This guide is a brief overview of the cybersecurity schools in Massachusetts. Included in the guide are other cybersecurity educational opportunities including online degrees and certification programs.
Massachusetts is best known for Boston, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard, but this small northeastern state has much more economic muscle than its tight borders would suggest.
Also known as The Bay State, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has far and away the largest economy in New England. Part of this muscle comes from its centuries-old and rich shipping industry, but the state has reinvented its economy several times over the years.
Presently, it has thriving business communities in technology, financial institutions, healthcare, education, and tourism. The Boston metropolitan region represents about 80 percent of the state’s economy, including its world-class healthcare and higher education institutions.
State powers have long adopted the attitude that Massachusetts will take a leadership role in whatever social and economic trends are molding society in general. In the late 20th century it was technology and healthcare. Later the state was at the forefront of environmental legislation, and more recently healthcare insurance for the masses.
One of the key ambitions of the state at present is to become a leading force in cybersecurity, both in terms of its own preparation and attracting the best cybersecurity minds and enterprises to reside in Massachusetts. So while Massachusetts’ rich and storied history is so often the topic of conversation, its present and future appear to be very bright in the cybersecurity department.
Growing importance of cybersecurity in Massachusetts
Healthcare and financial institutions have long been among the leading economic forces in Massachusetts. These days, they are also among the leading targets for cyber hackers. There are 12 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Massachusetts. Three of those are financial intermediaries – State Street Corp., Liberty Mutual, and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. And the state is a major center for venture capitalists.
Massachusetts made a concerted effort in the late 20th century to attract technology companies of all types and make itself a center of technology. The efforts were successful. Other members of the Fortune 500 based in Massachusetts include General Electric, Boston Scientific, Raytheon, Biogen, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
The state government has made efforts in recent years to educate government employees and citizens of the risks associated with information security. And it has provided educational resources to help local governments protect their systems and information as well. It also initiated MassCyberCenter in September 2017. Its mission is to both ensure the state’s residents and organizations are prepared for cyber attacks, and to nurture its cybersecurity ecosystem and position it as a leading source of information security services and research.
Cybersecurity education in Massachusetts
As state government makes strides to pull Massachusetts into a cybersecurity leadership role, education options are beginning to take root. One of the big draws for Massachusetts students is the number of quality higher learning institutions, particularly in the Boston area. This region is also home to several elite universities, including Harvard, Worcester Polytechnic, and Northeastern. All three of these schools have put together programs for cybersecurity degrees.
While the sheer number of degree and certification programs currently found in Massachusetts is not overwhelming, students have a strong list of options. Harvard and Northeastern are both fully engaged in bringing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to the marketplace. And several other highly-regarded institutions are in the mix as well.
Whichever degree options students choose, they will be greeted by a rapidly growing job market that is lacking an adequate number of qualified applicants for open jobs.
The cybersecurity job market is evolving quickly, and undergraduate and graduate degrees are in more demand than ever.
But, in part due to the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, associate’s degrees still have a place in the industry. There are ample entry-level job openings requiring an associate’s degree that can provide a foot in the door for those lacking the time or resources to complete a bachelor’s degree.
The coursework leading to an associate’s degree can also be used as credit toward a bachelor’s degree to reduce the time and resources required to complete a four-year degree.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Massachusetts
At present, four colleges are offering campus-based programs leading to associate’s degrees in cybersecurity. These are listed in the below table.
Online associate’s degrees in Massachusetts
For those in need of a more convenient path than attending classes in a campus setting, associate’s degrees in cybersecurity can also be acquired via online delivery. At present, though, there are only two such options available in Massachusetts.
- Massachusetts Bay Community College provides an online program leading to an associate in science degree in cybersecurity.
- Quinsigamond Community College offers an online associate in science degree in computer science engineering technology with a forensics option.
At a minimum, bachelor’s degrees are now required for most information security career paths. And while a degree in most technology or STEM disciplines is often acceptable, degrees in some cybersecurity discipline give applicants an upper hand. And as master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s become more widely sought after by cybersecurity employers, one generally needs a bachelor’s degree to qualify for postgraduate degrees.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Massachusetts
At this writing, there were five distinct bachelor’s degree programs offered by five different Massachusetts colleges. Headlining this group are Worcester Polytech and Northeastern. The full list is shown below.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Massachusetts
Massachusetts colleges currently offer but one option to obtain a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree via an online format. This program, presented by Bay State University, is a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in digital forensics and cybersecurity.
