Cybersecurity Programs in Virginia

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There are more cyber security professionals per capita in Virginia than in any other state. With Washington, DC, on its doorstep, Virginia has launched a campaign to enlarge its already sizable presence in the sector by snagging government grants and funneling graduates into jobs with defense contractors in Fairfax County. If you already know all this, skip ahead to our list of Virginia schools with cyber security programs. Otherwise, read up on the state of security in Virginia.

Studying Cyber Security in Virginia

Virginia is one of just three states — Maryland and Michigan are the others — judged by the Pell Center to have a fully implemented Cyber R&D agenda that integrates education, workforce development and industry engagement. That makes it a great place to study because the degrees are excellent, the research is well-funded and the jobs are ready for graduates. The numbers back it up: Ten colleges are reNSA/DHS Centers of Academic Excellence and five schools offer full tuition plus stipends through the National Science Foundation-funded CyberCorps Scholarship for Service.

Here are some specific colleges and universities at the heart of Virginia’s cyber education scene:

  • George Mason tied for eighth place on the 2014 survey of best schools for cyber security. Its Center for Secure Information Systems is financially sponsored by the Army Research Office, Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research, as well as big companies such as Northrop Grumman and MITRE.
  • A team from the University of Virginia earned a million dollars for taking second place in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) inaugural Cyber Grand Challenge in 2016. It created an automated system to find and close security loopholes, and the team won kudos for finding a security vulnerability DARPA didn’t even know was there.
  • Virginia Tech is one of 11 university members of the Security and Software Engineering Research Center (S2ERC), a consortium funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition to long-term funding, Virginia Tech researchers get access to industry and government data and the expertise of professionals in the field.
  • The Information Assurance – Research, Education and Development Institute (IA-REDI) at Norfolk State University leads a group of schools in creating a K-20 cyber security workforce pipeline, an ambitious program that seeks to integrate cyber security concepts into curricula as early as elementary school.
  • James Madison University profs and students are playing their part in integrating cyber security into public school curricula. Each year they train the state’s computer science teachers on how to teach K-12 students cyber security at JMU’s Cyber Defense Boot Camp.

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Online Cyber Security Programs in Virginia

Several prominent Virginia colleges and universities offer a master’s degree or certification in cyber security via distance learning. But three private colleges dominate the field by making a dozen degrees and certificates available online between them. Strayer University is a for-profit school that’s been quick to jump on the trend in cyber security education, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees targeting criminal justice types and computer wizards. University of Fairfax is a completely online university that has one of the few online doctoral degrees in the field. And Liberty University is known for its Christianity-based curriculum, but it’s also making a strong showing in online cyber security by offering certificates, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.

Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security

An associate degree is a great starting point for a cyber security degree because a good program will prepare you for professional certifications such as Security+ or Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP). But an associate degree is not the likely end point. A 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies found that 84 percent of job openings in the field called for applicants with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Regardless, if you want to get a cyber security associate degree in Virginia, you’ll have to do it on campus because as of 2016 colleges haven’t really started putting more than a handful of applicable courses online.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security

Baccalaureate programs are more intensive than associate degrees, both in terms of general education requirements and core coursework. But they also assume no previous knowledge of computers at all, so don’t worry about starting there. At this level, you’ll have to decide how much — and what type of — exposure you want to cyber security coursework.

To answer this, it’s best to think of the the type of job you hope to attain with your degree. Strayer’s BS in Information Systems with a concentration in Cybersecurity Management hints at what you will learn how to do: manage cyber security threats rather than be the one with your hands on the keyboard. For that, try its BS in Information Systems – Cybersecurity Management. And if you’re more interested in tracking down cyber criminals than mitigating risks, take the same degree but with a concentration in Digital Forensics Technology. Another option is Liberty University’s BS in Information Systems – Information Assurance. Keep in mind, however, that wherever you earn your degree, you must take general education courses. At Liberty, that includes three required classes on Christianity.

Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security

Nearly a quarter of cyber security job postings in 2014 called for a master’s degree. While that certainly leaves plenty of jobs out there for people who don’t want to go back to college, take a closer look and you’ll find that the year before only six percent required master’s degrees. The trend, therefore, is toward advanced degrees for advanced positions.

If you do choose to go to grad school, Strayer and Liberty both have multiple online master’s degrees, as does University of Fairfax. But students looking to save money on in-state tuition have public university options at the graduate level, with George Mason University, James Madison University and Norfolk State University bringing their respected master’s programs to an online platform. An “out-of-the-box” option is Virginia Tech, which offers an online Master of Information Technology. You can customize the MIT with courses from the security module.

