This guide is about how Illinois ranks as a place to pursue both cybersecurity education and a place to find cybersecurity-related employment after graduation. Home to the fourth-most-important business center in the world, Illinois is a state whose cybersecurity landscape is rapidly developing. All that development is sure to need an influx of new cybersecurity professionals to fill positions in both the private and public sectors.
Cybersecurity development in Illinois
Illinois is both an urban and rural state, with the third-largest city in the United States (Chicago) and a very robust economy spread among many industries, including farming, manufacturing, banking, and finance. In fact, there are several Fortune 500 companies that have homes in Chicago or other and that require cybersecurity professionals.
As an example, Boeing, United, State Farm, and Allstate all have significant presences in Illinois who require top-tier cybersecurity to protect customer information from hackers. This is especially true for the last two names, as Illinois’ biggest industry is insurance.
This has resulted in a 164 percent growth rate for cybersecurity job postings over the last decade – easily making Illinois one of the more rapidly developing states in this area. This is partially because Illinois is focusing on a new cybersecurity strategy. This state-mandated strategy involves funding for universities and expanding its partnerships with private and public sector cybersecurity firms and companies.
The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology has taken steps to ensure the state’s digital security, as well as that of its citizens.
Cybersecurity education in Illinois
Although there is currently lots of cybersecurity development occurring throughout Illinois, most of it is centered around its universities and colleges, which drive the majority of its cybersecurity research and host most of its conferences. As a result, Illinois features a multitude of cybersecurity education options.
Campus-based cybersecurity associate degrees in Illinois
Associate degrees are excellent starting places for those who have no background in computer science or cybersecurity. They generally introduce cybersecurity as a concept with a heavy collection of foundational computer science courses but they are usually not enough by themselves to secure a position in the cybersecurity field. However, they are great steppingstones to a bachelor’s level or higher degree in cybersecurity.
At this time, there are no universities in Illinois that offer associate-level degrees in cybersecurity through online programs. Instead, there are six on-campus associate cybersecurity programs to choose from:
Campus cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees in Illinois
Bachelor’s degrees are the next step above an associate-level degree, and generally, they incorporate a broader concentration on cybersecurity concepts and more specialized classes. It’s possible to obtain a job in the cybersecurity field with a bachelor’s degree, though many proceed into graduate-level education for higher job placement or managerial responsibilities.
In Illinois, there are five on-campus bachelor’s degree options, with two of them from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is particularly notable because it’s often considered one of the country’s best cybersecurity schools, especially because it makes use of the Illinois Cybersecurity Scholars Program. This program fast tracks students who wish to study cybersecurity and can provide financial aid opportunities if you need assistance paying for college.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees
The University of Illinois at Springfield has an excellent online bachelor’s option, with a BS in Information Systems Security. This does require two semesters of Java programming experience for all applicants, but it provides an extensive education surrounding the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity.
Southern Illinois University also features a BS in Information Systems Technologies, allowing for an emphasis in network and information security. While not a strictly cybersecurity degree, it covers many of the same topics and provides you with a broad background of computer science knowledge to afford you a multitude of career paths.
Purdue University is another excellent choice, as its Global University online education programs are renowned for their rigor and academic excellence. They provide a pure BS in Cybersecurity, marking them as a top choice for students who know exactly what they want to progress into for a career.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees in Illinois
Master’s degrees are a step above bachelor’s. These programs are usually quite intense and are focused even more on specific cybersecurity concepts, often allowing for specialization and for research-oriented career placement.
Illinois offers four master’s level degrees for cybersecurity:
Online master’s degrees
Lewis University also offers a match of their on-campus program through the online format, with an MSIS with a cybersecurity concentration. This exceptional degree option is perfect for future or current cybersecurity professionals.
DePaul offers an MS in Computer, Information, and Network Security, though it’s one of the few universities that doesn’t require students to have a tech background to apply. Instead, its introductory courses will help catch non-tech background students up to others in the program, though this may require taking a longer time to complete the program and someone with a cybersecurity background.
Students can continue their online bachelor’s education from Purdue with a master’s program; it’s an MS in Cybersecurity Management. This is a program that combines many IT courses with classes that material covered in other cybersecurity degree programs.
Finally, Northwestern’s own MSIS program allows students to specialize in information systems security and is another good choice for people that don’t have a background in IT your computer science. It also incorporates many classes about management; thus, this program and Purdue’s may be good choices for future cybersecurity administrators.
Campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs in Illinois
Certificates are not strictly necessary to obtain a job in the cybersecurity industry. But they do signify skills in particular cybersecurity aspects, programming languages, or operations, so they can make you a more attractive employee or allow you to hold positions horizontal to your actual field (as a forensic cybersecurity specialist, for example).
There are 11 on-campus certificate options throughout Illinois’ universities. Rock Valley College is a good place to get multiple certificates from the same school, with other universities only offering one.
Online Certificate Programs
There are seven total online certificate options from Illinois universities, with the Illinois Institute of Technology offering three, and at different levels of education. Purdue is another excellent choice, though both of their certificates are at the post-baccalaureate level.
Cybersecurity jobs in Illinois
To determine how well the cybersecurity industry is doing in Illinois, we can look to CyberSeek.org.
There are currently 40,299 employed cybersecurity professionals compared to 17,753 open cybersecurity positions. This puts the ratio of cybersecurity worker supply/demand at 2.3, compared to a national average of 2.0. In simplified terms, there is plenty of opportunity and demand for new cybersecurity workers in this state.
Job spread is pretty good, too, with titles ranging from entry-level positions like cybersecurity analysts and engineers to systems engineers to cybersecurity managers and administrators.
The average hourly salary for cybersecurity workers in Illinois is $47.42, which translates to an annual yearly salary of about $98,640. Given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics records that the median wage for many IT positions is only $86,000, this shows that it can truly pay to work in cybersecurity in Illinois.
How far does that money stretch? On a scale with the US average cost of living being rated as “100”, Illinois is cheaper than the average with a rating of “93.4”. This means that every dollar you earn from your cybersecurity position will go further, even if you live in Chicago.
Illinois and Cybersecurity
Overall, Illinois is a fantastic state for those considering pursuing cybersecurity as a career. There’s a multitude of high-quality educational opportunities, plus many high-status companies with which to pursue employment once you have your degree and related certificates.