This guide is about cybersecurity opportunities in Washington. There are numerous educational opportunities and degree programs available in Washington and the state’s economy is shifting to embrace the emerging cybersecurity industry.
Long reliant on agriculture, logging, and shipping, Washington state has become a diverse economy, and one of the primary centers of technology in the US. At present, the state has the highest concentration of STEM-related employees in the country. It’s also the place where Amazon, Starbuck’s, Boeing, Microsoft, Costco, Nintendo, Expedia, and Weyerhaeuser all call home. Economic activity is highly concentrated on the western coast, particularly the northwest corner of the state where Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue are all located in fairly close proximity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest employers in Washington’s economy in 2019 were trade, transportation and utilities, government, education and healthcare services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.
Washington is also home to the National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center, or NCyTE Center. Formerly CyberWatch West, NCyTE was founded in 2011. In 2018, it was awarded a grant to become a National Cyber Resource Center. NCyTE’s mission is to “improve the quantity and quality of existing cybersecurity resources building upon these resources to develop effective teaching and training modules.” Interacting with educators, professionals, and government, NCyTE seeks to maximize cybersecurity workforce development through education.
With its focus on technology industries, STEM occupations and cybersecurity, as well as state government support, Washington is destined to be a prolific and lucrative center for cybersecurity professionals and companies. And Washington colleges and universities are beginning to get on board with quality degree and certification programs.
Growing importance of cybersecurity in Washington
Washington state government has been taking its own cybersecurity seriously for more than a decade now. It coordinates public sector infosec and private citizenship awareness through three segments of the government. The Office of Cybersecurity is charged with detecting, blocking and responding to attacks on state government computer networks. A Cybersecurity Program was developed through the Emergency Management Division of the Washington State Military Department to set state cybersecurity policy and strategy for emergency management. And the Office of the Washington State Auditor conducts cybersecurity audits to ensure optimal security measures are in place across the government.
Washington’s cybersecurity workforce already has grown to nearly 25,000 employees. The state acting as the home to Microsoft has played a role it becoming the most highly-concentrated market for STEM occupations in the country. It is also home to a couple of large defense contractors and several other huge multinational corporations. The mindset for technology in Washington is well established, and the state government is fully on board for focusing the future on cybersecurity concerns. This should put Washington in a position to attract top-flight cybersecurity professionals and companies, and see its information security industry and workforce grow rapidly in the coming years.
Cybersecurity education in Washington
Specialized cybersecurity degree and certificate programs are not especially plentiful in Washington at present, but that is beginning to change. The University of Washington has created the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC) to focus its efforts through a community of diverse representatives from government, business and other non-government organizations. The Center is designed to be a catalyst for research and development, invention, educational development, and workforce development.
Already, there is an ample selection of information security education options in Washington, and we look for it to expand in the near future. Look for state universities in particular to enhance their program offerings.
With the existing shortage of cybersecurity personnel in the workforce, employers are amenable to hiring candidates with an associate’s degree in cybersecurity for entry-level positions. Associate’s degrees take about half the time and resources to obtain as compared to bachelor’s degree, and thus present a good option for breaking into cybersecurity. Once a career is established, professionals can continue their education and often use their previous coursework as credit toward obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Certifications are also a good supplement to associate’s degrees to advance and enhance career options.
Campus-based associate’s degrees in Washington
Washington colleges currently provide three options for campus-based associate’s degree programs. There are no online programs available from Washington learning institutions at present. The on-campus degree options are listed below.
As the cybersecurity industry has grown and become more advanced and sophisticated, so too have degree requirements called for by infosec employers. A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is now necessary to land most information security jobs, other than some entry-level positions. And while degrees in a cybersecurity specialty are not usually demanded, majoring in cybersecurity is certainly a plus on the resume when applying for infosec jobs. Washington in particular is flush with information technology and STEM-related professionals. So obtaining a degree in some cybersecurity specialty should be an excellent way for students and working professionals to set themselves apart from the pack.
Campus-based bachelor’s degrees in Washington
Four campus-based bachelor’s degree programs in cybersecurity are now available from Washington state colleges and universities. These current options are listed in the table below.
