This guide provides an overview of cybersecurity in the state of Georgia. The information below is a summary of cybersecurity educational and career opportunities that now exist in Georgia. It also includes a review of economic conditions, particularly as it relates to the expected future growth of demand for Georgia cybersecurity services.
Georgia is the 24th largest state by geographic area, but 8th largest by population. About 60% of the state’s residents live in the Atlanta metropolitan area. And for the past few decades, the Atlanta region has provided most of the economic growth that has taken place in Georgia. Industries such as financial services and technology took root in the 1970s and 1980s, and are now mainstays for the state’s economy. Georgia is home to 17 Fortune 500 corporations, including Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS, SunTrust Banks, Anthem, and Honeywell.
In the past year, the state of Georgia has experienced strong demand for cybersecurity professionals. In terms of new cybersecurity job openings, Georgia ranked 8th in the country behind North Carolina. Aside from the large financial services industry, the state government has thrown its support behind developing the cybersecurity industry, in addition to fortifying the state’s information security readiness.
Growing importance of cybersecurity in Georgia
The state government created the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) “way back” in the year 2000. It was one of the first state-sponsored cybersecurity organizations established in the US. One of GTA’s missions is to ensure the security of the state’s information technology infrastructure.
Then in January, 2017,the governor announced the creation of the Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta, subsequently building a $100 million facility to house the Center. Its two-fold mission is to educate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and to support innovative cybersecurity companies based within the state.
In 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completed a case study of how the state of Georgia has organized and executed its efforts to maximize the cybersecurity in the state. The study was used as an example of successful cyber governance for other states to follow.
In 2018, the GTA initiated the Cybersecurity Workforce Academy within the Georgia Cyber Center to educate cybersecurity professionals working in state agencies. The Academy and the Center now collaborate to offer cybersecurity certificate programs. The Center is also involved with several undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity education programs.
In 2020, Fort Gordon in Augusta will become the national U.S. Army Cyber Command central post for all of the U.S. Army’s Cybersecurity Operations. The plan calls for more than 4,700 high-tech military personnel to be relocated to Georgia. The Command center will include a “cyber range” to provide real-world cyber warfare training and technology research. In addition to enhancing the nation’s information security, the state intends to use it to help train young students showing an interest in cybersecurity.
Like everywhere, Georgia’s economic strength will be largely dependent upon the state’s ability to educate and attract cybersecurity professionals in the future. The government and business community are already acutely aware of what needs to be done. Unlike many other states, Georgia is taking the challenge seriously, which should make it a hospitable place for the cybersecurity industry to thrive.
Cybersecurity education in Georgia
With support from the state government, Georgia’s colleges and universities are taking their role in cybersecurity efforts seriously, particularly the state university system. There are already 8 schools that have been awarded the NSA’s designation for Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD), including: Augusta University, Columbus State University, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, Middle Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of North Georgia.
Georgia Tech has developed a Cyber and Network Security Boot Camp for information security beginners. The program consists of 24 weeks of night and weekend courses to introduce information technology professionals and novices to cybersecurity. The intent is to produce students knowledgeable in many different aspects of cybersecurity.
The University of Georgia created the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy (ICSP) in Athens, Georgia. ICSP’s mission is to be “a state hub for cybersecurity research and education.” The NSA has designated the institute as a CAE in Cybersecurity Research.
In 2004, Kennesaw State was the first US educational institution to be recognized by the NSA as a CAE and has continued to hold various CAE designations ever since. The school’s Institute for Cybersecurity Workforce Development was founded to oversee the school’s cybersecurity education programs, and to work with state authorities to assist in public information security efforts.
Given the state’s determination to be a leading influencer in cybersecurity and the resources being brought to bear by the state university system, there are likely few states better suited to provide a quality education, learning environment, and post-graduation career opportunities than Georgia. This is particularly true for undergraduate degrees. Bachelor’s degree and certificate programs are plentiful in Georgia. At present, though, there is a lack of associate’s and Ph.D. programs, but we expect that to be remedied in coming years.
Associate’s degrees in cybersecurity generally require only a year or two to complete, so they provide a good alternative to bachelor’s degrees for those lacking the time and resources to complete a four-year program.
