This guide is about cybersecurity schools in Colorado. It also contains information about some factors underpinning the state’s emerging cybersecurity economy.
Colorado is known by all for its strikingly beautiful scenery, ski resorts, tourist economy, and being a playground for adventurers. What is much less well known is that Colorado has been diversifying its economy for decades. And it has also been one of the fastest growing state economies in the US for some time, although that growth has slowed in 2019. On the other hand, part of the reason Colorado’s growth rate has been tempered is that the labor market is extremely tight. The state’s unemployment rate is well below the national average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest employers in Colorado’s economy as of 2019 included government, professional business services, education and health services, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality. Financial services is the seventh largest employer in the state.
Occupations related to technology are expected to be among the fastest growing in Colorado. This is in part due to the dependence these leading industries have on technology.
What does this mean for cybersecurity professionals? Financial services, government, professional business services, and health services industries are among the largest users of cybersecurity services. And a tight labor market means few competing applicants for any job openings that are available.
Growing importance of cybersecurity in Colorado
As the Colorado economy grows and diversifies, the industries emerging in leadership roles are some of the biggest employers of cybersecurity personnel and services.
Due to the critical nature of information security in government, financial services, healthcare services, and professional business services, there is sure to be a rapidly escalating demand for cybersecurity professionals in Colorado. Add to that the state’s already tight labor pool and the Rocky Mountain state should be a very fertile ground for cybersecurity for years to come.
Since 2016, Colorado state government has been one of the most proactive in the country. The state’s lawmakers have created policy to ensure state resources are adequately applied to combat the growing problem of attacks on information security. And this awareness prompted other initiatives as well.
Also in 2016, the National Cybersecurity Center, an infosec think tank, was founded in Colorado Springs. Located in the area of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs is quickly establishing itself as one of the nation’s leading centers for cybersecurity, and not just because of the National Cybersecurity Center.
According to the Colorado Springs Cybersecurity Project, there are more than 125 cybersecurity employers in the Pikes Peak region that employ over 3,000 cybersecurity professionals. More than 80 of these companies are cybersecurity-focused workplaces. There are also five military installations that are seeking cybersecurity professionals, and five colleges with cybersecurity programs that are approved by the National Security Administration’s as Centers for Academic Excellence (CAE).
The Pikes Peak area is also home to facilities of a number of large employers with substantial cybersecurity needs. These include Boeing, Apogee Enterprises, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco, General Dynamics, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Raytheon, Verizon, and VMWare.
What’s more, there are two organizations devoted to the cybersecurity profession with regional chapters in Colorado Springs. The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) provides many resources for cybersecurity professionals and those interested in starting a career in information security. In addition to educational opportunities, ISSA has annual conventions and many networking and knowledge sharing opportunities. One of the most respected cybersecurity certification organizations, (ISC)2, also has a chapter for the Pikes Peak Region.
Cybersecurity education in Colorado
The list of higher education programs offered by Colorado learning institutions reflects the state’s focus on cybersecurity as a needed skill for the future. Students have an ample choice of degree programs and certification opportunities. And those students residing in the state will be greeted by a rapidly growing job market that is lacking an adequate number of qualified applicants for open jobs.
But students located in other states will also find a good selection of online programs offering all degrees and many certifications.
An associate’s degree in cybersecurity is a good way to break into certain entry-level positions for those lacking the time or resources to complete a full four-year degree program. Then with this educational foundation and a beginning job, professionals can enhance their careers by obtaining industry certifications or possibly utilizing the associate’s degree to complete a bachelor’s degree program.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Colorado
Five Colorado community colleges offer associates degrees in cybersecurity via campus-based programs (Front Range Community College, Pikes Peak Community College, Pueblo Community College, and Red Rocks Community College). Pikes Peak Community College also offers a dual degree program providing students with a path to obtain associate’s degrees in both cybersecurity and computer networking. Arapahoe Community College at Castle Rock campus houses the ACC Cyber Center – a state of the art cyber learning center featuring hands on lab equipment in addition to a full scale NDG-Netlabs virtual lab environment and game-based cyber range. Also, at ACC a student can earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Cybersecurity and a BS in Computer Information Systems with an emphasis in Cybersecurity from CSU Pueblo at the Sturm Collaboration Campus. The table below has more information.
Online associate’s degrees in Colorado
Pueblo Community College is the only Colorado community college currently offering an online option for associate’s degrees in cybersecurity.
