This guide is about cybersecurity educational and career opportunities in North Carolina. The following information covers cybersecurity degree program options in North Carolina, as well as some of the economic conditions contributing to the growth of the cybersecurity industry in North Carolina.
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North Carolina’s economy has undergone a massive redistribution over the last few decades. Three of the primary pillars that the state was built on earlier in the 20th century have all been in a major contractionary period. Tobacco farms as well as furniture and textile manufacturing were once the biggest drivers of North Carolina’s job market, particularly in rural areas.
Fortunately, the state has been able to supplant these industries with new contributors, primarily financial intermediaries, biotechnology, information technology, healthcare, and research.
The bulk of this growth has taken place in the main urban centers of the state. But it has certainly been good news for cybersecurity professionals as these industries are important employers of infosec experts. Bank of America is one of the highest-profile names among North Carolina employers, but not the only one. Lowe’s, US Trust, Family Dollar, and Tyson Foods are a few other examples.
Growing importance of cybersecurity in North Carolina
The state government of North Carolina has been an active proponent of the cybersecurity industry and the employment prospects it holds. It has been a supporter of the Girls Go CyberStart program designed to get young girls interested and involved in cybersecurity technology.
The Department of Information Technology has an Enterprise Security & Risk Management office to keep the community informed of current infosec risks and prevention strategies. The Secretary of State has instituted a Cybersecurity Initiative to help safeguard the information of state-registered investment advisers and their clients.
In 2018, North Carolina partnered with Cisco and other leading cybersecurity enterprises to provide cybersecurity training to veterans living in the state. Called CyberVetsUSA, the program offers these training and employment opportunities at no charge to veterans, transitioning service members, National Guard and reservists, and their spouses.
Also in 2018, the state Department of Public Safety and Department of Information partnered to form a new unit to promote cyber awareness and provide “actionable intelligence to private and public sector partners and citizens.” The North Carolina Center for Cybersecurity (NCCYBER) was founded as a non-profit organization to facilitate communications between industry, academic institutions and government to address key issues in cybersecurity.
With government support and important users of cybersecurity services in place and growing rapidly, North Carolina’s cybersecurity future seems bright.
Cybersecurity education in North Carolina
North Carolina is home to some of the finest higher learning institutions in the country, particularly when it comes to medical and technological research. Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina have all been intimately involved in the huge research industry now centered in North Carolina.
However, it’s surprising that North Carolina’s colleges and universities haven’t been more enthusiastic in picking up the cybersecurity mantle thus far. The state government has shown its support, and the economy has become reliant on technology industries, in particular information technology. Still, among the bigger name schools only the University of North Carolina (UNC) has as yet put serious resources into developing cybersecurity education programs.
Fortunately, UNC is doing plenty. It’s cybersecurity programs are housed within the Department of Software and Information Systems. It established the CyberDNA Research Center to conduct cutting-edge research into information security technology and technics.
UNC school has also established its own Cybersecurity Boot Camp on the Charlotte campus that promises to put students in a position to work in cybersecurity within 24 months.
So UNC, combined with other smaller schools, is providing would-be cybersecurity students with strong options for pursuing their career goals.
The pressure is on all organizations to maintain maximum security of information at all times, and the rapidly evolving technology makes it critical that they keep up. For this reason, the emphasis is on experienced cybersecurity professionals.
The shortfall in personnel supply as compared to demand ensures employers will continue to seek out entry-level infosec professionals in order to maintain adequate defenses against cyber attacks.
Many employers, particularly larger companies, are happy to consider associate’s degrees as qualifying candidates for these entry-level positions. Associate’s degree programs typically take a year to two to complete.
With that and some experience in real-world cybersecurity, professionals can go back to school and earn a bachelor’s degree or higher when time and resources permit. Associate’s degree courses will often count as credit toward bachelor’s degree programs, making it easier and less expensive to reach completion.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in North Carolina
There are seven separate cybersecurity associate’s degree programs currently being offered on North Carolina community college campuses. See details and links below.
Online associate’s degrees in North Carolina
Online options for cybersecurity associate’s degrees in North Carolina number just two at this time. Beaufort County Community College presents a program leading to an AAS in Information Technology – Network Management. Forsyth Technical Community College offers a program for an Associate in Applied Science – IT Cybersecurity on its Winston-Salem campus.
