This guide is intended as an overview of the cybersecurity schools in the District of Columbia. It also includes other cybersecurity educational programs, such as online degrees and certifications, available in the Washington DC area.
Reports from the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services indicate that approximately one-quarter of the Washington DC workforce is employed by some agency of the federal government. Add to this the government support industries, such as defense contractors, law firms, civilian contractors, and lobbying firms and we get a picture of the driving force behind most economic activity in the district.
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It also gives us a clear picture of why the District of Columbia region has the single most densely concentrated cybersecurity workforce in the country. And why it’s the area with the largest shortage of qualified infosec employees. The opportunities for employment in and around Washington DC are the most diverse in the US, in addition to being among the easiest to find.
The cybersecurity climate in Washington DC
Washington DC is the national center for the intelligence, military, and political communities. The private corporate government support network also has a critical presence and is nearly as critical a storehouse for highly sensitive data.
It follows, then, that it is also the national center for critical information networks and databases, as well as those for many international agencies with a US presence. The extreme need for the best and brightest cybersecurity professionals in the District of Columbia is obvious, and just as obvious to not wane in the future.
Cybersecurity education in Washington DC
It’s a very small district. As such, there aren’t many colleges and universities located within the District of Columbia. But the ones that are there are top-flight learning institutions. And a couple of them are taking it upon themselves to deliver strong catalogs of cybersecurity degree and certification programs.
George Washington University and Georgetown University each have impressive cybersecurity degree offerings. Being in Washington DC, though, it’s not surprising these are also expensive schools to attend. Taking advantage of all available scholarship opportunities will be critical for those unable to afford the full price tag.
As already stated, the majority of long-term career paths in the cybersecurity industry now demand at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in some related technology category. STEM degrees are particularly attractive to employers. That said, a BS in a cybersecurity specialty will be advantageous when conducting a job search.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Washington DC
Just one cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program is now offered by District of Columbia colleges and universities. It is made available via an on-campus format by George Washington University.
GWU’s Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree Completion program is designed for students already holding an associate’s, applied associate’s degree, or a non-technical bachelor’s degree. Classes are conducted at two Virginia locations. Up to 60-course credits may be transferred from other institutions where students completed another degree program.
There are currently no cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs available from Washington D.C. schools using an online format.
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity specialties are increasingly in demand as the industry matures and more management and leadership roles are created. Cybersecurity master’s degrees are particularly important for academia and research positions.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Washington D.
At present, District of Columbia universities boast eight cybersecurity master’s degree programs. They are divided equally between on-campus and online formats. Leading the way is George Washington University, with two master’s degree programs in each delivery format. See the below table for more information.
Online master’s degrees in Washington DC
For those preferring the convenience of online coursework, Washington DC schools now have four online master’s degree programs with cybersecurity specialties. Of the four, two come from George Washington University and two from Georgetown University. The below list contains more information.
Cybersecurity certification programs can be excellent avenues to enhancing educational backgrounds beyond the standard degree programs. From introductory curriculum to easier to complete surrogates for master’s degrees, certifications should be pursued by new students and experienced professionals alike whenever practical. Professionals in the midst of their careers can also find focused specialty certifications, such as penetration testing, that advance their knowledge in a chosen discipline.
At present, cybersecurity certification programs offered by Washington DC schools are limited, but will likely change in the future to meet increased demand.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Washington DC
Two certification programs are now being offered by District of Columbia universities via campus-based coursework. George Washington University has a program leading to a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. And Howard University has a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Washington D.C.
Georgetown University currently offers the only two online cybersecurity certification programs available from a District of Columbia institution. A Professional Certificate in Cybersecurity Strategy and a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Risk Management.
Cybersecurity jobs in Washington DC
The District of Columbia is obviously very tiny in size. Because it isn’t a state and is so completely intertwined economically with surrounding cities, DC-specific cybersecurity data is not readily available. Combined with the surrounding metropolitan regions of Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, the Washington DC area boasts the largest concentration of cybersecurity professionals and job demand of any in the country.
According to Cyberseek, this region was home to 27,117 cybersecurity professionals from October 2021 through September 2022. Employers listed 19,097 new job openings for positions related to information security.
The tightly concentrated market for cybersecurity professionals is more than seven times as dense as the average metropolitan region in the US. And the supply of qualified cybersecurity professionals relative to the huge demand makes the Washington DC region one of the most strained markets in the country. Demand far exceeds the available workforce.
The extreme tightness of the District of Columbia cybersecurity employment market translates into some of the highest pay rates in the US. Using the position security analyst as a representation of information security pay rates in general, the average hourly wage in Washington DC was $60.09, and the average annual salary was $124,980 in 2021, this according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This ranks the District of Columbia third in the nation, behind only the states of New York and New Jersey, for highest-paid cybersecurity professionals.
Of course, these high pay rates come at a cost: The cost of living. Washington DC is easily one of the most expensive places to live in the country. The standard of living there is estimated to be more than 50 percent higher than the average cost of living in the US. But because it’s such a tiny area, one doesn’t have to live in the District of Columbia to work there.
The cost of living in commuting distance townships is significantly more affordable. It will depend on what one considers to be an acceptable commute, particularly since the road system around DC is one of the most congested in America.
Cybersecurity in Washington DC
There is no higher prize for cybercriminals than the information, systems, and networks of the US federal government. Thus the District of Columbia and surrounding region are by far the largest, most important and most highly concentrated job market for cybersecurity professionals. The types of infosec jobs available and the breadth of organizations needing highly skilled information assurance professionals are second to none anywhere in the US.
Cybersecurity pay rates in Washington DC are behind only New York and New Jersey. Education opportunities are somewhat limited in quantity, but this is only because there are few colleges and universities located within the bounds of the nation’s capital.
Georgetown and George Washington universities are each offering a number of high-level education opportunities, both degrees and certifications, that present excellent avenues for cybersecurity professionals to establish a presence in probably the world’s largest information security job market. And one need only look to the adjacent territories in Maryland and Virginia to find many more educational options.