George Mason’s MS in Applied Information Technology – Cyber Security is good for managers with some exposure to IT. They’ll learn how to manage teams charged with reducing cyber threats or handling crises. James Madison’s MS in Computer Science – Information Security is much more hands-on, the perfect follow up for holders of a baccalaureate cyber security credential who want to take their skills to the next level. The MS in Cybersecurity at Norfolk State is similar but positions itself a little more as a pathway to government, rather than corporate, jobs in the field.

Online Certificate Programs in Cyber Security

Cyber security certificates typically have one of two functions. First, they can give undergrads a taste of the curriculum, which they can then apply to an associate or bachelor’s degree. Second, they can let graduate students acquire a new skill set in a shorter time frame than a master’s degree — and without seeking a concentration.

Big online cyber security players Liberty and University of Fairfax advertise certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, respectively. They’re joined by a trio of public colleges who only offer online cyber security programs at the certificate level. Those would be Northern Virginia Community College, Old Dominion University and University of Virginia.

  • NOVA’s undergraduate certificate in Cyber Security is heavily geared toward networking specialists, who can then go on to sit for the the Security+ and/or CISSP exams.
  • UVa’s Cyber Security Management certificate is essentially a business program, and the professionals that come out of it should be able to create security policies and assess their effectiveness.
  • Old Dominion offers two online graduate certificates that might sound the same at first: certificate in Cyber Security and certificate in Cyber Systems Security. The former is geared toward computer science majors working in the field, whereas the latter is an interdisciplinary engineering degree.

Finally, you could consider Virginia Tech’s online graduate certificate in Information Security and Analytics. This will give you a thorough grounding in security fundamentals (e.g. networks, infrastructure, etc.) and teach you how engineer and protect critical systems. It will also expose you to business intelligence and analytics solutions.

Cyber Security Scholarships in Virginia

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is a huge advocate of increased cyber security education, and in 2016 he signed a budget with $1 million set aside for the new Cybersecurity Public Service Scholarship Program. In exchange for a $20,000 scholarship to enroll in an eligible program, recipients agree to work for the Commonwealth after graduation.

The state government isn’t the only one offering scholarships for cyber security students. Departments and colleges within schools, along with connected foundations, also distribute funds. Here are some that apply to cyber security students:

James Madison University

  • Computer Science Department Scholarship: Computer Science majors, including those in the Information Security certificate track, should apply directly with the department to knock money off their tuition bill.
  • CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: JMU is another of the five Virginia universities funded by the National Science Foundation to provide the Scholarship for Service. Here, juniors in the Information Security certification track are eligible to receive a full scholarship plus $20,000 stipend for their last two years, after which they’ll move into a two-year post with the federal government.
  • Walter & Martha Curt Computer Science Scholarship: The Curt family gives scholarships to undergraduate Computer Science majors, which students in the Information Security certificate track should remember to apply for.

Marymount University

  • CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Students from any of the school’s four bachelor’s and master’s programs focusing on cyber security can apply for Marymount’s Scholarship for Service. If successful, they will receive free tuition, be exempt from standard academic fees, and receive a generous living stipend. After earning their degree, they’ll be asked to commit to a two- to three-year position working in security for a federal agency.

Norfolk State University

  • CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Students from any of the school’s four bachelor’s and master’s programs focusing on cyber security can apply for Marymount’s Scholarship for Service. If successful, they will receive free tuition, be exempt from standard academic fees, and receive a generous living stipend. After earning their degree, they’ll be asked to commit to a two- to three-year position working in security for a federal agency.

Virginia Tech

  • CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Virginia Tech’s SFS is reserved for students who minor in Cyber Security as undergrads and then gain admission to the school’s accelerated BS/MS program in Computer Science or Electrical and Computer Engineering. They’ll be rewarded with a full ride plus tens of thousands in stipends. In return, they’ll complete summer internships with a federal agency and work for one to three years after graduating.

