best place to look, as it has one of the most comprehensive catalogs of exclusively online certificate programs in the state. Students can become an Information Security Specialist in less than a year, with the undergrad program preparing them for CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Network+ exams.
For graduate certificates, Sam Houston has the most offerings. Its cybercecurity certificate is for IT professionals in charge of critical infrastructure. The Data Assurance certificate explores security concerns relevant to database administrators. And its certificate in Digital Investigation is meant for criminal justice workers with a background in computer science.
Cybersecurity Scholarships in Texas
Cybersecurity falls under the group of disciplines known as STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s a major focus for schools and state governments looking to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce. Recruitment starts with scholarships. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, for instance, provides community and technical colleges with funding for the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship. It’s intended for STEM majors who graduated high school with a 3.0 or better and continue that mark during college.
Here are some school-based awards that are more specific to cybersecurity, or at least to computer science:
Sam Houston State University
- Mohamed Ahmed Noman Endowment: Cybersecurity students with a 3.0 GPA or higher are automatically considered for this award, which varies depending on available funds.
San Antonio College
- Cheryl Sanchez Scholarship: Computer Science and IT majors from Bexar or its surrounding counties have their own scholarship. To qualify, they must earn a 2.5 GPA.
Southern Methodist University
- Lyle School of Engineering scholarships: The Lyle School of Engineering gives scholarships to Computer Science majors who apply for admission by January 15th. Awards go to first-year students with impressive high school credentials and can be renewed each year provided the recipient maintains a 3.0 GPA.
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
- Evening Post Publishing Company-KRIS TV Scholarship: This is a nonrenewable scholarship for computer science students at the College of Science and Engineering.
- John D. Fernandez Endowed Scholarship in Computer Science: There are multiple criteria for this award: Students must attend full time, earn a 3.5 GPA, graduate in the 96th percentile of their high school class, have financial need, and be a first-generation student from Nueces, San Patricio, Bee, Live Oak, Jim Wells, Refugio, Aransas or Kleberg.
- Carl Douglas Wyatt Memorial Scholarship: Undergrads pursuing a degree with a Computer Information Science emphasis can apply for this one-time award.
The University of Texas at Austin
- INFOSEC Scholarship for Service (SFS): Enrollees in UT’s Certificate in Information Security program can get a full scholarship plus stipend. They’ll have some obligations to the federal government, which funds the award, but it’s worth it because they’ll transition into a government internship after graduation.
- University of Texas Computer Science Scholarship: UT’s Department of Computer Sciences gives out several hundred thousand dollars in scholarships each year to full-time undergraduates with strong academic credentials, exceptional extracurricular participation and demonstrable financial need.
The University of Texas at Dallas
- Jonsson School Distinguished Alumnus, Niyi “John” Olajide’04 Honorary Scholarship: The Olajide Scholarship is earmarked for full-time undergrads majoring in Computer Science, which includes students with a cybersecurity minor. It’s worth $2,000.
- Lars Magnus Ericsson Graduate Fellowship: Full-time graduate students in a computer science discipline with 9 credits under their belt can compete for a $2,000 fellowship, which is awarded based on GPA, research and the quality of coursework.
- UTD Cybersecurity Scholarship: Senior undergraduates, grad students and PhD candidates can apply for full tuition and stipends to attend cybersecurity and information assurance programs.
The University of Texas at El Paso
- UTEP CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Students enrolled in the MS in Software Engineering or PhD-level computer science programs should apply for the full scholarship and stipend that come along with the CyberCorps program. After graduation, they’ll be expected to work for a government agency in a cybersecurity role.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
- Boeing Scholarship: Though any undergrads or graduates from the College of Business can apply, Boeing prefers to give this award to students interested in aerospace, defense and/or cybersecurity. Awards go to full-time students who overcome economic disadvantages to excel academically.
- Enterprise Architecture Scholarship in the College of Business: Undergrad and graduate Information Systems and Infrastructure Assurance majors with at least two years of higher education completed can apply for the Enterprise Architecture Scholarship, provided they are enrolled full time, have a 3.0 and show financial need.
- NSF Scholarship for Service: Full-time undergrads and graduates doing cybersecurity coursework can get two years of full funding (plus considerable stipends) to complete their program. Recipients must work after graduation for a government agency.
University of Dallas
- Computer Science Departmental Scholarship: Incoming students can get $1,000 to $5,000 for a degree from the school’s CS department.
University of Houston
- Scholarship for Service for Graduates: MS and PhD students focusing on cybersecurity can apply for a full scholarship, thanks to generous National Science Foundation funding.
- S-STEM Scholarships for Undergraduates: The Department of Computer Science distributes several $10,000 awards to computer science students with a 3.0 GPA and financial need.
