This guide is all about cybersecurity degree programs in California. It also contains information about how the state is preparing for a future that is reliant on good cybersecurity practices.
California was founded as a gold rush state. Today, a new boom is happening. A thriving technology industry is helping to fuel the golden state’s economy to number one in the nation. In fact, California’s economy is so vast that if compared to other nations, it would rank number five in GDP growth.
And while the new ideas and new companies getting spun out of places like Silicon Valley are definitely a big part of California’s economic engine, the tech start-up scene is just one chapter of the story.
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In this guide
Elsewhere in California is home to the state’s other thriving economic sectors — big industries, with big budgets that are poised for growth in the future. Industries such as aerospace, military contracting, higher education, and digital media/entertainment.
The one thread that connects all of California’s growing economic sectors is cybersecurity.
Like the rest of the world, companies operating across all industries are developing and hiring for roles in this critical sector.
The hiring of trained and experienced cybersecurity professionals is happening so quickly that there is actually a shortage of cybersecurity workers in California. So while the projected growth of cybersecurity roles continues well into the future, new programs, degree offerings, and certification opportunities are launching to help meet the demand.
This guide to cybersecurity in California is broken down into three sections to provide an overview of the education and career opportunities in the state.
State level cybersecurity initiatives in California
Both governmental agencies and the business community in California are investing heavily in cybersecurity education and workforce training initiatives.
The state government maintains a Cybersecurity Task Force as part of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The group acts as an advisory board and gathers intel, data, and other on-the-ground information from companies, researchers, and experts in the cybersecurity field. The goal, at the state level, is to stay informed and stay ahead of new cyber threats as they emerge and to develop best practices for dealing with digital crime after it has happened.
By its nature, cybersecurity is a very fluid field — the kinds of cybercrimes being committed and the attack vectors being used are changing all of the time. As such, any kind of task force or workforce initiative that is working in the space needs to constantly adapt, change, and look for new sources of information.
The CyberCalifornia initiative is an example of how the state is attempting to build and prepare future cybersecurity infrastructure. According to the program’s website, the intent of the program is to bring together numerous stakeholders to build a coordinated cybersecurity coalition:
“CyberCalifornia will help organize public-private partnerships in cybersecurity, with the goals of facilitating research and innovation in cybersecurity, educating California businesses about cybersecurity needs and resources, and connecting California’s robust workforce development system with the needs of California employers. CyberCalifornia is organized in conjunction with the Innovation Hub (iHub) Network, a program administered by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. The iHubs provide innovation platforms for startup companies, economic development organizations, business groups, and venture capitalists by leveraging such assets as research parks, technology incubators, universities, and federal laboratories.”
Beyond the public/private partnerships and general education of the business community, colleges and universities in California are also developing new programs and offerings in order to better prepare tomorrow’s workforce for cybersecurity threats.
One example is the California Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program:
“The California Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program is hosted by Coastline College. It is grant-funded by the State Chancellor’s Office. The program includes eight college credit courses, industry certifications, which are CompTIA industry certifications relevant to those courses. There are currently no costs to the qualified apprentices for courses, certification exams, or textbooks. Apprentices are expected to work in a cybersecurity role for 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training at the state required wages.”
There are more than 25 schools in California offering more than 54 cybersecurity specific degree or certification programs. Also be sure to check out the cybersecurity city guides including:
- Cybersecurity training in Los Angeles
- Cybersecurity degrees, certs, and bootcamps in San Diego
- Cybersecurity master’s degrees and related training in San Francisco
- Cybersecurity bootcamps, certs, and training in San Jose
- Cybersecurity degree and certification options in Sacramento
Cybersecurity education in California
Associate degree options
The size of California and the structure of the university system in the state lends itself to a very robust and high-quality community college network.
Many of California’s college students attend community colleges to get degrees or to earn credits before transferring to another school or state university to finish a bachelor’s degree program.
This means that California community colleges are well-equipped to meet the needs of a technical workforce.
Community colleges across the state offer both campus-based and online cybersecurity associate degrees in cybersecurity.
Some of the campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degrees in California include:
Online cybersecurity degree options in California
Two colleges in California offer online associate’s degrees in cybersecurity.
