The following guide summarizes cybersecurity degree programs in Idaho. The guide also includes basic information about the cybersecurity industry in Idaho.
Idaho is richly endowed with beautiful mountains, rivers, and other natural wonders that have long made it a favored playground for vacationers and adventurers. Traditionally, tourism has made up a large part of Idaho’s economy. But, in the last several decades, Idaho’s economy has been driven by science and technology companies.
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Electronic products and components account for as much as three-quarters of the state’s exports. Micron Technology and Sun Microsystems both maintain headquarters in Idaho, although Sun is now owned by Oracle Corporation. Hewlett-Packard also still makes laser printers there.
Other industry sectors employing much of Idaho’s workforce include professional and business services, trade and transportation, healthcare and education, and government. So while the cybersecurity workforce in Idaho is small today, there are ample high-value targets for cybercriminals. Demand for information security services is therefore growing and will continue to do so.
Cybersecurity climate in Idaho
The cybersecurity community in Idaho is relatively small, but still active and engaged. There are several regular meeting venues. For example, the annual Idaho Cybersecurity Interdependencies Summit is a series designed for cybersecurity professionals as well as people from any organization wishing to learn more about the threats to our data, systems, and networks. It is intended to “build public-private partnerships and advance Idaho’s resilience to cyber threats.”
The Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho is home to one of the nation’s primary cybersecurity facilities. INL is part of the US Department of Energy and conducts scientific and technological research on a broad range of specialties. Cybersecurity is one of those specialties. In fact, at this writing, INL’s careers page listed at least two open positions for cybersecurity specialists. The facility’s security efforts focus on protecting critical infrastructure, and cybersecurity is one major component of these efforts. It also provides educational programs and grants for K-12 students engaged in STEM topics.
Also in Idaho Falls, a group cybersecurity professionals has dedicated itself to establishing BSides Idaho Falls. BSides is a worldwide movement consisting of individual local chapters. The intent is to create community-driven frameworks for organizing events to engage all who are interested in an educational and networking interaction surrounding the latest issues in cybersecurity. The tiny town of Idaho Falls seems an unlikely place for such an effort, but likely because of the existence of INL there, it is becoming an increasingly active group that attracts participants from all over the northwest region of the US.
Cybersecurity education in Idaho
There aren’t a large number of options available for cybersecurity degrees and certifications offered by Idaho educators yet. Statewide, just 12 programs in total have been developed to date. But at least one school has assembled significant cybersecurity resources.
Established by the Idaho State Board of Education, the Center for Secure and Dependable Systems (CSDS) was developed by the University of Idaho within its Department of Computer Science. CSDS “supports and coordinates research and education in information assurance and cyber defense.” Created in 1999, CSDS received funding in 2012 to conduct cybersecurity research. It does so in partnership with private industry in Idaho. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated UI’s CSDS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD).
The UI CSDS faculty has also secured funding from the National Science Foundation for the Scholarship for Service Program. The program provides students the opportunity to work for the federal government in exchange for having their college costs paid. CSDS also holds an annual Cybersecurity Symposium. And every year UI’s Department of Computer Science enters teams of students in the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual CyberForce Competition.
The cybersecurity workforce is growing rapidly, but demand for qualified experts is growing even more quickly.
Cybersecurity is an extremely technical profession requiring broad knowledge of all things computers, as well as cybersecurity specialties. Thus bachelor’s degrees are a minimum qualification for most information security career paths.
In part due to the shortage of cybersecurity professionals, however, there are still many entry-level positions offered by employers willing to hire candidates with a two-year associate’s degree. Once firmly established in a cybersecurity career, however, professionals will be well served by returning to school to complete a bachelor’s degree program.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Idaho
There are now four campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degree programs on offer from Idaho schools. See the table below for more details.
Being on the front lines of cybersecurity defense operations today requires broad knowledge of systems, networks, programming, and data storage. This level of knowledge comes only with extensive education, training, and experience.
So it’s not too surprising that most cybersecurity careers today require at least a bachelor’s degree in some technological discipline. Most STEM-related degrees are often acceptable to employers in a job market where it’s difficult to find qualified candidates. But a bachelor’s degree in a cybersecurity specialty will provide a decided advantage, not only in the job hunt, but in getting acclimated to the real world of cybersecurity.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Idaho
At present, there is one cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program available from Idaho colleges and universities. It is a campus-based format offered by Boise State University called the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a Cybersecurity Minor.
The nature of cybersecurity is that it is ever-changing. It’s a constant cat and mouse game between hackers and those protecting the data, systems and networks of organizations around the world.
What this means is that the cybersecurity world requires unceasing technological advancement. Increasingly, education institutions, cybersecurity companies, and infosec think tanks are conducting research to continually move the defense of data forward.
Cybersecurity professionals engaged in such research are often seeking out master’s degrees. This is particularly true of educators. In addition, senior corporate information security executives are often finding it beneficial or even necessary to complete a master’s degree in cybersecurity.
Online master’s degrees in Idaho
The University of Idaho now has the only cybersecurity master’s degree program in Idaho: Master of Science in Computer Science – Information Assurance. Coursework is delivered in an online format. There are no campus-based master’s degree programs available from Idaho schools with an information security focus.
As is the case with many career categories, cybersecurity Ph.D. programs are largely desirable for those working in academia or research applications. Some high-level corporate professionals are seeking doctorate degrees in cybersecurity.
Campus-based Ph.D. programs in Idaho
The University of Idaho also provides the state’s only cybersecurity Ph.D. program, a campus-based degree: Ph.D. in Computer Assurance – Information Assurance. No online cybersecurity Ph.D. programs are being offered by Idaho schools at present.
Certification programs in technological specialties are now being offered for a variety of audiences for several purposes. Cybersecurity is one such specialty. Students can find certification programs that provide an introduction to a range of knowledge areas required for most jobs.
There are also certifications for certain specialists seeking to advance and update their knowledge of a chosen niche. And many cybersecurity certification programs are now designed to supplant, at least temporarily, complete degree programs. Whatever the need, students and professionals can benefit greatly from completing as many certifications as practical, both for resume building and the growth of skills and knowledge.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Idaho
There are now five cybersecurity certificate programs available in Idaho. All are provided in campus-based formats. No online programs have yet been developed. See the table below for more information.
Cybersecurity jobs in Idaho
Idaho is on the smaller side in relation to its cybersecurity market. And demand for new infosec experts is currently not outstripping the supply of professionals by as wide a margin as most other states.
Cyberseek reports that the state had 4,161 residents employed in some aspect of information security through September 2019. And over the 12 months prior, Idaho employers advertised new job openings for 1,331 cybersecurity employees. The Boise City area was the most active, showing new demand for 692 new workers. Coeur d’Alene was the next most lively area, having 162 job postings appear. The only other areas with significant demand were Idaho Falls (100) and Pocatello (80).
Using security analysts as a barometer for the cybersecurity pay scale in Idaho, it seems employers are paying about in line with the relative cost of living in the state. The average hourly wage as of May 2018 (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) was $41.63 and the average annual salary was $86,590. This is just a little below the national average pay rate. The state’s standard of living, though, is also just slightly below the national average, by only about 2 percent.
Cybersecurity in Idaho
That the cybersecurity community in Idaho is becoming such an active group speaks to the pervasive and critical nature of information security today. Even in a state so dominated by the lure of natural beauty and adventure, cybersecurity is essential to 21st-century life and economic health and stability. The Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls is certainly a contributor to this activity, but so too is the state’s economy. Reliance on technology companies and other organizations vulnerable to cyber attacks should ensure that Idaho’s cybersecurity community continues to grow and thrive in the future.