This guide is a brief summary of the cybersecurity ecosystem in the state of Ohio. It includes a review of the legislative environment, state economy as it relates to cybersecurity, and some of the educational options and career opportunities available to would-be cybersecurity professionals.
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Ohio is still a center for industry decades after the Rust Belt years, thanks in part to the diversity of its economy and its role as center for science and technology. Among the state’s largest employers who call Ohio home, most are health care companies or universities. Government employs the third most people of any industry in Ohio.
And as Ohioans have discovered, government and healthcare providers are among the most favored targets for cybercriminals.
Ohio’s state government has taken the cybersecurity threat very seriously over the last few years. This is evidenced by the legislation and other initiatives put in place. Some of these are outlined below. The stated goal is for Ohio to promote cybersecurity preparedness for all Ohioans, and to create an environment favorable to the cybersecurity industry. This includes providing ample education opportunities to would-be infosec professionals.
Government legislation surrounding cybersecurity in Ohio
In September 2016, the state of Ohio launched CyberOhio. CyberOhio is actually a collection of initiatives designed to provide Ohio businesses with technological solutions and support to maximize the security of their information.
In 2017, then Ohio Governor John Kasich requested, and the Ohio National Guard complied with the creation of an alliance between public, private, military and educational organizations to help combat cybercrime.
The mission of the more than 120-member Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3) is to create an environment conducive to developing a stronger cybersecurity infrastructure and workforce. One of OC3’s primary goals is to develop programs designed to increase the number of new professionals being trained in cybersecurity via certifications and degrees.
One of the outcomes of this collaboration was the development of the Ohio Cyber Range Institute, which is a partnership between Ohio’s Department of Higher Education and the Adjutant General’s Department. The goal was to leverage state resources to help students strengthen their cybersecurity skills through a virtual environment that mimics real-life cyber attacks.
On November 2, 2018, Ohio put into effect a cybersecurity law that was considered by many to be groundbreaking. The “Data Protection Act” provides a standard of protection against lawsuits alleging damages related to the malicious hacking of businesses. As long as the cybersecurity practices of any Ohio business reasonably conform to industry-endorsed information security frameworks, the law protects them from damage claims arising from any data breaches.
On March 20, 2019, a bill targeting the information security practices of insurance companies went into effect. The law establishes cybersecurity requirements that must be followed by any insurance companies operating in the state of Ohio. The goal is to maximize the industry’s preparedness and safeguard the private information of Ohio residents and businesses that these insurance companies store. It is just the second state, after South Carolina, to enact such a law.
On October 25, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law the creation of a new unit tasked with responding to cyberattacks on the state’s many local governments. This cyber reserve force is intended to act like a National Guard unit, responding to emergencies when needed. But the force will be comprised of private citizens.
Cybersecurity education in Ohio
It’s evident from the above that Ohio’s government has tried to promote the development of top education alternatives for the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. Despite these efforts, higher education institutions in the state have been surprisingly inactive in developing cybersecurity certification and degree programs. To be sure, there are some excellent educational programs available to help professionals launch and advance their information security careers. Still, in a state the size of Ohio and a place where so many quality colleges and universities reside, one would expect many more programs to be available. We anticipate that more cybersecurity education opportunities will be made available soon.
The field of cybersecurity includes a broad range of necessary functions to provide adequate assurances against hacking. Many of these functions now require bachelor’s degrees, and a growing number of information security jobs require master’s degrees. Partly due to the worldwide shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, though, there are still plenty of entry-level positions and employers happy to hire a candidate with an associate’s degree. Cybersecurity associate’s degree programs typically require one to two years to complete, so they are considerably more attainable for those with tight budgets and limited time to devote to school.
Completing a specialized associate’s degree in either a general study of information security or a particular specialty will enable new professionals to get their start. We suggest that once a career is established an effort be made to return to school to complete a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree, and even a master’s degree if time and resources permit. Both degrees will be well rewarded in a labor-strapped job market like cybersecurity.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Ohio
Ohio schools currently offer six choices for obtaining an associate’s degree in cybersecurity via a campus-based format. These six choices are detailed in the table below.
Online associate’s degrees in Ohio
Students interested in online options for an associate’s degree in information security now have three distinct choices from Ohio education institutions. See below for more details.
The cybersecurity job market is extremely tight, meaning there are far more jobs being created than the current supply of infosec professionals can fill. Employers needing qualified information security candidates to fill their job openings must sometimes make concessions and hire those not as experienced or with as specific education as they would prefer. Many cybersecurity jobs are filled by those with bachelor’s degrees in technology fields other than cybersecurity.