- The California Institute of Arts & Technology, located in San Diego, offers an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems with a concentration in networking
- Cuyamaca College, in El Cajon California, has an Associate in Science in Networking, Security, and System Administration.
The main utility of obtaining an associate degree in cybersecurity is that most degree programs provide good preparation and guidance for the many professional certifications that are required within the industry.
Students completing the campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degrees often earn an associate of science in cybersecurity. Other campus-based associate-level cybersecurity degrees available in California include:
- AS Degree for Transfer (AST): Computer Science at Los Medanos College
- AS in Cybersecurity and Information Security at Sacramento City College
- AS in Cyber Defense at Cypress College
A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is a key jumping-off point for many people looking to enter the cybersecurity field.
Like the multidisciplinary nature of the field, an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity often exposes students to a number of topics including computer science, programming, network infrastructure, data management, policy, law, and security best practices.
Often, bachelor’s cybersecurity degree programs have a particular focus such as computer science, information assurance, or criminal justice.
Campus-based cybersecurity bachelor’s degree
California is huge and the distribution of these programs reflects the size and diversity of the state.
Bachelor’s degrees take an average of 120 credit hours to complete, and many of these undergraduate programs prepare students for industry certifications.
The more competitive cybersecurity bachelor programs will also have some kind of formal career prep programs such as hosted recruiting events or industry internship opportunities.
The chart below contains information about campus-based cybersecurity bachelor’s programs in California.
Online cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs
In addition to the campus-based options for obtaining a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity in California, there are also numerous online bachelor’s degree programs available.
Online learning is a great fit for many students, and it is becoming more popular each year. For some students, the online learning format is better, especially when a more flexible schedule is needed.
Another advantage of online education is that it is more effective for some kinds of learning styles. In particular, students can review material multiple times (usually lectures and other content is delivered in video modules), and feedback is given more frequently, which allows students to keep tabs on their performance.
Another way to prepare for a career in cybersecurity is to obtain a master’s degree. A graduate can serve several functions and it is well-suited to people with either a bachelor’s degree in a closely related field, like mathematics or engineering — or for people with industry work experience who are looking to advance their career.
The kinds of cybersecurity master’s degrees available in California are also broken down by the more traditional campus-based or the newer online-based model.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees
Cybersecurity master’s degrees in California are available in a few different formats. Some, like the programs at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, the Naval Postgraduate School, or the University of California at Davis, offer a master’s in computer science degrees with a focus on cybersecurity.
Other schools offer master of science programs in cybersecurity.
Beyond a master’s in computer science or a master of science in cybersecurity, other cybersecurity mater’s programs exist that are even more specialized.
For more on-campus cybersecurity master’s degree options in California see the complete list below:
Online cybersecurity master’s degree programs
In California, there are fewer online cybersecurity master’s degree options than campus-based master’s options, but nonetheless, the schools that do offer the programs have solid reputations as leaders in science and technology education.
An online master’s degree might be a good fit for working professionals who are unable to attend regular campus-based classes. Additionally, research shows that obtaining an online degree versus a campus degree has no impact on future employment potential.
Like the campus-based master’s degrees, the online cybersecurity master’s programs in California all vary slightly — and offer different concentrations or focus areas.
Below is a complete list of California online master’s degrees in cybersecurity:
A PhD degree, or a doctoral degree in cybersecurity, is designed for people looking to develop research expertise in the field. Often PhD recipients work in specialized niches within cybersecurity such as in academia, in government-supported research institutions, or at technical executive roles within companies.
There are currently two cybersecurity specific PhD options in California:
- A PhD in computer science with a specialization in computer systems and security specialization at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
- A PhD in computer science with a specialization in information assurance at the University of California in Davis, California.
California cybersecurity certifications are another option for people currently in the workforce to further develop a professional skill set.
Cybersecurity certification programs exist in two main groups. There are academic-oriented certifications and more industry-oriented certifications.
These certification programs exist on a range — from entry-level to advanced and narrowly focused (and sometimes with prerequisites including years of relevant work experience). Some of these certifications focus narrowly on a certain kind of industry software or programming application.
Campus-based cybersecurity certification programs
Online cybersecurity certification programs
Like other academic programs, cybersecurity certification programs also have online options. And like the campus-based programs, California’s online cybersecurity certification programs all vary slightly in terms of focus or concentration.
