Cybersecurity Degrees and Careers Iowa Guide

Learn About Studying Cyber Security in Iowa, Requirements and Job Growth Careers Guide

Cyber security has become one of the most in-demand fields in the area of computer science and information technology. Unless human nature changes, bad characters will always try to hack into computer systems, stealing data and personal information. It is the job of those in cyber security to protect their networks and prevent or thwart these attacks. The work is challenging and constantly evolving. Many Iowa colleges and universities offer strong information technology programs to train the next generation of cyber security professionals. With educational advancements come even more cyber security career opportunities.

Why an Advanced Degree in Iowa is Needed

While many people are tech-savvy, that is not sufficient to obtain a good job in the IT or cyber security field. Fortunately, many accredited Iowa colleges and universities offer degrees that can help graduates attain the best paying jobs in the industry. An associate degree is a good starting point for entry-level cyber security work. Those earning a bachelor’s degree can begin their careers somewhat higher up the ladder. Master’s degrees are more specialized, and in many cases, the student’s company may even reimburse them their tuition. People already working in the field can earn certifications, which also help with career advancement or a shift in career focus.

Iowa Cyber Security Education Degrees & Requirements

When pursuing a degree in cyber security, students have the option of taking classes online, on campus, or in a hybrid of the two formats. The student’s own work and family life may determine the best format. Those working full-time will often find it easier to complete courses online where they can study on their own schedule.

Associate’s Degree

An associate degree in cyber security generally takes two years to complete if the student attends school full-time. After successful completion, students qualify for entry-level jobs in the IT field. Admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED and applicants should have good grades in high school math and science. Core courses may include algebra, introduction to computers, security concepts, and Unix and Linux operating systems.

Bachelor’s Degree

Full-time students can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years. If taking classes over the summer, some students may be able to complete their degree more quickly, in three years or less. Admissions requirements are similar to that for an associate degree. Core courses may include cyber defense, digital forensics, information technology, computer networking, ethics, or law and policy.

Master’s Degree

Those seeking a master’s degree in cyber security are generally already employed in the field. For them, online coursework is usually the best option. A master’s degree may take between 18 and 24 months to complete. Prerequisites generally include a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering with at least a 3.0 GPA, along with good programming skills. However, candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a similar field with strong work experience in related fields may qualify at certain universities. Some schools require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Core courses will depend on the specific track the student is following, such as information security or public policy.

Certifications in Iowa

Certification in either the undergraduate or graduate cyber security sphere usually take about one year to complete. Aimed at professionals already working in cyber security, top certifications include Ethical Cyber Hacker, Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator, Certified Information Security Manger, and Certified Cloud Security Professional, to name just some of your options. There are also entry-level certifications designed for the novice. Prerequisites will depend on the type of certification you’re aiming for. For advanced certification, applicants may need at least five years’ experience in various cyber security positions and perhaps previous certifications.

Why is Accreditation Important?

When considering a college or university, its accreditation status is critical. Accreditation means that the school meets minimum quality standards. Financial aid is only dispersed to accredited schools. If you want to transfer to another school or earn an advanced degree, accredited schools will not accept the credits of unaccredited colleges. Employers are unlikely to hire applicants with degrees with unaccredited institutions. In Iowa, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools is responsible for accreditation.

When it comes to cyber security, top schools are designated National Centers in Academic Excellence (CAE) by the federal government. Institutions of higher education with CAE applications must meet stringent academic and program requirements. These requirements ensure cyber operation depth at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

CAE Accredited Programs in Iowa

  • Iowa State University
    CAE-CD / 2014-2021
    CAE-R / 2014-2021

Computer Science & IT Programs in Iowa

  • Iowa State University

    Located in Ames, approximately 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend ISU. For undergraduates, 91% of applicants are accepted. In 2018, ISU conferred 94 bachelor’s degrees in computer science, along with 121 master’s degrees in computer science, information technology, or computer and information systems security/information assurance. Nine doctorates in computer science were awarded.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance - Master’s Degree
    Computer Science - Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
    Information Technology - Master’s Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $8,988
    Out-of-State: $23,392
    Average Net Price: $14,643
    College Retention Rate: 87% (Full-time Students); 67% (Part-time Students)