University of North Texas
- PhD Scholarships for Cybersecurity and Information Assurance: PhD students concentrating in Information Assurance are eligible for Scholarship for Service funding. The school awards two renewable full scholarships with stipends each year.
Cybersecurity Events in Texas
Cybersecurity Meetups and Communities in Texas
After spending so much time in front of a screen, it can be nice to meet peers in the real world. Texas cybersecurity pros and hackers have several places to grab a beer and talk shop after work or class. Here are six communities from across the state:
- CyberDef Dojo: Hackers, tech entrepreneurs and security enthusiasts in San Antonio gather regularly for in-person talks and skill sessions.
- NCC Group Security Open Forum – Austin: NCC is a quarterly forum for Austin area engineers and technical managers to hear the latest research on topics such as reversing, secure development and cryptography.
- North Texas Cybersecurity Group: Dallas area professionals meet monthly to listen to speakers discuss the latest offensive and defensive cybersecurity techniques.
- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Dallas: Software security aficionados and amateurs alike gather every month to learn about software security, covering everything from pen testing to passwords to mobile payments.
Cybersecurity Conferences and Workshops in Texas
You can increase your knowledge and skills year-round in Texas. Three of SANS Institute’s favorite training spots are in Texas: It holds cybersecurity workshops on different topics throughout the year in Austin, Dallas and Houston. Texas is also a popular stopping point for big conferences. Recent events include USENIX Security Symposium 2016 in Austin and the 2017 ISSA International Conference in Dallas. And some conferences remain in the Lone Star State year after year, including:
- Cybersecurity for Critical Assets USA: Academics and energy, water and aerospace industry leaders meet in Houston for two days to discuss how to avoid supply chain and infrastructure risks posed by security vulnerabilities.
- Cybersecurity for Oil and Gas Summit: Notice a trend? Also in Houston, the Annual Cybersecurity for Oil and Gas Summit convenes the industry’s IT staff for a series of workshops on protecting company data and physical infrastructure.
- Texas Cyber Summit: the 2019 conference, to be held in October in San Antonio, features program tracks geared to attendees with different levels of cybersecurity knowledge. It will also feature “Hacker’s Haven,” with capture the flag contests and other goodies.
- InfoSec Southwest: Austin’s annual information security and hacking conference is open to anyone who wants to learn more about industry issues. To keep it fun and keep you networking, event organizers schedule pub crawls, scavenger hunts and capture the flag competitions.
- Security BSidesDFW: Kind of like TedX for cybersecurity, BSides is a locally organized “unconference” that attracts information security professionals who want to discover and discuss security issues that aren’t yet on anyone’s radar. This one’s in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Texas
Once you’ve graduated from a Texas college, are there enough jobs to keep you there? Yes, according to the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy. As of 2015, it was one of just six states with a cybersecurity workforce development plan in place.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the market for cybersecurity experts isn’t saturated, even though it already has the third most jobs in the field of any state. It ranks Texas ninth in terms of projected job growth for information security analysts, with 320 new jobs expected to open up every year. A report from Burning Glass got more specific. It ranked Dallas fifth in the country in 2014 with 8,694 cybersecurity job postings. Though well behind with 2,937 posts, Austin ranked first in the country for job growth in the sector from 2010 to 2014, more than doubling its cybersecurity workforce in that period.
What industries might graduates land in? With San Antonio earning both the Cyber City USA and Military City USA monikers, it’s a good bet they can find work in defense industry. The military has located cybersecurity units in San Antonio to scoop up local civilian graduates. The Air Force Cyber Command, Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, Joint Information Operations Warfare Center, Air Force Electronic Warfare School, and Air Force Cryptologic Systems Group are all based in the city.
Want something more corporate? Texas has the second most Fortune 500 companies of any state with 54, and even companies headquartered elsewhere (like Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin) employ large workforces in the state. One of the biggest names in Texas business is telecommunications behemoth AT&T, but remember that oil companies, including Irving-based Exxon, are warming to cybersecurity projects. Last, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines keep more than hangars in the state — their operations are based there. With most airlines now investing heavily in cybersecurity, the presence of two aerial giants bodes well for new graduates.
Cybersecurity Salaries in Texas
Texas is a great place to land for work. Dallas ($117,890 in 2016) and Austin ($110,190) rank fourth and seventh, respectively, for information security specialist salaries (adjusted for cost of living). But don’t neglect jobs elsewhere in Texas. The state’s cost of living is considerably lower than the national average, in part because of cheap oil prices and the lack of a state income tax.
All Cybersecurity Programs in Texas
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 28 Texas schools.
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Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?
Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.