The following guide is about cybersecurity in Rhode Island. The guide includes a review of the educational options and career opportunities available to current and future cybersecurity professionals in the state.
Geographically, Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country. But what Rhode Islands lacks in size it makes up for in location. The major metropolitan markets of Boston and New York City are short drives away, giving state businesses easy access to those mega economies. And its position on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean presents many prime economic opportunities for state residents.
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The economic sectors employing the most people in Rhode Island include trade and transportation, healthcare and education, business and professional services, leisure and hospitality, and government. Still, though, size does mean a lot. And Rhode Island’s lack of acreage severely limits the size of the economy.
Small in size or not, Rhode Island has its share of prime cybercrime targets housing large stores of sensitive information. Information security, therefore, is and will continue to be just as critical for Rhode Island as it is for any other state.
Cybersecurity environment in Rhode Island
The state government of Rhode Island has certainly not taken a passive approach to cybersecurity. It began proactively addressing information assurance earlier than many other states, led by Governor Gina Raimondo.
The Rhode Island Cybersecurity Commission was established in May 2015, by an order from the governor. The 28-member commission consists of representatives from state and federal governments, academia, and the private sector. Its mission is planning for the prevention of and response to attacks against the state’s databases and computer networks, to educate the public on the same, and to promote cybersecurity workforce development and skills training to ensure that Rhode Island attracts current and future cybersecurity professionals.
In December 2015, the commission published a report finding that the health of Rhode Island’s various industries and the ability of the state to attract businesses will depend on having a full and highly skilled cybersecurity workforce.
The report details a plan for accomplishing this goal. One of the primary focal points of the plan is to have a strong educational pipeline to ensure a steady supply of new qualified cybersecurity professionals. The targets are not only new students, but retraining some of the state’s existing non-cybersecurity workforce in the methods and technologies utilized in information security.
Other points from the report include incentivizing cybersecurity job creation, promoting Rhode Island as a leading center of cybersecurity excellence, and linking private industry with academia to steer research projects and education curriculum in the most desirable direction possible.
The commission has since developed a complete plan for Rhode Island’s internal approach to information security and for responding to cyber threats and attacks. The approach is multi-faceted, involving several state agencies, including the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General, the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit (RISP CCU) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, each with a distinct role to play.
As part of this preparation and response plan, the state also established the Rhode Island Joint Cyber Task Force (JCTF), which is comprised of members of the RISP CCU and representatives of higher education, healthcare organizations, utilities, finance companies and the defense industry. JCTF is tasked with overseeing the preparation and response plan, particularly as it relates to key elements of the state’s economy.
In 2017, Rhode Island hired its first cybersecurity officer to serve as the governor’s top policy advisor on information security. The officer is also responsible for creating and overseeing the implementation of the state’s comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. The Rhode Island State Cybersecurity Strategy was presented to the state in 2019. It includes a plan for development of the cybersecurity workforce, and for educating and raising the skill level of present and future cybersecurity professionals.
The Pell Center, located on the Salve Regina University campus in Newport, Rhode Island, is a well-known research center focused on public policy. One of the Center’s five primary projects today is cybersecurity leadership in America, and how government and institutional leaders can best prepare for the threats posed by cyber crime. As part of this initiative, the Center has launched the Rhode Island Corporate Cybersecurity Initiative, or RICCI. RICCI is “designed to develop senior business leaders and decision makers who can affect change and make Rhode Island’s business community and critical industries more secure and resilient to cyber incidents.”
Cybersecurity education in Rhode Island
As Rhode Island has developed one of the most extensive and comprehensive plans for dealing with threats to cybersecurity, it should come as no surprise that higher education institutions are also taking the issue seriously. There are already a good number of quality cybersecurity degree and certification programs available in the state.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) in particular has an impressive catalog of cybersecurity education programs. But other quality institutions like Salve Regina University, Brown University, and Johnson & Wales University are also strongly in the mix. Given the government’s desire for cybersecurity leadership and initiatives to strengthen infosec education, we expect the list of excellent degree and certification options to continue expanding.
Associate’s degrees in cybersecurity are an excellent alternative to a full four-year degree for those lacking the time and resources to complete a bachelor’s degree. There are still plenty of employers needing entry-level information security professionals that accept specialized associate’s degrees. As most cybersecurity careers now require a bachelor’s degree, however, we recommend returning to school to complete a four-year program as soon as time and money permit. Look for schools that will grant course credits for as many associate’s level courses as possible.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Rhode Island
There is only one cybersecurity associate’s degree program now available from Rhode Island institutions. The program is offered by Community College of Rhode Island leading to an Associate of Science in Computer Studies and Information Processing. It is available on all four of the schools campuses, as well as through the school’s online porthole.
