This guide is intended as a brief overview of cybersecurity schools in Minnesota. It includes information about all levels of degree options (including certifications and online degree options) and discusses how cybersecurity fits into Minnesota’s healthy economy.
Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Its official motto is L’Étoile du Nord, or Star of the North. It’s probably best known for its harsh winters, but the state has one of the highest standards of living in America, and is one of the wealthiest as well. Its population is heavily focused on metropolitan areas, particularly Minneapolis-St. Paul, or the “Twin Cities.” This area alone is home to approximately 55% of all Minnesota residents.
The state’s economy is well-diversified and includes several technology industries. Currently, 33 of the nation’s 1,000 largest publicly-traded companies call Minnesota home, including Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, General Mills, and US Bancorp. In addition to the traditional natural resource and agriculture-based economy, Minnesota also has a thriving base of healthcare, financial, and manufacturing companies. These industries are all heavy users of cybersecurity services.
The growing importance of cybersecurity in Minnesota
Minnesota is no stranger to the cybersecurity risks facing the world. Target’s computer system breach in 2013 was one of the most widely reported ever. Given the concentration of economic activity and large corporate home offices in the Twin Cities region, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of cybersecurity activity takes place there.
The state’s government has taken election cybersecurity very seriously and is taking steps to ensure voting integrity in 2020. The state has also published a general set of guidelines to provide direction toward improving cybersecurity practices for all organizations, called the Information Security Strategic Plan.
The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence was founded to assist both educators and employers expand and enhance the state’s readiness for all things IT, including cybersecurity. Hosted by Metropolitan State University, the center hosts a job board called IT Connect, as well as IT events and other portholes for students, employers, and educators to join forces and learn about best practices.
Among the resources provided by the Center is MN Cyber, whose focus is entirely on cybersecurity. Its mission is to grow and improve the state’s cybersecurity workforce, enhance educational activity, act as a clearinghouse for information related to cybersecurity, and attract new financial, healthcare, transportation and technology companies to the state for the heavy dependence on cybersecurity services.
MN Cyber’s two most important initiatives are MN Cyber Academy and MN Cyber Range. The Academy provides classes leading to certifications and designed to improve skills most desired by employers looking for cybersecurity professionals.
The range is a world-class training and simulation platform located that utilizes real-world scenarios and innovative technologies to prepare cyber defense teams for the task of protecting crucial information, systems and operations.
Cybersecurity education in Minnesota
Considering the wealth and economic activity in Minnesota, there exists a somewhat limited array of higher education options for cybersecurity professionals. Still, institutions do offer a range of degree and certification programs for both students residing in Minnesota and those located out-of-state. Expect these options to increase in the future as awareness of the critical nature of cybersecurity continues to spread.
Associate’s degrees provide a good foundation for breaking into cybersecurity through certain entry-level positions. They are a perfect option for those lacking the time or resources to complete a full four-year degree program. With an associate’s degree, professionals can enhance their careers as the opportunities present themselves by obtaining industry certifications, or possibly utilizing the associate’s degree to complete a bachelor’s degree program. Credits are often transferrable toward getting a bachelor’s degree.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Minnesota
Two community colleges provide paths to cybersecurity associates degrees through on-campus formats. Students can acquire an AAS degree in Network Technology and Security at Inver Hills Community College. An AAS in Computer Forensics is available from Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
Online associate’s degrees in Minnesota
There are currently three options provided by Minnesota learning institutions to acquire associate’s degrees via an online format. These are listed below.
Bachelor’s degrees are required for most information security career paths past entry-level positions. Degrees in cybersecurity specifically, while not usually required, can provide an advantage for job hunters over those educated in other disciplines, like general computer science or information technology.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Minnesota
All four campus-based bachelor’s degree programs available in Minnesota are offered by Metropolitan State University. The specific degree options are listed below.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Minnesota
Currently, there are just two options for bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity online. Both are offered by Walden University. The BS degrees available are in Information Technology: Cybersecurity and Forensics, or Computer Information Systems: Cybersecurity for Information Systems.
Master’s degrees in cybersecurity are usually only required for senior-level positions such as Chief Information Security Officer. Some security consultant posts also call for master’s degrees, as do professorial or research careers in cybersecurity. But increasingly, master’s degrees are being viewed as necessary achievements for a variety of cybersecurity positions.
Campus-based Master’s Degrees in Minnesota
Two Minnesota colleges currently offer cybersecurity master’s degrees through an on-campus presentation.
- The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities offers an MS in Computer Science with a concentration in Computer and Network Security
- Saint Cloud State University has a program for an MS in Information Assurance
Online Master’s Degrees in Minnesota
Three Minnesota colleges currently offer master’s degrees in cybersecurity through online formats. See below for more information and links.
Currently, there are no Minnesota educators offering Ph.D.’s in cybersecurity. This will likely change in the near future as cybersecurity Ph.D.’s become more sought after by employers. In the meantime, there are plenty of online Ph.D. programs available for Minnesota residents, and the options are growing quickly.
Cybersecurity certifications provide an avenue for current cybersecurity professionals to further their education and enhance their resumes. They also give those considering a career in cybersecurity an introduction to the skills and techniques required, as well as a head start toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Minnesota
Currently, three colleges offer five options for certifications in cybersecurity disciplines. Two of these certifications are more advanced programs for those already holding a bachelor’s degree. The below table provides detailed information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Minnesota
If online certification programs are preferred, there are four available from Minnesota institutions. One of these is a master’s level certification program. All four options are listed below:
Cybersecurity jobs in Minnesota
For every high-profile cybersecurity breach that is reported in the press, there are believed to be hundreds more that are kept private for organizational reputation purposes. So for as much as the public has been made aware of the growing problem, most are still blithely naïve about the full extent of what’s happening today in cyberspace. And the problem is becoming more acute nearly every day.
The primary reason for the expectation that cybersecurity will continue to become a growing problem for the foreseeable future – a large and growing shortage of skilled and qualified professionals dedicated to eradicating the problem.
Minnesota falls in line with the national averages for cybersecurity workforce supply shortfall. According to Cyberseek, between October 2018 and September 2019 Minnesota was home to 17,711 cybersecurity employees.
At the same time, there were 8,297 job openings for cybersecurity professionals. About 15,100 of the state’s cybersecurity workforce is located in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where about 7,350 of the job openings were found. The Twin Cities is definitely the place to be for Minnesota cybersecurity professionals.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research concluded that in May 2018, security analysts made an average hourly wage of $46.65 and an annual salary of just over $97,000.
Cybersecurity in Minnesota
Minnesota is an above-average state economically, and cybersecurity awareness is growing.
Nearly all activity in cybersecurity is concentrated on the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region as this is by far the most economically active and diverse area in the state. Education options for cybersecurity are surprisingly limited, but there are still enough options are available for most professionals to get the career boosts they desire.
And with state government initiatives spreading the word and providing the industry with opportunities to collaborate and hone the skills of their employees, the future of cybersecurity in Minnesota appears bright.