This is a comprehensive guide to choosing a cybersecurity school in Iowa as well as other cybersecurity certification and training options.
Although Iowa isn’t exactly a developed hub of digital infrastructure the same way as states like New York or California, it’s still the location of several important companies and is a commercial hub for the entire country. As time goes on, Iowa is developing with more tech companies in its major cities and universities.
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As of now, Iowa is one of the seven states collectively called the “Silicon Prairie,” and its cybersecurity focus is likely to grow. Let’s take a look at this state and see what it can offer for those wanting to study cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity education in Iowa
Cybersecurity education in Iowa is centered largely around Iowa State University. It’s the only school in Iowa as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and Research: a title meaning that the NSA takes interesting graduates from this university. Iowa State University has a virtual laboratory to train students across all grade levels about cybersecurity and to inspire competitions and research.
Campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degrees in Iowa
An associate degree in cybersecurity is an excellent choice for people that don’t already have a background in computer science. They’ll provide students with the fundamentals of the subject along with other IT knowledge.
There are five on-campus associate degree options for aspiring cybersecurity students in Iowa. Of these, two are found at Western Iowa Tech Community College. These degrees are in applied science in cybersecurity and digital crime and network administration and security, respectively. Both will be suitable for individuals looking to get a start in this field.
Campus cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees in Iowa
Bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity are where things really get interesting. These degrees provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the subject and enable them to get cybersecurity jobs from major companies or organizations. Some students stop here and proceed straight into the cybersecurity workforce, while others will proceed to graduate-level education to become administrators or further specialize in the cybersecurity field.
Iowa students have an easy choice, as it’s the only one available in the state: the University of Dubuque, the only university in Iowa offering a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Here, you’ll be able to earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Forensics and Security. It’s a great match for those who enjoy cybersecurity and want to marry that interest with criminal justice.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees in Iowa
Master’s degrees are extremely valuable because they mark graduates as well-versed in the cybersecurity field and provide them with further opportunities for specialization. These degrees make graduates well prepared for cybersecurity jobs in a variety of circumstances and in both government and private organizations. See the table below for more information about cybersecurity master’s degrees in Iowa.
Online master’s degrees
Iowa’s master’s degree options are reversed from their bachelor degree opportunities. The only master’s level degrees in Iowa are available via online formats. In this case, Iowa State University offers the only two cybersecurity-related degrees in the state.
One is an MS in information assurance. This is a general degree that will enable you to serve in a variety of cybersecurity fields, particularly in finance or data-heavy industries. The other is a Master of Engineering in Information Assurance.
The main difference between these two degrees is that the former is better suited for research and further academic progress, while the latter is widely considered to be a terminal degree that’s best for those who want to head into the field. The MS degree comes with a thesis or non-thesis track while the Master of Engineering does not require a thesis.
Both degree options are difficult to get into and academically rigorous. They usually only accept students with at least three years of work experience.
Campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs in Iowa
Cybersecurity certificates can be useful to both professionals in the field and newcomers. They’re short-term, specialized programs that team you a single aspect or skill relating to cybersecurity. Certificate program participants can use these programs to obtain new cybersecurity jobs or qualifications or investigate cybersecurity as a field.
Des Moines Area Community College and Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar both offer on-campus cybersecurity certificates: the former is in digital forensic investigation and the latter is in general information security.
Online certificate programs
Meanwhile, Iowa State University offers an online certificate for information assurance at the graduate level. This certificate is perfect for those who don’t have a graduate degree in cybersecurity but want to move into the cybersecurity field using an existing but related degree, like business or computer science. Alternatively, you can use the certificate and transfer its progress to one of the above master’s degrees.
It’s only four courses and is just as difficult to get into as either master’s program.
Cybersecurity jobs in Iowa
As a small, rural state, cybersecurity job openings compared to many other states are low, as is the existing cybersecurity workforce. CyberSeek.org can provide us data about both metrics.
There are about 6,539 total cybersecurity job openings and 9,140 currently employed cybersecurity workers according to CyberSeek.
Job titles for cybersecurity employees in Iowa as just as varied as they are in other states, however. There are plenty of entry-level cybersecurity analysts and risk consultants, and also several positions for cybersecurity managers and administrators.
Ultimately, Iowa’s capital of Des Moines will be the best place to look for cybersecurity employment. As a metropolitan center, Des Moines is a focal point for business and finance in the state. Wells Fargo, a well-known banking company, has a significant presence in Iowa centered around Des Moines. Nationwide, an insurance company, also provides lots of economic activity in the city.
Furthermore, tech companies such as Integrity and Dwolla have presences in Des Moines. These may be great steppingstones to further cybersecurity employment for professionals starting in Iowa.
Iowan cybersecurity salaries are comparable to those found for employees in other states, although they are on the lower end of the scale. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average hourly salary for an Iowan cybersecurity professional in 2021 is at $60.41 with a yearly salary of about $125,650. Ultimately, this salary will go quite a long way in Iowa due to a lower cost of living. Even in Des Moines, individuals should be able to make the most of their earnings.
Iowa and cybersecurity
Overall, Iowa can be a great place to study cybersecurity. As it develops and its digital infrastructure becomes more solidified, those who were here at the beginning of its transition into a true “Silicon Prairie” may find themselves quite comfortable.