Bachelor’s degrees are now required for the majority of cybersecurity careers. While specialized cybersecurity degrees are not usually required, particularly for entry-level positions, having a bachelor’s degree focused on cybersecurity will certainly prove to be an advantage when it comes time to conduct a job search.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Rhode Island
Rhode Island schools currently provide two campus-based bachelor’s degree programs with cybersecurity specialties. Johnson & Wales University has a program at its Providence, Rhode Island campus leading to a Bachelor of Science in Cyber Threat Intelligence and Defense. The New England Institute of Technology offers a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Network Engineering available at its East Greenwich, Rhode Island campus.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Rhode Island
At present, the colleges and universities of Rhode Island have two online cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs. Roger Williams University offers a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Networking. And the New England Institute of Technology has an online program distinct from its campus-based program, this one leading to a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Organizational Risk and Cybersecurity Management.
Increasingly, cybersecurity master’s degrees are important elements in the qualifications of those looking to advance to management-level corporate posts in information assurance. This is particularly true of c-suite corporate posts such as Chief Information Security Officer. Also, those looking toward careers in academia, cybersecurity research, or cybersecurity consulting will most likely need a master’s degree.
Rhode Island schools shine in the category of cybersecurity master’s degrees. There are now six such programs available in the state, two with campus-based formats and four online programs.
Campus-based Master’s Degrees in Rhode Island
Brown University has an 18-month program for an Executive Master in Cybersecurity on its Providence campus. This degree program can also be done online (see below). Salve Regina University offers a Master of Science in Administration of Justice and Homeland Security with a Cybersecurity and Intelligence concentration. Students can also follow a digital forensics concentration to the same degree.
Online Master’s Degrees in Rhode Island
For those preferring the convenience of online coursework, four master’s of cybersecurity programs are available from Rhode Island schools. These include two separate degree programs from the University of Rhode Island. See the table below for more information.
Doctorate degrees in cybersecurity are becoming more prevalent as well. Primarily, career-minded cybersecurity specialists in the worlds of academia and/or research are looking for these Ph.D. programs, but some c-suite corporate executives are taking the PhD route as well.
Campus-based Ph.D.’s in Rhode Island
The University of Rhode Island currently offers the only cybersecurity Ph.D. programs available in Rhode Island. The school’s Ph.D. in Computer Science can be completed with concentrations in either Cybersecurity or Digital Forensics.
Certification programs can be beneficial for students just starting out in cybersecurity and for experienced professionals. Some certifications simply provide an introduction to information security. Others provide more involved but introductory learning for new cybersecurity students. These programs can be either generalist in nature or focused on a specialty.
For professionals already working in the field, there are cybersecurity certifications designed to enhance knowledge in a distinct specialty. Still, other certification programs can serve as surrogates, at least temporarily, for advanced cybersecurity degrees, particularly master’s degrees.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Rhode Island
At present, there are three campus-based cybersecurity certificate programs available from Rhode Island schools of higher learning. Two of these certificates are offered by Salve Regina University. The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Rhode Island
There are also two cybersecurity certificate programs available via online access. Both of these are provided by the University of Rhode Island. They are the Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate and the Digital Forensics Graduate Certificate. Coursework for either certificate program can be applied to the school’s cybersecurity master’s degree or Ph.D. programs.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s physical size has limited its economic size, even with its prime location. The size of the cybersecurity industry in the state is small as well. Cyberseek reports that there were 3,702 people employed in some capacity related to cybersecurity during the 12 months through September 2022. Rhode Island employers listed 2,997 new cybersecurity job openings during that time. The Providence/Warwick region accounted for nearly all of this cybersecurity employment activity.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the pay rates for cybersecurity professionals in Rhode Island were well above national averages. Using security analyst as a representation of information security career for pay scale, we see that in Rhode Island as of May 2021, the average hourly wage was $49.19, and the average annual salary was $102,310. So even though Rhode Island has a relatively high standard of living, about 10% more expensive than the national average, these higher compensation rates more than make up for it.
Cybersecurity in Rhode Island
For such a tiny state, Rhode Island is punching well above its weight class in the cybersecurity arena. Government initiatives have been responsible for putting the state in a strong position for the defense of its own information systems. And state businesses and citizens have ample opportunities to get state assistance to keep their online data safe.
Also, government commissions and task forces are making strides to ensure that cybersecurity talent is attracted to Rhode Island. And to see to it there are plenty of opportunities to educate and build the necessary skills to have a strong cybersecurity workforce into the future.