Cyber Security Events in Virginia

Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Virginia

Northern Virginia is packed with young professionals, veteran workers and college students. There are active meetups for all of them:

  • Cybersecurity Innovation Forum: The forum meets sporadically at George Mason to hear short case studies and listen to panel discussions featuring local experts. It’s the second-largest cyber security meetup in the world.
  • D.C. Cyber Security Professionals: This is the biggest cyber security meetup in the world, and it’s not uncommon for 100+ people to show up for events, which include pen testing workshops and demonstrations from area professionals. Despite the name, the organizers stage most events in Arlington.
  • Free Cyber Security Training: The organizer, the chief technical officer of NormShield, warns that its sessions are “highly technical,” so people without a CS or IT background might get lost as soon as the introductions are over. That said, it’s a good spot to get free training in pen testing, log management, network defense and other areas. The group meets in Reston every other Wednesday.
  • Meetup: Instead of spending your free time going to presentations, sometimes it’s nice to grab a drink with a comrade. That’s what the northern Virginian IT professionals at NovaInfoSec do a couple of times a month after work.
  • Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu: Women working in information security or studying it should apply for membership and begin meeting with the 700+ peers in this active group. It’s so active, in fact, that it hosts multiple events throughout northern Virginia in a single week, spanning everything from technical workshops to Toastmasters meetings.

Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Virginia

One great thing about being so close to DC is the quality and frequency of opportunities to listen to expert speakers. The International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Practical Privacy Series is one such opportunity. For something hipper, try Security BSides, a movement of locally run cyber security events harnessing the ingenuity of local innovators and entrepreneurs in the field. BSides NoVa in Reston and Security B-Sides DC hold annual conferences. Outside of the DC metro, the SANS Institute regularly hosts events and extended trainings in Virginia Beach and Richmond.

The state’s heavy ties to national defense means more events are popping up all the time. In 2016, for example, the inaugural CyCon U.S., part of the International Conference on Cyber Conflict, took off in DC. So did the National Conference of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals. Here are six other annual events worth attending:

  • AFCEA Annual Cybersecurity Summit: The DC chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association runs this two-day event for civilian and military in the federal government. It’s got the standard discussion panels and breakout sessions, but the fun part is when entrepreneurs compete for grant money a la “Shark Tank.”
  • Digital Government Institute’s Cyber Security Conference: A free one-day expo for government staff, this DC-based event is a convenient opportunity to keep up to date with industry trends and earn continuing education credits.
  • FireEye Cyber Defense Summit: FireEye brings in big-name government officials and expert panels for its three-day conference at the Washington Hilton. One neat feature is the multiple tracks participants can choose from depending on their position, including management and incident response.
  • ShmooCon: If the name sounds silly, that’s because it’s put on by a group of hackers who refuse “to take anything about the internet seriously.” This may be the most fun event DC hosts, with three days of tech demonstrations and discussions on both hardware and software, as well as hacker faves like a lockpick village.
  • SINET Showcase: Security Innovation Network (SINET) holds a two-day workshop series in the nation’s capital with heavy hitters from the private and government sector. SINET members receive a discount, as do government employees.
  • Threat Intelligence Conference: Don’t want to shell out half a grand for a seat at SINET’s table? The Threat Intelligence Conference in DC is free. The content is geared toward “analysts and operational defenders.”

Cyber Security Jobs in Virginia

Virginia ranks second only to California in the size of its cyber security workforce, with over 20,000 job postings in 2014 alone, according to research by Burning Glass Technologies. Most of these are clustered in the DC metropolitan area, which includes Arlington (home to the Pentagon and government contractors) and parts of Maryland. Depending on how you count the numbers, job growth between 2010 and 2014 was 38 to 40 percent. That sounds pretty good, but it’s half the rate of growth of California, placing the state in the bottom 5 for growth. Why might that be? Compared to other states, Virginia is saturated with cyber security workers; it has 300 percent more professionals in the field than the national average. If looking specifically at the greater DC area, where most of these professionals are based, that number jumps to 525 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the state government paints a different picture. It shows more job openings than candidates to fill them. And there’s reason to suspect that growth hasn’t stagnated: The state continues to pour money into workforce development for the sector. Just to point to three examples, there’s the K-20 pipeline Norfolk State is working on, a cyber security apprenticeship program for businesses and state agencies looking to bring on cyber security grads, and a “cyber range” for students from across the state to improve their skills in a simulated real-world environment.

How might Virginia students benefit from these programs? They could land a job at one of the state’s multiple Fortune 500 companies that employ security professionals to keep their data — and their clients’ data — safe. Often, these companies’ main client is the federal government. General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman and Computer Sciences Corporation, are all based in Falls Church and involved with cyber security as defense contractors.