STEM majors are often enough for many employers. However, for those yet to choose a field of study but sure cybersecurity is for them, there is no substitute for a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Majoring in or having a concentration in some aspect of information security will provide an advantage over other technology majors when it comes time to land an entry-level job.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Ohio
Surprisingly, in a state like Ohio where educating new cybersecurity professionals is a stated priority, there is only one school offering campus-based bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity. Ohio State University offers two distinct bachelor’s degrees, both from its main campus in Columbus, Ohio. One is a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering (BS-CSE) with a specialization in Information and Computation Assurance. The second is a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science (BS-CIS) with a specialization in Information and Computation Assurance. The primary difference between the two programs is the BS-CSE requires more math, science and engineering. The BS-CIS requires more general education courses, including a foreign language.
Ohio colleges and universities are also presently providing two programs for cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees in online formats. Franklin University offers a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, and Valley College provides a 31-month online path to a Cybersecurity Bachelor’s degree.
As the field of cybersecurity continues to grow and evolve, the need for professionals with advanced education, particularly master’s degrees, is increasing rapidly. Of course, information security veterans interested in transitioning to academia as a professor, into research positions, or even cybersecurity consulting, a specialized master’s degree in cybersecurity is a must. In addition, those destined for management-level information security positions, particularly c-suite corporate posts such as Chief Information Security Officer, will also find a master’s degree is well worth the time to acquire.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Ohio
At present, there are just two options being offered by Ohio colleges and universities for master’s degrees in cybersecurity. Both are campus-based programs, with no online programs now available. Wright State University provides a program leading to a Master of Science in Cybersecurity through its College of Engineering and Computer Science. The Graduate School of Engineering and Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity Operations.
Cybersecurity certifications come in several flavors. Different programs are designed with different purposes and different audiences in mind. There are certifications to serve the needs of everyone interested in cybersecurity. Those just looking to gain some exposure to determine if it’s the right career for them can find introductory certifications. Beginning students hoping to get a jump start to their careers or gain an edge in the job market can take basic cybersecurity certification courses. Information security professionals whose careers are already well underway can find specialty certifications such as penetration testing to advance their knowledge and expertise. And even infosec professionals looking to add a master’s degree to their resume but lacking the time to do so can find cybersecurity master’s degree certifications that can be completed in much less time. Any and all of these types of cybersecurity certification programs can prove very valuable for those that take the time to complete them.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Ohio
Two Ohio schools now provide certification programs with information security specializations. Sinclair Community College has three distinct cybersecurity “short-term” technical certification programs – Network Engineering Security Associate, Information Systems Security, and Linux Security and Network Essentials. The University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science offers an undergraduate program called Foundations of Cybersecurity.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Ohio
Right now, there is only one cybersecurity certification program offered by Ohio schools via online access. Wright State University offers a Cybersecurity Analytics Certificate, which is a graduate-level program.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Ohio
Cyberseek reports that Ohio had 26,975 cybersecurity professionals employed in the state during the 12 months ended September 2019. There were also 13,749 new information security jobs listed by Ohio employers in the period. There were four metropolitan areas in Ohio contributing significant demand for information security professionals. The Columbus area led the pack by a significant margin with employers posting 5,130 new infosec jobs, followed by Cincinnati (2,699), Cleveland (2,474), and Dayton (1,559).
Ohioans as a state enjoy a standard of living that is about 17.5% less costly than the national average. Average annual pay scales for security analysts in Ohio only partially reflected this lower standard of living. The average hourly wage of $45.08 and the average annual salary of $93,770 was only slightly below national averages, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even the Columbus area, which is the most expensive in Ohio, enjoys a cost of living nearly 10% below the national average.
Cybersecurity in Ohio
Ohio as a whole has suffered its share of successful cyber attacks. And the state government has responded with several laws and initiatives aimed at protecting government, businesses, and citizens from future cyber breaches. These initiatives include efforts to increase and bolster the state’s cybersecurity workforce through education opportunities. These opportunities have not yet come to fruition in the numbers one might expect, however.
The plus side of this for cybersecurity professionals is that the state’s workforce of qualified information security employees is more likely to remain shorthanded. This means even greater job security and higher wages for those already working in the field or soon to enter it. So if Ohio is a favored state of residency, take advantage of the educational opportunities that do exist there and enjoy the demand for cybersecurity workers. This demand has already led to comparative average cybersecurity wages being significantly higher than the relative standard of living in Ohio would suggest. And that differential is likely to increase in the future.