Cybersecurity is a booming industry no matter where you look — and the same is true in Florida. Although it is currently seen more as a state for elderly retirement or for vacationing along its famous beaches and within its varied resorts, Florida is rapidly developing its cybersecurity infrastructure both in the educational and employment spheres.
This is mainly because several companies maintain offices or business centers within Florida’s major cities, necessitating a new influx of cybersecurity grads to keep data safe. While Florida isn’t quite the financial hot spot of New York nor the cutting edge of research the way California is, there is demonstrable cybersecurity value within the companies that have chosen to make the state home.
Cybersecurity Development in Florida
Florida’s cybersecurity development is just beginning. In 2014 alone, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity was established by the Board of Governors. This comprehensive group focuses on pushing cybersecurity development across the state across all aspects of growth, including education, community outreach, and various research opportunities through the university system and private companies.
The state’s educational focus has already yielded results in just five years. The NSA’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, an award that many universities compete heavily for and which leads to NSA recruitment at those locations, has already been awarded to five Florida schools.
There’s also a good collection of cybersecurity organizations and events all throughout the state. One of the more well-known of these is HackMiama, which is an active cybersecurity group in South Florida. Defcon183, based in Tampa, host cybersecurity events and can lead to excellent networking opportunities.
More importantly, Florida’s status as a beach resort state makes it a natural match for conferences and workshops of all kinds, not just cybersecurity. The FICS, described below, host a conference every year for two days in Gainesville. The InfoSecWorld expo is another excellent event that regularly arrives at Florida’s shores; not only does it offer several skill-improving workshops but it also has demonstrations of the newest and greatest cybersecurity tech for your perusal.
All of these events and more are part of what make Florida more important in the cybersecurity scene than you might initially expect.
Cybersecurity Education in Florida
Despite its focus on vacationing and retirement prospects, Florida is actually tied with Texas when it comes to having the second-most NSA CAE (Centers for Academic Excellence) schools in any state. As many of the schools are public colleges and universities, there are ample opportunities for future cybersecurity professionals to receive a top-tier education within this state.
This development has happened quite recently in the case of several of the below universities. In particular, the University of Tampa, St. Leo University, and Florida Polytechnic University all added cybersecurity programs just in 2015. That some of these programs have already reached national acclaim speaks to their quality and academic excellence.
In fact, many of these schools’ renewed focuses on cybersecurity have yielded dividends already. The University of Central Florida, as an example, won two out of three CyberSEED Competitions in 2016, marking their own teams as outstanding overall.
While the University of Florida does not offer any degree programs in cybersecurity (yet), it is also the home of the FICS, or Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research. This Institute focuses on hardware over software, which is an aspect of cybersecurity that many programs and research facilities do not normally emphasize. Already, the Institute has developed nanoscale imaging equipment at its labs, representing a bold leap forward in digital forensics. The Institute is also home to an ongoing attempt to create a real block against ransomware.
While this isn’t strictly related to cybersecurity education, it does show that the university is focusing on cybersecurity in a real and long-term way. Such a center is a great sign for future cybersecurity researchers in the state and may lead to UF developing a cybersecurity program of its own in the future.
Of all schools, St. Petersburg College and St. Leo University are both great options for long-term cybersecurity students, as they have programs across several levels of academic advancement. This allows for students to proceed through all or most of their education in cybersecurity without having to switch schools.
Campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degrees in Florida
Associate degrees are great for newcomers to the subject who want to pursue higher education in the field of cybersecurity.
Florida’s cybersecurity associate degree collection is about evenly split between campus-only options and online offerings. Of those three degrees offered at campuses, one of them is an Associate in Science for Networking Administration. This isn’t, therefore, strictly a cybersecurity degree, though it could be a good stepping stone to becoming a cybersecurity administrator with further education.
The other two schools are:
- Pasco-Hernando State College with a cyber and information security degree
- Saint Leo University with a cybersecurity associate degree
Online Associate Degrees
Florida has four online-only associate degrees related to cybersecurity. Two of these are at the same school, St. Petersburg College, though they have different specializations: one is in cybersecurity proper while the other is in digital forensics and computer investigations. As you might imagine, the latter option would be great for future criminal justice professionals.
The other two schools are Indian River State College, which offers an Associate of Arts in IT Management and Cybersecurity, and College at Jacksonville, which offers an Associate in Science in IT Security. Of all three, St. Petersburg College is the clear choice for most because its degrees are more closely focused on cybersecurity exclusively.
Campus cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees in Florida
Bachelor’s degrees are meant to help students specialize in the cybersecurity field and normally require some prerequisite knowledge to be completed.
There are four on-campus bachelor’s degree options in Florida, spread across four universities.
