With cybersecurity a top concern for consumers, business leaders and government entities, it should come as no surprise that the demand for cybersecurity experts is on the rise. According to Burning Glass, the number of job postings for cybersecurity positions has grown three times as fast as overall IT openings and it takes longer for companies to fill cybersecurity positions than other IT jobs. When it comes to future projections, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the demand for information security analysts to rise 37 percent through 2022.

Even the federal government is looking to increase its cyber workforce. The Pentagon is hoping to increase its cyber professionals to about 6,200 and the Department of Homeland Security received approval to not only pay its cybersecurity experts more money, but to retain them with bonuses.

While there are many opportunities available, there are some hurdles to landing a coveted cybersecurity position. For example, about 84 percent of cybersecurity positions listed specify a bachelor’s degree. Consider attending one of these colleges with well-known cybersecurity programs to boost your resume and make you more competitive.

  1. University of Maryland University College (UMUC)

With more than 90,000 students, UMUC is the largest accredited public university in the United States. It offers degrees in computer networks and cybersecurity, cybersecurity management and policy, and software development and security. It also has an online option for obtaining a master’s degree in cybersecurity or cybersecurity policy. The college has partnerships with Cisco, Google and SAIC and is located between the Department of Defense’s Cyber Command in Maryland and the Cyber Corridor in Virginia. The National Security Agency and DHS designated the college a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education. As for bragging rights, the Military Times ranked UMUC as the No. 1 college for educating military veterans in their “Best for Vets: Colleges 2015” list.

  1. Champlain College

One benefit of enrolling at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, is that it offers steep discounts to federal participants. Federal employees and their eligible dependents qualify for truED, which grants access to the college’s programs for about 70 percent less than the standard tuition rate. Courses can be taken entirely online and some of the cybersecurity specializations for undergrads include ethical hacking, introductory programming, information assurance and systems security. Even better, the college designs its courses so students can earn a certificate in an area of specialization before they complete their degree requirements. The NSA and DHS have designated the college a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations has deemed it a DC 3 National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence. And in 2013 and 2015, SC Magazine named it the “best cyber security higher education program.”

  1. University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA)

In a 2014 Ponemon Institute survey, UTSA was listed as the No. 1 school for academic excellence and practical relevance in the cybersecurity field. The school has 14 undergraduate and graduate programs in areas like digital forensics, secure network design, and intrusion detection and incident response. Last month, DHS selected a team at UTSA to develop the national standards for sharing and analyzing information in cybersecurity between private sectors and the government. And in case you were wondering about credentials, the NSA and DHS designated UTSA a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education.

  1. University of San Diego (USD)

In summer 2015, USD opened its Center for Cyber Security Engineering and Technology. The center offers certifications in areas like cybersecurity, risk management, cyber intelligence and cybersecurity policy and law. The degree programs are designed for working professionals and the center offers a master’s degree in cybersecurity engineering and cybersecurity information technological leadership (the latter is fully available online). Although it’s a new center, it’s definitely one to watch. According to the school’s announcement, “the center will also advance research, discovery and development of the tools to assist consumers, corporations, nonprofits, utilities, and the military find the solutions needed to solve the many challenges presented by cyber attacks.”

  1. George Mason University (GMU)

One benefit of attending GMU is its close proximity to Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area – two hotbeds for cybersecurity job opportunities in both the private and public sectors. The school offers a master’s degree in management of secure information systems and recently became the first college to offer a cybersecurity engineering degree that focuses in cyber resilience engineering design. The school also hosts a Cyber Security Innovation Forum that regularly brings cybersecurity experts and technology innovators to campus to speak about information security topics. And in the Ponemon Institute survey from 2014, they tied for seventh place as one of the best schools for academic excellence and practical relevance in the cybersecurity field.

No degree? (Maybe) No problem.

Veterans Administration Accelerated Learning Program

Most degree programs can take some time to complete, but if you’re short on time, there is another option to consider. Transitioning service members and veterans have access to the new accelerated learning programs through the VA. Instead of earning a degree, it’s a short course designed to provide participants with a skill set or IT certifications in a few months. There is currently cybersecurity training and certifications available through the program. There’s no cost to the participant and it doesn’t come out of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits either. Training can be done online or at one of the locations across the country. As an added bonus, there’s free job referral and support services available at the end of the course.

There are many options to consider when looking at higher education opportunities in cybersecurity. But with the potential rewards so high – salaries can easily soar north of $75,000 – it’s definitely worth pursuing.


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Jennifer Cary is a freelance writer, blogger and former government employee. You can visit her website here.