There are ample entry-level cybersecurity jobs available for which employers are happy to accept associate’s degree graduates. Once a foothold in cybersecurity has been established, professionals can return to school for a bachelor’s degree when time and money permit. Making the next step easier, associate’s degree coursework can often be used as credit toward fulfilling bachelor’s degree requirements.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Georgia
There are just two associate degree programs for cybersecurity currently available in Georgia. Both are campus-based formats, with no online degree programs on offer as yet. Augusta Technical College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity degree program. Georgia Military College has a program leading to an Associate’s Degree in Cybersecurity.
While some cybersecurity employers require only an associate’s degree for entry-level job openings, most information security positions now call for at least a bachelor’s degree. A BS in a cybersecurity specialty may not be demanded. Often, employers will require a technology major, preferably in a STEM-based discipline. But majoring or having a concentration in cybersecurity will certainly be viewed favorably over other technology majors.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Georgia
Georgia schools may not have many options for associate’s degrees in cybersecurity, but they make up for it with their numerous bachelor’s degree programs. Currently, there are nine campus-based cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs available in Georgia. See the table below for additional information.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Georgia
Georgia schools are now offering an additional five cybersecurity bachelor’s degree options via online formats. See the table below for more information.
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity are definitely growing in importance in the industry. Management-level information security jobs are increasingly demanding applicants have a graduate degree in a cybersecurity specialty. C-suite corporate positions like Chief Information Security Officer almost always now require a master’s degree, and sometimes even a PhD. Also, cybersecurity professionals choosing to pursue a career in academia, cybersecurity research, or cybersecurity consulting are now finding master’s degrees beneficial for landing quality positions.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Georgia
At present, Georgia colleges and universities have just three campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees on offer. Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, and Clark Atlanta University is offering a program leading to an MS in Computer Science with a concentration in Computer Networks and Security. Columbus State University has a Cybersecurity Management (MS) and a Applied Computer Science (MS)
Online master’s degrees in Georgia
For those preferring the convenience of online coursework, there are now three online cybersecurity master’s degree programs available from Georgia colleges and universities. See the table below.
Cybersecurity certifications are perfect vehicles for students just starting out in cybersecurity and for experienced professionals. A range of various types of certification programs is available depending on individual circumstances and needs.
Trying to decide if cybersecurity is the right career? Try a certification program designed to provide an introduction to information security. When it comes time to apply for entry-level positions in cybersecurity, these certifications will prove to be an advantage.
For professionals already in the midst of a cybersecurity career, certifications are available in distinct specialties such as penetration testing. These specialized infosec certifications will increase knowledge and potentially help move careers forward.
Some cybersecurity certifications are designed as substitutes for advanced degrees, or at least to serve as early coursework toward a master’s degree.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Georgia
Georgia colleges and universities now offer campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs. The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Georgia
There are also five cybersecurity certificate programs available from Georgia schools via online access. These are listed below:
Cybersecurity jobs in Georgia
Compared to other states in the US, Georgia has a very high concentration of cybersecurity job demand. There are more than 120 cybersecurity companies based in the state of Georgia, including IBM Security Services, generating nearly $5 billion in annual revenues. Cyberseek reports that there were 35,508 cybersecurity professionals employed in the state of Georgia in the 12 months ended September 2019. There were also 18,368 new information security jobs posted by Georgia employers during that time. The Atlanta metropolitan area is by far the biggest contributor to the cybersecurity job postings with 14,563 in the last year. The next closest region in Georgia (Augusta) experienced less than 1,000 cybersecurity job openings.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, security analysts in Georgia had an average hourly wage of $45.43, and the average annual salary was $94,490. This is about in line with or slightly lower than national averages. But Georgia also sports a standard of living about 7% below the national average. Housing is the biggest reason for the lower cost of living, but most other things tend to be relatively inexpensive in Georgia also. And even in the Atlanta area, housing is substantially cheaper than the US average.
Cybersecurity in Georgia
Georgia is already one of the leading states in the country for cybersecurity, and everything is being done to ensure that it continues to hold a leadership role. The existing cybersecurity industry is one of the largest in the country and growing rapidly. The US Army will open its cybersecurity central command in 2020. The state government and educational institutions have thrown their full support into ensuring Georgia has a strong supply of new cybersecurity professionals. And a growing economic base has a critical need for infosec services. With these advantages, Georgia promises to be a prime location for up-and-coming cybersecurity professionals for the foreseeable future.