Online bachelor’s degrees in Washington
Three bachelor’s degree options are currently being presented in online formats by Washington schools. All three of these, listed below, are offered by City University of Seattle.
A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for most cybersecurity career paths today, and increasingly master’s degrees are being stipulated for senior and management-level information security posts. This is especially true of c-suite type positions such as Chief Information Security Officer. Some c-suite cybersecurity openings are now even requesting candidates to have a PhD in cybersecurity. In addition, those drawn to a career path outside the typical corporate environs, perhaps in academia, research, or cybersecurity consulting, a master’s degree is definitely worth the investment in time and resources.
Campus-based master’s degrees in Washington
The University of Washington currently offers the only two on-campus master’s degree programs available in the state of Washington.
UW’s Bothell campus offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering. And their Tacoma campus provides a program for a Master of Science in Cybersecurity Leadership.
Online master’s degrees in Washington
There are also now two online master’s degree programs being offered by Washington schools. Central Washington University provides an online path to a Master of Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management – Cybersecurity Management. City University of Seattle offers a program leading to a Master of Science in Information Security.
Certification programs are available for a variety of different students and professionals. For those just starting out or trying to determine if cybersecurity is right for them, there are certification programs designed to provide an introduction to information security. Some cybersecurity certifications can mean a leg up for candidates applying to entry-level jobs. Many certifications are given for study in a distinct specialty of cybersecurity, such as penetration testing, that can further a professionals knowledge or advance their career standing. And still others are designed to be a stand-in and/or beginning coursework toward an advanced degree. At this stage, most of the certificate programs on offer in Washington are either of the introductory type or specialty disciplines in cybersecurity.
Campus-based cybersecurity certifications in Washington
Washington state is now home to five cybersecurity certificate programs provided in campus settings. The below table has more information.
Online cybersecurity certifications in Washington
There are now three online cybersecurity certificate programs offered by Washington schools. These are listed below:
Cybersecurity jobs in Washington
Cybersecurity industry growth has been consistently outpacing increases in new information security professionals. This has resulted in an imbalance between the supply of qualified job applicants and the demand from new job openings. Despite the fact that Washington is home to the highest workforce concentration of STEM professionals in the country, it also has a deficit of cybersecurity professionals.
According to Cyberseek, from October 2018 through September 2019, Washington employed 24,045 people in some aspect of cybersecurity. During that time, there were 11,156 information security job openings posted by Washington employers, indicating a sizeable, unsatisfied demand. The Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue area in the northwest corner of the state accounted for 9,162 of those cybersecurity job openings. No other area had more than 350 such job postings, so the industry concentration is heavily focused in the northwest corner.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research concluded that in May, 2018, security analysts in Washington were enjoying an average hourly wage of $51.83, and the average annual salary was $107,800. Both of these pay rates are well above the national average. However, these high pay scales are tempered by a state standard of living that runs nearly 20% above the national average. Washington is also one of only seven states in the US with no personal income tax. Tax revenue is raised through business taxes, personal property taxes, and sales taxes on both goods and services (although most foods are exempt). In the two largest Washington cities, Seattle and Tacoma, sales taxes run just above 10%.
Cybersecurity in Washington
Washington is already home to several large technology companies, and to the highest concentration of STEM professionals in America. It’s also a place where several huge international companies are based. There is already a strong contingent of people employed in some type of cybersecurity role, and the number is expanding rapidly, soon to exceed 25,000. And the demand for cybersecurity professionals is outpacing the supply of qualified workers. While the standard of living is significantly above the national average, so are cybersecurity pay scales. Not to mention Washington being one of only seven states with no personal income tax.
The state government of Washington is setting an example for all residents and organizations with its multi-pronged approach to its own information security. And efforts are being made to make Washington a center of cybersecurity research and higher education. The northwest corner of the state is a haven for business and technology, and the source of over 80% of new Washington state cybersecurity job openings in the last year. It’s also an area with a great reputation for lifestyle. So cybersecurity professionals and students will have plenty of opportunities for education, lucrative careers, and a plus quality of life in the state of Washington.