Below is a complete list of university-based online cybersecurity programs in California:
Cybersecurity jobs in California
There is a nationwide job shortage of well-trained and experienced cybersecurity workers. The shortage is also being felt in California. At the state level, the workforce supply/demand ratio is almost at parity with the nationwide ratio.
But in the major metro areas of California, the situation is much different. In most major regions (see more specific analysis below) there is a greater shortage of cybersecurity workers.
According to CyberSeek, there are 115,265 people employed in cybersecurity roles across California, and there are 83,196 cybersecurity job openings around the state.
According to CyberSeek, the top cybersecurity job titles in California include:
- Cybersecurity engineer
- Cybersecurity analyst
- Network engineer/architect
- Cybersecurity manager/administrator
- Systems engineer
- Cybersecurity consultant
- Software developer/engineer
Because of their technical nature, cybersecurity jobs in California are generally well-paying. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security analysts (which is used as a representative sample of the cybersecurity industry more broadly) make an average annual salary of $135,200, or an average hourly wage of $65.
The 2021 Occupational Employment Statistic Survey conducted by the State of California Employment Development Department, showed the median annual salary for a security analyst was $145,600.For a more complete career outlook for cybersecurity workers in California, check out the Employment Development Department’s guide.
Cybersecurity at the city level
Cybersecurity in the San Francisco bay area: San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward
As mentioned earlier, the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world’s technology epicenters. Startups ranging from robotics to dating apps and from new ways of banking to better medical care are all creating new products and services. And to varying degrees, these new companies all need some level of protection or insulation against cybersecurity threats.
Standalone cybersecurity startups are also launching to create products, services, and technologies aimed at protecting people and companies operating in the digital realm.
Given the technology startup orientation of the region, the San Francisco Bay Area has an above-average concentration of cybersecurity job openings and a comparatively low supply of qualified workers. There are close to 15,000 cybersecurity jobs available in the region and approximately 23,000 workers are employed in a job that is cybersecurity related.
Here’s a look at the regional data provided by CyberSeek:
- Supply of workers ratio: Low — the national average is 68 percent and likewise, the San Francisco region is 68 percent
- Concentration of job openings: High — the national average is 1.0/ San Francisco region is 1.9
Cybersecurity in Silicon Valley: San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara
The Silicon Valley/South San Francisco area is also home to a disproportionate amount of technology startups and companies.
In addition to hiring for roles across a wide spectrum of consumer and enterprise products and services, companies in Silicon Valley are also focused on information and data security. This region, which is an extension of the San Francisco Bay Area outline above is also hiring for cybersecurity workers.
Here’s a look at the regional data provided by CyberSeek:
- Supply of workers ratio: Very low — the national average is 68 percent and the Silicon Valley region is 67 percent
- Concentration of job openings: Very high — the national average is 1.0/ Silicon Valley region is 3.4
Cybersecurity in the Los Angeles area: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim
While the Los Angeles area might best be known for the entertainment sector, there are also other vibrant industries driving job growth and a growing technology sector.
Here’s a look at the regional data provided by CyberSeek:
- Supply of workers ratio: Low — the national average is 68 percent and the Los Angeles region is also 68 percent
- Concentration of job openings: Average — the national average is 1.0/ Los Angeles region is 1.1
Cybersecurity in the San Diego area: San Diego and Carlsbad
There is a large military presence in the greater San Diego area, which means there are also a number of military contractors and suppliers in the region.
The relatively high number of military-related occupations means that there is also a higher than average number of cybersecurity jobs available. There are roughly 7,500 cybersecurity jobs available in the greater San Diego region, with 12,890 people employed in the field.
A closer look at the regional data provided by CyberSeek:
- Supply of workers ratio: Low — the national average is 68 percent/ San Diego region is 70 percent
- Concentration of job openings: High — the national average is 1.0/ San Diego region is 2.0
Cybersecurity in California
In summary, there are ample opportunities to get an education in cybersecurity in California. Associates, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral — and not to mention the wide range of certification programs offer a number of ways for people to enter the field or further their career opportunities.
Yet despite all of these educational opportunities, there remains a shortage of well-trained and experienced cybersecurity workers, which makes it a great job market for people with the right skills.