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity are becoming more common, and are definitely the preferred path for senior cybersecurity professionals in a corporate setting. Many employers seeking candidates for advanced information security positions such as Chief Information Security Officer are now requiring master’s degrees. For those destined for non-corporate environments, master’s degrees are also highly-recommended for careers in cybersecurity consulting, academics or research. And, of course, continuing on to a Ph.D. will help advance an infosec career even further.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Massachusetts
As the below table indicates, Massachusetts is home to six campus-based cybersecurity master’s degree programs. Four of these options are offered by Boston University. The other two programs are available from Northeastern University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. More information on these degree options is shown in the table below.
Online master’s degrees in Massachusetts
Massachusetts colleges also have strong options for master’s degrees in cybersecurity offered through online deliveries. There are currently six online options offered by respected universities, headlined by Harvard. See below for more information and links.
Currently, just one Massachusetts university has developed a Ph.D. program for cybersecurity. Worcester Polytechnic Institute provides a campus-based option for a Ph.D. in computer science with a cybersecurity focus. There are presently no Ph.D. programs available from Massachusetts institutions for cybersecurity professionals.
Some cybersecurity certifications are designed to provide an introduction to information security and potentially a foot in the door, or at least a step up on attaining a degree. Other certification programs are intended for those currently working in cybersecurity to further their education, or even as a substitute to a full advanced degree. Both types of certificates are available through Massachusetts learning institutions, with an emphasis on advanced certificates.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Massachusetts
There are seven certification options in cybersecurity offered by Massachusetts colleges. See the table below for more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Massachusetts
Nine certification programs are available from Massachusetts colleges via online formats. These are listed below:
Cybersecurity jobs in Massachusetts
Among Northeast US states, Massachusetts and New York stand out as hot spots for cybersecurity activity. What Massachusetts lacks in physical size it makes up for in economic power. And the focus of the economy is one reason cybersecurity is so critical. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research, in 2019 healthcare and education organizations were by far the largest employers in the state. Healthcare companies have become a favored target for hackers due to the large amount of personal and confidential information they procure and store. The second largest employment sector in Massachusetts is professional and business services, also prolific sources of confidential data.
Massachusetts, like the rest of the country, is experiencing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. According to Cyberseek, from October 2018 through September 2019, Massachusetts had just over 25,000 people employed in cybersecurity-related positions and about 13,400 cybersecurity job openings were posted by Bay State employers. Of those openings, more than 11,600 were in the Boston metropolitan area. Boston has an extremely high concentration of health and education institutions, not to mention being the second biggest financial center in the Northeast behind New York City.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of May, 2018, cybersecurity analysts in Massachusetts earned an average of $52.11 per hour, and an average annual salary of $108,400. Both pay rates are well above the national averages. The one downside in Massachusetts is its high standard of living and high tax burden. Both are among the highest in the country. Still, there will be plenty of lucrative employment opportunities in Massachusetts, and the Boston area in particular, for years to come.
The list of cybersecurity job titles in Massachusetts is headlined by the following:
- Cybersecurity Engineer
- Cybersecurity Analyst
- Cybersecurity Administrator/Manager
- Software Developer/Engineer
- Cybersecurity Consultant
- Penetration Tester/Vulnerability Assessor
- Network Engineer/Architect
- Systems Engineer
- IT Auditor
Cybersecurity in Massachusetts
Since its earliest days, even as a colony, Massachusetts has always defied its small size and been a major force economically. While its access to the Atlantic Ocean has obviously provided an advantage, the people of Massachusetts continue to adopt an attitude of leadership. Today, the commonwealth is determined to be a leader in cybersecurity, and there is no reason to doubt that it will accomplish just that.
The state certainly has plenty of highly regarded, and even elite colleges and universities to train and educate tomorrow’s cybersecurity leaders. And the government is fully behind developing the technology and capacity to keep Massachusetts’ information safe. Like everywhere else, there is already a shortage of qualified professionals, and demand is growing rapidly.