  • Buena Vista University

    Approximately 1,800 students are enrolled in this private university, located in Storm Lake. Roughly 200 are taking graduate courses. However, BVU does not offer graduate programs in computer science. The student/faculty ratio is 8:1. Seven bachelor’s degrees in computer-related fields were awarded in 2018. As of the fall of 2018, 57% of total applicants were admitted.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences – Bachelor’s Degree
    Computer Science - Bachelor’s Degree
    Information Technology - Bachelor’s Degree
    Computer Systems Analyst/Analysis - Bachelor’s Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $34,004
    Average Net Price: $20,580
    College Retention Rate: 60% (Full-time Students)

  • Grand View University

    Located in Des Moines, Grand View University has a student population of less than 2,000, with all but roughly 100 of them undergraduates. There is a student/faculty ratio of 12:1. In 2018, GVU awarded 17 bachelor’s degrees in computer-related fields. As of fall, 2018, 92% of applicants were accepted to the school.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences – Bachelor’s Degree
    Information Technology - Bachelor’s Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $27,608
    Average Net Price: $17,946
    College Retention Rate: 71% (Full-time Students)

  • Saint Ambrose University

    This private school located in Davenport boasts a student population of about 3,000, of whom 2,300 are undergraduates. It has a strong computer science program, offering various undergraduate majors and a master’s program. In 2018, SAU awarded 24 bachelor’s degrees in the computer science field and four master’s degrees. The student/faculty ratio is 11:1.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Bachelor’s Degree
    Computer Science - Bachelor’s Degree
    Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst - Bachelor’s Degree
    Information Technology - Bachelor’s Degree
    System, Networking, and LAN/WAN Management/Manager – Bachelor’s Degree
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – Master’s Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $30,894
    Average Net Price: $25,562
    College Retention Rate: 80% (Full-time Students); 25% (Part-time Students)

Iowa Colleges Offering Certificates and Associate Degrees

Students interested in a career in the computer sciences, or those who want to earn certification to bolster their current job, do not have to attend a four-year university and receive a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges offer students the opportunity to earn certification or an associate degree at a lower cost. An associate degree generally takes two years to complete and if they want to pursue their education beyond the associate level, they can then transfer to a four-year college or university. Unlike universities, community colleges are intended for local students and few offer dormitories or other living spaces on campus.

  • Western Iowa Tech Community College
    As its names implies, this Sioux City community college focuses on tech-related education. In 2018, WITCC granted 11 associate degrees in cyber/computer forensics and counterterrorism, as well as 11 in Network and System Administration. The latter category also had 40 students receiving 1 year certificates, and 33 students receiving 1 to 2 year certificates.

    Programs Offered:

    Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism – Associate Degree
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – 1 Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate, Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $4,272
    Out-of-State: $4,296
    Average Net Price: $7,514
    College Retention Rate: 61% (Full-time Students); 37% (Part-time Students)

  • North Iowa Area Community College
    Located in Mason City, NIACC has a student population of almost 3,000, with a student to faculty ratio of 22 to 1. In 2018, the school awarded 13 associate degrees in computer-related fields, as well as seven one-year certificates.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $5,408
    Out-of-State: $7,721
    Average Net Price: $8,603
    College Retention Rate: 63% (Full-time Students); 33% (Part-time Students)

  • Indian Hills Community College
    Located in Ottumwa, IHCC has a student population of roughly 4,000. Unlike many community colleges, some campus housing is available. The student to faculty ratio is 14:1. In 2018, 33 students received associate degrees in computer-related fields.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Associate Degree
    Computer Programming, Specific Applications – Associate Degree
    Computer/Information Technology Services Administration and Management, Other – Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $4,224
    Out-of-State: $5,760
    Average Net Price: $7,939
    College Retention Rate: 57% (Full-time Students); 31% (Part-time Students)

  • Eastern Iowa Community College District
    This Davenport school has a student population of just under 8,000, and a student to faculty ratio of 19:1. In 2018, EICCD awarded 21 associate degrees in computer fields, including two in cyber/computer forensics and counterterrorism, as well as six one to two year certificates.

