The following guide covers cybersecurity schools in Alabama as well as other training and certification options in the state.
Alabama was once a largely agricultural society and economy. But since World War II, the state has diversified, and today agriculture represents less than one percent of the state GDP.
Other industries that have come to the fore are manufacturing, particularly automobile manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, education, banking, and information technology. But since the decline of agriculture, the rural areas of Alabama have suffered economically. The state now ranks sixth for the highest poverty rate in the US, largely due to these rural regions.
The list of the largest individual employers in Alabama is dominated by government agencies, military installations, educational institutions, and healthcare companies. Mercedes-Benz, Walmart, AT&T and Boeing are the other prominent names on the list. Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota have also opened manufacturing facilities in Alabama in just the last few decades, making the automotive industry the largest source of new jobs in that period.
Fortunately for the cybersecurity industry, all of the leading employment sources in the state are prime targets for cybercrime. Information security employment is probably now the fastest growing sector of the Alabama economy, and will likely continue to lead the state’s employment gains for some time to come.
The environment for cybersecurity in Alabama
The state government of Alabama is taking steps to ensure the security of information under its own control, as well as the cybersecurity and awareness of its citizens. But not much is being done to promote or entice cybersecurity as an industry.
On the other hand, a non-profit organization known as Cyber Huntsville has been organized in that city to help advance the interests of the infosec industry.
Comprised of representative organizations and agencies from government, industry and academia, Cyber Huntsville was created in 2010, making it one of the earliest such organizations in the country. The organization’s mission is to promote the advancement of cybersecurity research and technology in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley. Located at the northern border between Alabama and Tennessee, Huntsville is a leading center of information technology and cybersecurity activity in the state of Alabama.
According to Made in Alabama, cybersecurity job growth has outpaced all other technology careers. And the state’s modern aviation and automotive manufacturing base, as well as its finance, healthcare, and other critical economic concentrations present cybersecurity professionals and companies with an abundance of opportunities.
Cybersecurity education in Alabama
Given the small size of Alabama, both economically and in population, the state’s colleges and universities have assembled a surprisingly strong stable of degree and certification programs for cybersecurity students. The University of Alabama leads the way in terms of number of options. Its Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice maintains a strong cybersecurity contingent, including several advanced research projects.
The University of South Alabama has also developed a formidable cybersecurity department. Its School of Computing has earned the NSAs designation for Center of Academic Excellence in both Information Assurance and Cyber Defense through 2021. It also sponsors a leading cybersecurity research team that has earned the school an NSF Scholarship for Service grant designed to help attract qualified students to the field of cybersecurity. In addition, the university allows students pursuing any major the option of graduating with a concentration in cybersecurity.
Alabama would be an easy place to overlook for many students searching for cybersecurity degree programs. But it would be a mistake to do so. There are definitely several programs worthy of attention in Alabama.
There is still a good supply of entry-level positions requiring only an associate’s degree in cybersecurity. These programs generally only take a year to two to complete. And once a cybersecurity career is established, professionals would be well advised to earn a bachelor’s degree, or higher, when time and money permit. Associate’s degree coursework is often transferable to many bachelor’s degree programs, making it easier to finish the next level.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Alabama
At present, just one cybersecurity associate’s degree program is available from Alabama schools. John C. Calhoun State Community College has established the Center for Cybersecurity Education (CCE), which now offers a CIS AAS Degree in Cybersecurity on its Tanner, Alabama campus.
There are currently no online cybersecurity associate’s degree programs offered by Alabama schools.
Bachelor’s degrees are a minimum educational requirement for most cybersecurity careers. Degrees in a cybersecurity specialty are not usually demanded by employers, but majoring or having a concentration in cybersecurity will certainly provide an advantage over other majors.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Alabama
There are currently four campus-based cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs being offered by Alabama colleges and universities. See the table below for more information.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Alabama
At present, just one online cybersecurity bachelor’s degree is available from Alabama schools. Columbia Southern University has a program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Cybersecurity.
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity have grown in importance in recent years, and will likely continue to do so. Many management-level information security positions now require candidates have a graduate degree.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Alabama
As the below table indicates, there are four campus-based cybersecurity master’s degree programs being offered by Alabama colleges and universities.
Online master’s degrees in Alabama
For those preferring the convenience of online coursework, there are three cybersecurity master’s degree programs available from Alabama institutions. See the following table for more information.
Cybersecurity certifications are available for the benefit of students just starting out in cybersecurity, as well as for experienced professionals. Different certification programs are designed for different audiences. Introductory certifications, cybersecurity specialization certifications, and advanced degree certifications are all now being made available in the US. However, Alabama schools have a limited catalog of cybersecurity certification programs available today.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Alabama
Alabama schools of higher learning now offer three cybersecurity programs via on-campus formats. The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Alabama
There is also one cybersecurity certification being made available via online access. Troy University offers a certificate in digital forensics.
Cybersecurity jobs in Alabama
Alabama being one of the smaller economies in the US, it’s not surprising that the size of its cybersecurity workforce is also smaller than most states. Cyberseek tells us that, from October 2018 through September 2019, 10,858 cybersecurity professionals were employed in Alabama. There were also 6,035 new cybersecurity job openings published by Alabama employers during that time. The job market is tight, with restricted supply and rapidly growing demand, which augurs well for the future of Alabama cybersecurity professionals. The regions within Alabama that saw the most new infosec jobs were Huntsville (3,413), Montgomery (935), and Birmingham (840).
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that, in May 2018, security analysts in Alabama were earning an average hourly wage of $44.47, and the average annual salary was $92,500. Not surprisingly, this pay scale is somewhat lower than the average for the US a whole. But the cost of living in Alabama is nearly 18% below the national average, so cybersecurity pay rates are high in the state by comparison. With such a low standard of living, Alabama-based information security professionals will find the compensation allows for a comfortable lifestyle.
Cybersecurity in Alabama
Alabama’s economic makeup is conducive to future growth in the cybersecurity industry. Modern manufacturing facilities, healthcare, education, and finance organizations are all in critical need of top cybersecurity practices and practitioners. And the state’s largest employer, government, is also a prime target for cybercriminals.
Job growth is therefore likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future. And there is also strong support from Alabama colleges and universities. The broad range of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs already available makes Alabama a surprisingly attractive source of cybersecurity education options. And with a very low relative cost of living, Alabama cybersecurity professionals can earn a very comfortable living at current wage scales.