Want something outside of government? It’s harder to find but not impossible. Graduates can apply for jobs keeping hackers away from investors’ money at Capital One Financial in McLean or Genworth Financial in Richmond. There are also a few cyber security firms flying under the radar: Six of the world’s top 100 cyber security companies, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, are based in the commonwealth, plus one more in DC.

Cyber Security Salaries in Virginia

After adjusting for cost of living, DC and Arlington both rank outside the top 10 in cyber security specialist salaries, according to, which infers that “government IT security jobs are considerably less lucrative than those in the private sector.” That’s true, but only if salary is the sole criteria. The federal government is one of the few employers who’ve continued providing pensions to employees, so look at the benefits package before dismissing government employment.

Consider, too, the link between your degree and earning potential, as some degrees are valued more by employers. In the commonwealth, a Virginia Tech computer science degree (which the Cybersecurity minor falls under) is particularly valuable, ranking in the top 30 in the nation for return on investment. Graduates net between $950,000 and $1 million over 20 years, depending on their financial aid package.

All Cyber Security Programs in Virginia

Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 24 Virginia schools.

School NameProgramsNSA
Danville Community CollegeDanville, Virginia
Certificate in Cyber Security
Certificate in Cybercrime Investigation
ECPI UniversityVirginia Beach, Virginia
Associate of Science in Computer and Information Science – Cyber and Network Security Concentration
Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science – Cyber and Network Security Major
George Mason UniversityFairfax, Virginia
Applied Cyber Security Graduate Certificate
Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security Engineering
BAS Concentration in Cybersecurity
Certificate Program in Telecommunications Forensics and Security
Masters in Information Security and Assurance
MS in Computer Engineering – Network and System Security
MS in Management of Secure Information Systems
Hampton UniversityHampton, Virginia
Master of Science degree in Information Assurance
James Madison UniversityHarrisonburg, Virginia
Certificate in Network/Information Security
Certificate in Secure Computer and Database Systems
Master of Science in Information Security
Online Graduate Certificate in Cyber Intelligence
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Data Networking and Security
Master of Science in Cyber Security
Master of Science in Information Systems – Information Assurance
Online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems – Information Assurance
Lord Fairfax Community CollegeMiddletown, Virginia
Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity Career Studies Certificate
Lynchburg CollegeLynchburg, Virginia
Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Marymount UniversityArlington, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Specialty in Networking and Cybersecurity
Computer Security and Information Assurance Graduate Certificate Cybersecurity (M.S.)
Master of Science in Information Technology – Cybersecurity Concentration
Norfolk State UniversityNorfolk, Virginia
BS in Computer Science – Information Assurance Emphasis MS Cybersecurity
MS in Computer Science – Information Assurance Emphasis
Northern Virginia Community CollegeAnnandale, Virginia
Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity Career Studies Certificate
Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Cybercrime
Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
Cyber Security Certificate
Graduate Certificate in Cyber Systems Security
Master of Science in Cybersecurity
Minor in Cybersecurity
Radford UniversityRadford, Virginia
Undergraduate Certificate in Information Security
Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Cyber & Digital Forensics
Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
Certificate of Graduate Studies in Cybersecurity
Stratford UniversityFairfax, Virginia
Master of Science in Digital Forensics
Strayer UniversityArlington, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Cyber Security Technology
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Digital Forensics Technology
Master of Science in Information Assurance
Master of Science in Information Systems: Computer Forensic Management
Thomas Nelson Community CollegeHampton, Virginia
Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology – Cybersecurity Pathway
Career Studies Certificate in Cybersecurity for Enterprise
Career Studies Certificate in Cybersecurity for Local Area Networks
Tidewater Community CollegeNorfolk, Virginia
Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology – Cyber Security Concentration
Career Studies Certificate in Cyber Security
University of FairfaxRoanoke, Virginia
Cybersecurity Best Practices (CBP) – CISSP Graduate Certificate
Doctor of Science in Information Assurance (DSc)
Doctorate in Information Assurance (DIA)
Information Security Professional Practices (ISPP) Graduate Certificate
Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management
Master of Science in Information Security Management (MSISM)
University of RichmondUniversity of Richmond, Virginia
Certificate in Information Security
University of the PotomacVienna, Virginia
Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Policy
University of VirginiaCharlottesville, Virginia
Certificate in Cybersecurity Management
Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, Virginia
Master of Science in Computer and Information Systems Security
Virginia TechBlacksburg, Virginia
Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance
Graduate Certificate in Information Security and Analytics
Online Master of Information Technology – Security Track
Undergraduate Minor in Cybersecurity

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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.