- Florida Atlantic University, with a Bachelor of Management Information Systems
- Florida Polytechnic University, with a BS in CS with a cybersecurity focus
- Palm Beach State College, with a BS in Information Management with a security and network assurance focus
- The University of West Florida offers the only strictly BS in Cybersecurity, making it perhaps the top choice for young professionals who want to exclusively study this field of IT.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees
Florida offers two online bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity: one from Kaiser University in cyber forensics and information security, and one from St. Leo University. The latter is another full BS in Cybersecurity.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees in Florida
Master’s degrees are designed for those who’ve already completed a bachelor’s level education in either cybersecurity or computer science. They often lead to more research-oriented positions, whereas bachelor’s level degrees are normally fine for most cybersecurity jobs.
Interestingly, most of Florida’s master’s degrees in cybersecurity are online. Indeed, only three schools offer on-campus programs:
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with an MS in Cybersecurity Engineering
- Florida State University with an MS in CS with a cybersecurity major
- Florida International University with an MS in Computer Engineering and a network security concentration
Online Master’s Degrees
There is a total of 10 cybersecurity master’s degrees offered online from Florida schools. The Florida Institute of Technology’s programs are known to be particularly robust, and you can get either an MBA or MS in Cybersecurity to let you pursue pathways toward technical specialization or administration, respectively.
Other notable degrees include the University of South Florida’s, which emphasizes cyber intelligence and can lead to jobs for the government. This same school also offers a degree in digital forensics: a perfect fit for future criminal justice professionals.
Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, St. Leo University, the University of West Florida, and the University of Central Florida all also offer at least one online degree program.
Campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs in Florida
More than any other cybersecurity education option, Florida has a ton of certificate opportunities both on-campus and online. A whopping 12 certificate options are available at various campus locations, with several of them being located at a single university.
The big schools watch out for are the University of West Florida, which offers two certificates, as well as the University of Florida and Valencia College, who also offer a pair. About half of the offered certificates are in cybersecurity by itself while the others are either in computer forensics or more generalized topics like intelligence analysis or hardware security.
The University of Florida’s certificate program may be a good choice for current cybersecurity professionals due to the presence of the FICS, described above.
A single certificate offered by the University of West Florida is an information security management, making it a viable option for future cybersecurity professionals who want to eventually administrate.
Online Certificate Programs
There are seven total online certificate options, with four of them being offered by the University of Florida alone. All of these or graduate certificates and allow one to specialize in a particular field or aspect of cybersecurity, including cyber intelligence, awareness and education, digital forensics, and information assurance.
The other certificates are offered by St. Petersburg College, Brenau University, and the University of West Florida.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Florida
Florida is actually home to several important companies that traditionally employ a surplus of cybersecurity professionals, such as Lockheed Martin or MacAulay-Brown. Both of these companies hold several offices in Florida, specifically in Tampa or Orlando. Miami and Melbourne are also good choices, both due to their metropolitan surplus of employment opportunities and proximity to several universities.
What’s more, is that seven members of the Cybersecurity 500 (a collection of the best companies in the cybersecurity industry) have presences in Florida. These companies are Easy Solutions, Citrix, Harris, INFOSIGHT, Appriver, Veriato, and KnowBe4. In short, there is ample employment opportunity in Florida for cybersecurity graduates, particularly if they can manage to get an internship while at school.
Finally, Florida’s status as a haven for old retirees has had an unintended effect of driving out many young people, leading to a shortage of able-bodied workers across the board. This is potentially bad for the state, but great for any job seeker.
Florida is currently looking for a large number of cybersecurity professionals according to CyberSeek. To date, around 24,600 total cybersecurity jobs are open, with the majority of these being cybersecurity analysts, engineers, consultants, or administrators. Basically, there are cybersecurity jobs open all across the experience range and several available for upper management.
The supply of cybersecurity workers to demand is about the national average, sitting around 2.0. This indicates that Florida isn’t any more or less likely to be friendly to job seekers than the rest of the country. Given the above data about how many jobs are needed, though, it’s clear that ambitious cybersecurity professionals should be able to find employment without too much trouble.
In terms of salary, Florida is competitive compared to more rural states like Maine or Louisiana, which is practically next door. Average hourly salaries hover around $44, while annual salaries are around $92,000 per year. Both of these salaries can lead to excellent quality of life depending on where you live in Florida.
While many of the coastal cities have a very high cost of living, particularly due to their status as resort and vacation hotspots, inner Florida is known to have a low cost of living. As a state, Florida is a bit on the expensive side compared to the US average, though cybersecurity jobs are also lucrative compared to salaries on average.
Florida and Cybersecurity
All in all, Florida isn’t the busiest or the most developed state when it comes to cybersecurity education and work opportunities. But like many other states in the country, it’s rapidly developing and has several unique perks, including a few major cybersecurity companies, within its borders that make it a viable option, particularly if you already live in Florida or want to go to school there.