Cybersecurity being the critical pursuit that it has become, most industry jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related or STEM discipline. Having an undergraduate degree in a cybersecurity specialty will help put a professional’s resume close to the top of the pile for job openings. Strangely, bachelor’s degree programs are lacking in North Carolina at present, but we would expect that to change in the near future.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina
Currently, only one university is offering on-campus bachelor’s degree options for cybersecurity. The University of North Carolina, as previously mentioned, is leading the way. UNC – Charlotte has a program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a Cybersecurity Concentration. And UNC – Wilmington offers a Minor in Cybersecurity to all UNCW undergraduate students, no matter the major.
Online bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina
Cybersecurity master’s degrees have become much more important in recent years, and this is reflected in the number of education options available. Increasingly, senior-level and management-level corporate positions are stipulating applicants have a graduate degree. C-suite corporate posts such as Chief Information Security Officer are a significant reason for the demand. But cybersecurity veterans finding academia, cybersecurity research, or cybersecurity consulting more to their liking are also finding master’s degrees to be a beneficial feather in their cap.
Campus-based master’s degrees in North Carolina
As the below table indicates, there are five campus-based cybersecurity master’s degree options currently available in North Carolina from three different schools. There are, at present, no online master’s programs available.
Doctorate degrees in cybersecurity have become more available in recent years. Demand for these PhD’s is coming largely from professionals with careers in academia or research pursuits. Some cybersecurity veterans looking to reach c-suite positions in the corporate world are also seeking out PhD’s.
Campus-based PhD’s in North Carolina
The University of North Carolina once again holds down the fort for cybersecurity Ph.D. programs on its own. UNC – Charlotte presents a degree path for a PhD in Computing and Information Systems that affords an array of research focus specialties, including cybersecurity.
Certification programs are beneficial for anyone starting out in cybersecurity but also for experienced professionals. There are various types of certification programs that are designed for different audiences.
For beginners trying to decide whether cybersecurity is right for them, certain types of certifications give an introduction to technologies and techniques being used. Completing such certifications will almost certainly provide job applicants with an advantage for entry-level jobs.
Some cybersecurity certifications are designed to advance study in a distinct specialty, penetration testing, for example, for experienced professionals. These specialized infosec certifications go a long way toward enhancing resumes and help boosting careers.
Still, other cybersecurity certifications are designed to be substitutes for advanced degrees, particularly master’s degrees.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in North Carolina
Eight campus-based certification programs are now being offered by North Carolina schools. The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in North Carolina
There are also four certification programs available via online access. Three of these options are being provided by Forsyth Technical Community College. These are listed below:
Cybersecurity jobs in North Carolina
North Carolina is experiencing very high growth in its cybersecurity industry, and the supply of qualified professionals is not keeping up. CyberSeek reports that, over the 12 months through September 2021, there were 35,139 people employed in some aspect of cybersecurity.
Over the same period, state employers posted 21,010 new job openings for information security professionals. The three largest cities in North Carolina are home to a vast majority of these job openings.
Charlotte employers posted 7,985 new cybersecurity jobs, Raleigh saw 6,968 job postings, and Durham had 2,153 new listings.
North Carolina’s government is taking steps to increase the available labor pool, particularly with efforts to tap into the state’s large veteran population. Still, the state’s economic makeup being focused on financial intermediaries ensures that demand for new talent will continue to grow as cybersecurity becomes an increasingly pressing issue.
In May 2020, security analysts were being paid a little less than the national average wages. The average hourly wage was $50.79 and the average annual salary was $105,640 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The standard of living in North Carolina, however, was well below the national average. The relatively low cost of housing is the primary reason it’s cheaper to live in North Carolina. Keep in mind, though, that these are statewide figures. In areas surrounding the biggest cities housing will, of course, be more expensive, and this is where most of the cybersecurity jobs are. Still, the cost of living in the most expensive city, Charlotte, is significantly lower than national averages.
Cybersecurity in North Carolina
The sea change in North Carolina’s economy in recent decades has come at a time when stores of information are rapidly becoming more vulnerable. The industries now leading the way in the Tar Heel state – finance, healthcare, information technology, and research – are favored targets of hackers, and thus big users of cybersecurity services.
The state’s government is also providing support for veterans and girls interested in cybersecurity careers. It’s also leading the way in educating the general public about vulnerability and how to avoid being hacked, as well as with its own information security.
Recent employment statistics show that cybersecurity employment is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, job demand is growing faster than the availability of qualified cybersecurity employees. This is creating a seller’s market in North Carolina, greatly favoring professionals possessing the skills to fill critical cybersecurity roles.