A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is now required for most information security career paths. Specific degree options within cybersecurity vary quite a bit, often specializing in a definitive category of cybersecurity. But it isn’t necessary for would-be cybersecurity professionals to major in a cybersecurity discipline in order to be hired in an infosec capacity.
Many professionals enter cybersecurity with more general degrees in computer science or information technology. Still others are educated in a range of STEM disciplines often not directly related to computer technology.
In Colorado, there are currently four bachelor’s degree programs, two on-campus and two online, that are directly related to cybersecurity. Two of these are provided by Metropolitan State University of Denver, one campus-based and one online. The other campus-based program is available from United States Air Force Academy. The other online degree option is provided by Colorado Technical University.
For cybersecurity professionals, a master’s degree can also be a vehicle for consulting, academic or research positions for those inclined to take a path outside the typical corporate structure.
There are no fewer than seven master’s degree programs for cybersecurity professionals offered by Colorado universities – three campus-based programs and four online programs.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees in Colorado
As the below table indicates, two of the three campus-based master’s degree programs are offered by the University of Colorado – one at the Boulder branch and the other in Colorado Springs. The other campus program is available at the University of Denver.
Online cybersecurity master’s degrees in Colorado
Of the four online master’s degree programs, two are provided by the University of Colorado – one in Boulder and the other from the Denver branch. The University of Denver offers an online master’s degree program and Regis University rounds out the list. See below for more information and links.
Currently, two universities provide education programs leading to a Ph.D. in cybersecurity. The University of Colorado in Colorado Springs offers a Ph.D. in engineering with a concentration in security. The Colorado School of Mines Ph.D. program in computer science with research in cybersecurity. Both are campus-based classroom programs.
Certification programs are an excellent avenue for those currently working in cybersecurity to further their education. They are also a great option for those considering a start in cybersecurity. Certification programs can provide a perfect introduction to cybersecurity, as well as a start to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Colorado
Four community colleges currently offer campus-based certification courses. Front Range Community College, Pikes Peak Community College, Pueblo Community College, and Red Rocks Community College. Pueblo Community College actually offers four distinct certification options.
At least three universities also offer cybersecurity certification options, including the Colorado State University, the University of Denver, and Regis University.
The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Colorado
There are currently three Colorado learning institutions offering cybersecurity certifications via online portholes. These are listed below:
OTHER CYBERSECURITY EDUCATION OPTIONS
In addition to the conventional college options, Colorado is also home to two campuses operated by SecureSet Academy. SecureSet is an innovative education academy designed specifically to bring cybersecurity professionals to the workplace in an accelerated time frame. The program is 40 hours a week for five months, and
provides graduates with an excellent opportunity to start their cybersecurity careers immediately. The average graduate has been hired at an annual salary of about $75,000. The academy also has a program designed to help start-up companies with a cybersecurity mission to greatly accelerate the normal time required to get up and running.
Cybersecurity jobs in Colorado
Worldwide, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is outpacing supply, and the gap is growing. The US is experiencing the same phenomenon, and Colorado’s deficit is well above the national average. According to Cyberseek, Colorado has a total employed cybersecurity workforce of just over 26,000. At the same time, the unfilled job openings for cybersecurity were reported to be 17,400. Cyberseek’s calculated “location quotient,” measuring the concentration of cybersecurity job demand, for Colorado is nearly two-and-half times the national average, which places in the top six states in the country.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research concluded that in May 2018, security analysts were enjoying an average hourly wage of $49.43 per hour. The average annual security analyst salary was $102,820. Both of these numbers are well above the national average. So we can add a huge unsatisfied demand for cybersecurity professionals and high wages to the reasons for considering Colorado as a favored destination for those considering a career in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity in Colorado
Whether or not you yearn to explore the Rocky Mountains and ski the storied slopes of Colorado, cybersecurity professionals likely can’t find a better home in America. Government initiatives have helped spur a burgeoning information security industry. Colorado already boasts a cybersecurity think tank, a pair of cybersecurity industry professional association chapters, dozens of cybersecurity service companies, five federal government military posts, and an ample supply of mega-international employers housing facilities within the state. The Pikes Peak/Colorado Springs region is by far the most active and vibrant area for cybersecurity in the state of Colorado.
Cybersecurity educational opportunities abound as well, both campus-based programs for state residents and online programs for remote students, not to mention SecureSet’s five-month program. In summary, Colorado is becoming a haven for cybersecurity companies and professionals. And if nature adventures are in one’s wheelhouse, Colorado could very well be the best place imaginable.