    Programs Offered:

    Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism – Associate Degree
    Computer Programming/Programmer – 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    Data Modeling/Warehousing and Database Administration – Associate Degree
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – 1-Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $5,184
    Out-of-State: $7,328
    Average Net Price: $9,697
    College Retention Rate: 63% (Full-time Students); 49% (Part-time Students)

  • Des Moines Area Community College
    Those preferring a larger community college may want to attend DMACC, whose student population is roughly 23,500. The student faculty ratio is 19:1. In 2018, 75 students received associate’s degrees in computer-related fields, while 65 earned one-year certificates, and 10 earned 1-2-year certificates.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – 1-Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    Information Technology – 1-Year Certificate, 1-2-Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism – 1-Year Certificate & Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $4,680
    Out-of-State: $9,360
    Average Net Price: $9,239
    College Retention Rate: 60% (Full-time Students); 36% (Part-time Students)

Scholarships

  • Girls Go Cyberstart

    Amount: $500
    Deadline: February 18, 2019
    Link: https://icn.iowa.gov/cybersecurity-competition-students
    Girls Go Cyberstart is a competition awarding scholarships to high school girls playing cyber security tech games by themselves or on teams. Students may win individual prizes, including trips, as they advance through the game levels, and scholarships are awarded to those cyber team members placing in the top percentages in the 15 participating states. In 2018, 10 young Iowa women won Girls Go Cyberstart scholarships.

  • BHW Women in STEM Scholarship

    Amount: $3,000
    Deadline: April 15
    Link: https://thebhwgroup.com/scholarship
    To help encourage more women in STEM fields, including cyber security, the BHW Group is offering an annual scholarship for women who are working towards careers in engineering, computing, or some other science/technical fields. If you are a high school senior or higher, you are encouraged to apply. Each application must include a formal or informal essay that relates to an application.

Conferences and Workshops

CornCon

Held each September, CornCon is a cyber security conference held on the Illinois/Iowa border. The two-day event includes a Friday enterprise con and a hacker con on Saturday, “featuring world-class technical and keynotes speakers.” The conference includes a kids’ hacker comp, vendor expo, and hacker villages.

Des Moines Cybersecurity Conference

This conference is organized by Data Collectors LLC. Up to 50 exhibitors and 500 delegates attend this annual event focused on cyber security concerns.

Secure Iowa

Held each October, the Secure Iowa Conference is sponsored by the Des Moines chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). The day-long conference features continuing education in IT management, risk assessment, compliance, and privacy. There is a technical and management track, so the conference appeals to all Iowa IT professionals.

Iowa Cyber Security Jobs and Salary

Nearly 21,000 Iowans are employed in the cyber security and computer field, and the numbers for most jobs are expected to grow at a steady rate through 2026. That’s a rate of 13.51 per 1,000 employees. The annual mean wage in these high-paying jobs is $72,640, as of May, 2018.

  • Computer Programmers
    While 3,340 Iowa residents are currently employed as computer programmers, the number of jobs available is expected to decrease over the next decade to 3,240, representing a decline of 0.3% annually.
  • Computer Systems Analysts
    By 2026, Iowa expects 7,005 such positions statewide, or 505 project annual job openings. That is 1.5% annual growth, far above the 0.8% overall statewide rate for all occupations.
  • Computer Network Architects
    Currently, there are approximately 1,015 computer network architects employed in Iowa, and that number is expected to grow to 1,135 over the next decade. That is an annual growth rate of 1.2% annually, higher than the overall state growth rate for all occupations.
  • Computer Network Support Specialists
    This entry-level position in the IT field stands at 1,905 Iowa employees as of 2016 and is expected to grow to 2,145 by 2026. The annual growth rate is 1.3%, again, higher than average.
  • Information Security Analysts
    This job should experience rapid annual growth over the next decade, at an estimated 3.4% annually. Approximately 1,470 people hold this position now, and the number should increase to 1,975 by 2026.
  • Database Administrators
    By 2026, 1,000 people are expected to be employed as database administrators, up from the current 845. This means that the job is projected to grow at an annual rate of 1.8%.
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators
    In 2016, 3,485 Iowans are employed in this capacity. By 2026, the number is expected to increase to 3,770, meeting the statewide average of 0.8% growth for overall state occupations.

Resources

  • Iowa Infosec
    Meet fellow cyber security enthusiasts informally throughout the year to discuss the latest issues. While the third Wednesday of each month is reserved for a Happy Hour in a Des Moines pub, where the cyber tech community can socialize while talking security, there are other regular meetings held as well, with presentations given by members and guests.
  • Safeguard Iowa Partnership
    The voluntary coalition of Iowa business and government leaders share the commitment to strengthen state capacity to “prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters” through public-private collaboration. That includes cyber security. The public-private partnerships enable development of plans for resource and information pooling.
  • ISSA Iowa Chapter
    Join the local chapter of this international organization to expand your network, develop professional relationships, learn and grow, and boost your career. Annual memberships are available at various levels.
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