This guide outlines some of the emerging cybersecurity schools in Kansas as well as some of the and career opportunities available to students and professionals in the state.
Agriculture, including both farming and ranching, have always been the highest-profile sector of the Kansas economy. In the 20th century, oil and natural gas also became important factors, but these have been declining for years now.
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Today, aerospace, telecommunications, and consumer goods manufacturing are prominent contributors. The largest employment sectors in the state include healthcare and education, professional and business services, trade and transportation, and leisure and hospitality.
Kansas is also home to a number of large corporations. Sprint Corporation, Payless Shoes, Koch Industries, Coleman, Textron Aviation, Spirit AeroSystems, and Bombardier Aerospace are all headquartered in Kansas. US military installations also provide a significant boost with three large bases now located in Kansas: McConnell Air Force Base, Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Riley.
It may not have a big-time economy, but the presence of some big league names and key economic sectors that are also prime targets for cybercrime mean cybersecurity will have a healthy home in Kansas.
Cybersecurity culture in Kansas
The cybersecurity industry in Kansas is limited thus far, but it is large enough and active enough to be worthwhile for any information security professionals to make a home and career there. And there is definitely a growing base of support and resources becoming available.
The Kansas Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is the Kansas chapter of SBDC. Its purpose is to assist small businesses with all aspects of developing a small business in today’s world. This, of course, now includes providing assessments of the cybersecurity practices of small businesses and providing training to upgrade readiness and response protocols.
The Kansas City Cyber Security Conference has now been held for three years running. This one-day event brings IT executives together for networking and information sharing about their experiences and concerns with regard to cybersecurity.
Women in Security, Kansas City (WiS-KC) is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 to provide women engaged in or students aspiring to careers in information security. WiS-KC provides mentors, networking opportunities such as monthly meetings, and resources such as scholarships and workshops to women at all levels of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity education in Kansas
In step with the size of the cybersecurity industry in Kansas, education options are somewhat limited in the state at present. But this is beginning to change. The University of Kansas and Kansas State University have stepped up and begun assembling degree programs and other resources for the industry. Wichita State University and Friends University have also developed two education programs for information security.
In 2016, the University of Kansas School of Engineering received a $4.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation under the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program. Students utilizing this program would have government jobs waiting for them upon graduation. KU has also developed a Cybersecurity Boot Camp, which takes place in Overland Park and provides a 24-month completion timeframe.
Kansas State University’s Center for Information and Systems Assurance has received recognition from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research.
Cybersecurity is an extremely technical field requiring extensive training. However, there are still many entry-level positions available that require only an associate’s degree. As associate’s degrees can be completed in two years or less, it can be a beneficial alternative for those lacking the time and resources to complete a four-year degree program.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Kansas
At present, there is just one cybersecurity associate’s degree program being offered in Kansas. Butler Community College has a program for an Associate in Applied Science in Cyber Security degree available on-campus in El Dorado, Kansas.
Bachelor’s degrees are now required for most cybersecurity jobs. Employers generally will accept candidates who majored in any of a number of technology-related disciplines. However, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, or at least with a concentration in some aspect of infosec, will provide an edge and expand potential career options.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Kansas
Kansas schools now offer five options for cybersecurity degrees with a cybersecurity focus and available with a campus-based format. More information on these programs is below.
Particularly as cybersecurity careers progress to higher levels of corporate management, master’s degrees are becoming more desirable. For professors of cybersecurity and those seeking to have careers in research or cybersecurity consulting, master’s degrees have become nearly essential.
Kansas colleges and universities now offer five distinct master’s degrees in cybersecurity, three via campus-based classroom work and two in online formats.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Kansas
As the below table indicates, Kansas schools offer three alternatives for on-campus cybersecurity master’s degrees, two from Friends University in Wichita, and one from the University of Kansas on its Lawrence campus.
Online master’s degrees in Kansas
For those preferring the convenience of online coursework, there are two cybersecurity master’s degree programs to choose from. Both of these are provided by Fort Hays State University: Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity and Master of Professional Studies in Information Assurance Management.
Certification programs can now be found with a variety of cybersecurity specialties and for nearly all career levels. Students just starting out, cybersecurity specialists looking to update or increase their expertise, or those seeking an advanced degree but lacking the time to complete one can all find appropriate certification programs. Thus far, though, Kansas schools have developed just two cybersecurity certifications. We expect more to be forthcoming.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Kansas
Just one campus-based cybersecurity certification program is currently on offer from Kansas schools, this from Butler Community College on its El Dorado campus – Certificate in Cyber Security.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Kansas
There is also one cybersecurity certification program available from Kansas schools via online access. Wichita State University provides coursework for a Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity jobs in Kansas
Kansas covers a good bit of territory in the Great Plains, but much of this territory is still dedicated to farms and ranches, nearly 90% by some estimates. Not surprisingly, therefore, the state’s cybersecurity presence is not large yet.
According to Cyberseek, during the 12 months that ended September 2019, Kansas was home to 6,524 employees working in some aspect of cybersecurity. Jayhawk state employers listed another 2,822 new information security jobs needing to be filled.
The bulk of the infosec activity is focused on the eastern border in and around Kansas City. Including both Kansas Cities (Missouri and Kansas), adjacent to each other on the border between the two states, there were over 3,700 cybersecurity job listings in the year through September 2019. The only other cities in Kansas with significant information assurance job postings were Wichita (458) and Topeka (266).
As of May 2018, security analysts in Kansas were garnering an average hourly wage of $41.42, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their average annual salary was $86,160. These are both about in line with or slightly below national averages. The standard of living in Kansas, however, is well below national averages, by about 17%.
Cybersecurity in Kansas
Considering that as much as 90 percent of the land in Kansas is dedicated to farming and ranching, the cybersecurity industry is surprisingly robust. However, by US standards drawn from other states, information security activity in Kansas is definitely on the small side. The presence of large companies based there and high-value information targets like healthcare and telecommunications have and will continue to make cybersecurity a rapidly growing business.