Cybersecurity is a growing field, but not all states and regions offer the same level of educational and economic opportunity to truly prepare for the opportunities and employment avenues in the emerging industry.
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Cybersecurity development in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania as a state is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to cybersecurity development. It has lots of rural towns, but also several major metropolitan centers that are themselves very close to several of the most important industrial hubs in the world, such as New York or Washington DC.
Additionally, Pennsylvania used to be one of the major manufacturing hubs for the country but now specializes more in banking or financial services and insurance companies, especially Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. In addition, Pennsylvania hosts a huge number of growing tech companies.
As such, cybersecurity development in Pennsylvania has progressed rapidly compared to other partly-rural states. The Pennsylvania Office of Administration has pushed (successfully) for cybersecurity development across the state, resulting in numerous awards being one and the promotion of a cyber-aware culture.
Cybersecurity education in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a great choice of state in which to pursue cybersecurity education, especially because three of its universities are consistently ranked among the best schools for cybersecurity. These universities are Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, and the West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
There are other valuable schools described below, but these three feature comprehensive cybersecurity programs and extensive resource networks to assist with finding employment after graduation.
Why is Pennsylvania such a good cybersecurity state?
For starters, the Army Research Laboratory works with Penn State to head the new Cyber-Security Collaborative Research Alliance. This cybersecurity research collective is a great place for current and future cybersecurity professionals to push the boundaries of current cybersecurity understanding.
In addition, Amazon, Google, Tesla, and Adobe have a significant presence within Pennsylvania and its various universities. All of these large companies have significant investments in the future of cybersecurity and offer excellent employment opportunities for those who can make the cut. They drive a huge amount of current cybersecurity employment and development in the state.
All in all, Pennsylvania is well situated along the East Coast of the United States, with plenty of cybersecurity research and employment opportunities within its own borders and other companies within driving distance for many of its graduates.
Campus-based cybersecurity associate’s degrees in Pennsylvania
Cybersecurity associate degrees are great as starting credentials. They usually have curriculums that focus on basic understandings of cybersecurity fundamentals and computer science, as well as many of a student’s general education requirements. These degrees can’t usually get you a job in the cybersecurity field, but they’re a good place to start.
There are five schools in total that offer on-campus associate degrees in cybersecurity: Butler County Community College, the Community College of Pennsylvania, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.
Most of the offered degrees are actually in computer science with cybersecurity focuses or specializations. This isn’t unexpected given an associate degree’s necessary focus on general knowledge rather than specifics.
Online associate degrees
Pennsylvania doesn’t have any online associate degree opportunities. However, students can still pursue cybersecurity education online from a Pennsylvania school if they enroll in a bachelor’s program or higher; these programs will incorporate the beginning classes that most associate degrees also utilize for their curricula.
Campus cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees in Pennsylvania
Bachelor’s degrees are much more focused on individual subject matter and offer courses pertaining to cybersecurity specifically or computer science knowledge. These degrees are usually the first tier of credentials necessary to get a job in the cybersecurity field.
A whopping 11 colleges in Pennsylvania offer on-campus bachelor’s degree programs. The Penn State University program is known for its robust class offerings and detailed educational pathways, as well as its connection to various cybersecurity organizations that might assist you in looking for employment after graduation.
The University of Pittsburgh is also a good choice for its proximity to several cybersecurity companies and major metropolitan areas. While these don’t directly affect the quality of the school’s program, it does offer extensive networking opportunities during or after school.
Online bachelor’s degrees
Pennsylvania schools also offer five online bachelor’s degree opportunities. Two of these are offered at the Penn State Main Campus.
Their programs emphasize the mathematical underpinnings of many cybersecurity concepts, and heavily emphasize basic programming and statistical awareness. However, these programs are well-known for their excellent results.
Robert Morris University also has an excellent program, though it’s in Cyber Forensics and Information Security. This may be an excellent degree if you want to combine a passion for criminal justice with your cybersecurity skills.
Campus-based cybersecurity master’s degrees in Pennsylvania
Master’s degrees aren’t strictly necessary to enter the cybersecurity workforce, though they open more employment doors than a regular bachelor’s degree and offer more specialized knowledge within cybersecurity sub-fields. These degrees are a great choice if you want to emphasize a particular role or job direction, such as research, threat tracking, or defense.
Another 11 universities offer on-campus master’s degrees in cybersecurity, including Carnegie Mellon University. This school is of particular note due to its high rankings in many cybersecurity program lists, as well as a diverse list of actual degree titles. Students can specialize in policy and management, privacy engineering, information security, or general information networking.
Of course, Penn State’s master’s degree offerings allow students who have already completed their bachelor’s degree at the same school to proceed perhaps more quickly than if they transferred.
Online master’s degrees
There are 12 schools in Pennsylvania that offer online master’s programs, with Penn State once again topping the charts thanks to its varied but specific degree titles and excellent curricula. These programs do require that every student hold a math or tech bachelor’s degree, but they reward those who can make the cut with one of the best cybersecurity educations in the state.
Carnegie Mellon has an MS online degree in Information Technology for those with three years of work experience, plus an asynchronous schedule; it’s a perfect choice for part-time students who need to keep working during their studies.
Finally, Robert Morris University has an MS degree in cybersecurity for current IT professionals, plus several specializations for a concentration specifically in Enterprise Systems.
Campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs in Pennsylvania
There are 11 cybersecurity certificates available from Pennsylvania schools. These certificates allow you to qualify for more advanced job positions or hone your cybersecurity skills in a certain area. Alternatively, you can earn these certificates while not holding a cybersecurity degree and potentially get a job in the field with the right recommendations.
Online certificate programs
There’s also a high number of online certificate programs available. Many of these are available from the same schools described above, in addition to:
Cybersecurity jobs in Pennsylvania
CyberSeek reports that there are currently 20,407 open cybersecurity jobs in Pennsylvania, compared to a total cybersecurity workforce of 37,626. Thus, the cybersecurity worker supply/demand ratio is 70 percent compared to a national average of 68 percent. All this means that there aren’t as many cybersecurity jobs in Pennsylvania as there are larger or more metropolitan states, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for cybersecurity professionals or graduates.
Most of these positions are entry-level or middle-management, such as cybersecurity engineers and analysts, cybersecurity managers and administrators, or vulnerability analysts and penetration testers. Thus, there are lots of job openings for beginning cybersecurity workers or those with some experience.
Most jobs will be in Pittsburgh or similar metropolitan areas, but you have to take into account the cost of living in this mixed rural/metropolitan state. Pennsylvania’s average cost of living is 92.5 on a scale of 100, with scores below 100 meeting a lower than average cost of living compared to the U.S. as a whole.
A Pennsylvania cybersecurity worker’s hourly salary averages $46.93, with an average annual salary totaling about $97,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These salaries will stretch a little farther in Pennsylvania than they would in other states, possibly making this state a great place to save money or raise a family.
Pennsylvania and cybersecurity
Overall, Pennsylvania is a great choice for anyone who wants to pursue cybersecurity as a career. There’s a multitude of educational opportunities and options, plus several pathways to consistent employment either in the state or within a short distance of those schools, thanks to its proximity to many other tech-oriented states.