This guide is all about cybersecurity in Arkansas, including some of the state’s major cybersecurity-related educational and career opportunities.
Walmart is one of the largest employers in the United States. The retail giant, worth $514 billion, according to Forbes, has its corporate headquarters in Arkansas.
Yet due to its recent lack of innovation in high-tech jobs, Arkansas has also been ranked by Wallethub as the 6th worst state economy in the country due to its GDP growth, annual household income, exports per capita, and unemployment rate. As a standalone state, however, the state’s low business costs allow companies in the service and tech sectors to thrive.
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Arkansas has multiple key industries that provide economic development, including distribution and logistics, aerospace and defense, and corporate and shared services. Among those industries, software development and data management services make up 1.3 million employees in the state’s workforce.
LiveRamp Holdings, Inc provides Arkansas with more than 1 trillion transactions for more than 7,000 global clients, and Hewlett-Packard chose Arkansas for its large customer support center and regional industry development center. Arkansas homes numerous technology firms, including Little Rock Technology, Genesis Technology Incubator, and The Venture Center.
Arkansas’s long-term goals projections help facilitate cybersecurity initiatives, all driven by government legislature and corporate globalization, to revolutionize the state into a place of commercial and technological magnitude.
Growing awareness of cybersecurity in Arkansas
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently signed into law a cybersecurity initiative, enforcing the state’s Economic Development Commission (AEDC) to develop a robust defensive strategy against cyber attacks. Through Senate Bill 632, the public will gain education opportunities related to cybersecurity and defense, corporate enterprises will be provided with threat assessments, and other initiatives around technology and security.
The state of Arkansas Cybersecurity Office coordinates regional resources to protect government operations and establishes cybersecurity policies for information technology services. The office developed the “Stop. Think. Connect,” campaign as a national public awareness effort to increase understanding of cyber threats and promote safer activity online through coordination with the National Cybersecurity Alliance.
Arkansas’s cybersecurity initiatives resulted in its Arkansas eGovernment an accessible platform for thousands of IT users and management services. Its Division of Information Systems has connected 200+ professionals and provided them with equipment hosting, network, and professional services. Some of the services the office provides for enterprises include monitoring router and server security, monitoring networks for server and router vulnerabilities, and assisting customers with router and server security tools.
The Division of Information Systems also developed virtual private networks, allowing individuals to seek secure remote access to state computing resources and information.
Cybersecurity education in Arkansas
Arkansas provides its citizens with several avenues for earning an education in cybersecurity, supplying students with the capabilities and resources to receive valuable careers in the information technology field.
Arkansas Inc, a business venture of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, serves as a supervisory tool for diversifying the state’s economy through investments and job developments. Some of the milestones the venture provided for the state include the Emerging Analytics Center (EAC) at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, which offers data analytics and data visualization to give solutions for big data. The venture also implanted research competencies in high-performance computing at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
For students looking for a career in cybersecurity, associate degrees offer the chance to learn the basics of firewall protection methods, software applications, decoding sensitive data information, techniques against security breaches. Associate degrees allow students to transfer credit for advanced degrees, such as bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, and can be attained at any community college, vocational college, and four-year university. An associate of applied science does not allow credit transfer and stands alone as its degree.
Bachelor’s degrees provide progressive preparation in cybersecurity degrees, allowing students to learn to apply cybersecurity methods in network security, information systems, advanced web development, and software development.
The University of Arkansas offers two bachelor of science degrees in computer science and computer engineering and a bachelor of arts degree in computer science. The bachelor’s of science degrees for both computer science and engineering include concentration areas such as networking, communications, system analysis, digital systems, and intelligent systems.
Through the bachelor of science programs, students gain knowledge in analyzing computer problems, design computer-based solutions, analyze and interpret data and formulate engineering solutions through the lens of personal and social responsibility.
The bachelor of arts degree in computer science contains the same educational opportunities as the bachelor of science degrees but allows students to double major and pursue other interests.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Fayetteville also offers a minor in computer science and a minor in cybersecurity, teaching the basics in programming foundations and programming models.
At Southern Arkansas University, students can earn a bachelor of science degree in computer science, with a specific focus on cybersecurity defense. This degree is offered both on-campus and via a hybrid campus/online curriculum.
Master’s degrees focus primarily on honing the skills needed in cybersecurity leadership, researching and informing the public of the most current digital methods of protection and innovation.
The University of Arkansas provides students with Master of Science degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science. Both the computer engineering and computer science degrees have standard requirements related to system analysis and networking. Still, both degrees part ways, as the engineering degree focuses more on hardware and systems, while the computer science degree focuses on software and theory.
At Southern Arkansas University, students can earn a Master of Science degree in Computer and Information Science with a cybersecurity and privacy option. Through this degree program, students will learn applicable and theoretical methodologies in computer science. The cybersecurity and privacy focus allows students to gain extensive knowledge in security analytics, cyber defense, and privacy compliance.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock incorporates an Information Quality Track of the Integrated Computing Ph.D. Program for students interested in theories, models, and techniques for information asset management. The information quality degree includes topics such as data governance, data management, identity resolution, data protection, and privacy as the primary topics of research and development.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville offers a graduate certificate in cybersecurity. The graduate certificate focuses on courses related to computer security, database security, secure digital systems design, and advanced cryptography.
Cybersecurity jobs in Arkansas
Arkansas, despite its recent ratings in unemployment, plans to increase the number of cybersecurity jobs within the state by 2026. The surge of tech enterprises situating their facilities and offices within the state allows for cybersecurity jobs to grow substantially. The state’s focus on its cybersecurity initiatives provides for the state to focus on protecting government data, communicate globally with high-enterprise institutions, and establish new education programs for computer science and cybersecurity.
With a total of 7,003 current job openings in Arkansas, roughly 6,501 employees currently work in the cybersecurity field, according to Cyberseek.
The average hourly wage for a cybersecurity analyst in Arkansas is $46.34, with the annual average wage at $96,390 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Cybersecurity in Arkansas
Arkansas has grown from being the king of cotton and agriculture to a center of finance, manufacturing, and software development.
Arkansas now strives to expand its cybersecurity initiatives as it anticipates a massive influx of tech companies for the next ten years. As tech companies begin to establish their headquarters and offices in the state, the state’s unemployment rate will theoretically decline, bringing in more cybersecurity jobs as a result.