Cyber security is an excellent option for anyone looking to gain access to an ever-increasing job pool. As long as technology continues to improve, proliferate, and generally take over our day-to-day lives, the need for information and computer-related security will also increase. In this field, you may find yourself stopping or investigating computer-related crimes. Either way, the pay is good, the hours can be whatever you want them to be if you’re willing to move into a consulting/freelancing role, and you will have access to work no matter where in the country you live, be it rural Kentucky or another country.
Why an Advanced Degree in Kentucky is Needed
As in the rest of the country, Kentucky government, businesses, healthcare, and other employers need to protect their data, information, and computer systems. Health records, credit transactions, and banking have all experienced severe disruptions from cyberattacks. Many businesses operate under government regulations that promote privacy protection and Kentucky has emerging business models that rely upon data and information systems including social media, healthcare, energy, and financial tech hubs.
Kentucky’s computer-based and data intensive activities add to the growing need for highly skilled cyber security professionals. There are many demands for computer science graduates from accredited, well-regarded college programs with majors or concentrations in cyber security. The leading cyber security colleges and universities in Kentucky include innovative institutions like Northern Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and the University of the Cumberlands. In addition, students can access online programs through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). Salaries have followed demand as cyber security professionals command high salaries
Kentucky Cyber Security Education
Cybersecurity Associate Degrees
These degrees are two-year college degrees that require about 60 hours of college credits. Qualifications for an associate degree program typically include a high school diploma or a GED. Many community colleges offer cyber security degrees in applied science that can prepare students for entry-level positions. Some students use a two year degree to set the stage to transfer to a four-year program and achieve a bachelor’s degree.
There are three general types of associate degrees in common usage; they are the Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), and the Associate of Applied Science (AAS). The AA and AS degrees can help students prepare for a bachelor’s degree, as many four-year schools accept them as proof of completion of two years of college study. Applied Science degrees focus on preparing students to enter the workforce.
Cybersecurity Bachelor's Degrees
These are four-year degrees in which the typical program requires about 120 credit hours of study, or around 40 classes. There are two major types of bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). Bachelor of arts degrees tend to involve a focus on humanities studies, while BS degrees tend to emphasize mathematics and/or the sciences. BA programs require a higher amount of coursework in the liberal arts areas than do BS programs. Liberal arts programs may have courses in foreign languages, fine arts, and/or social sciences. Most cyber security degrees are science based programs that emphasize mathematics and computer science.
Cybersecurity Master’s Degrees
These are advanced degrees, reaching a level of education that demonstrates mastery of a subject. The master’s degree is considered a level beyond the bachelor’s degree and often requires students to have a bachelor’s in a related field in order to enter a master’s program. Master’s programs may require holders with degrees in unrelated fields to take additional coursework.
Most master’s degrees require one to two years of study and some require a special project, internship, or master’s thesis prior to graduation. Master’s degrees have grown in popularity and some fields regard the master’s degree as the preferred level of education.
Certifications in Kentucky
Earning a certificate is a faster process for gaining and demonstrating knowledge. Whereas associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees take from two to six years, many certificates require one year or less. Certificate programs can run along with or independent of a degree program. Certificates essentially take the core of a subject and teach it in a short period of study but these programs will also have a narrower focus than an associate or higher level degree program.
For many students, certificates enhance an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree but do not replace it. For many professionals, certificates can demonstrate new capabilities and higher levels of knowledge while also fulfilling the need for ongoing education.
Why is Accreditation Important?
Accreditation is an outside review of the quality of education and resources provided by a school, college, or university. There are two types of accreditation: institutional accreditation covers the entire college or university and its programs and can be regional or national, while specialized accreditation applies to specific subjects taught by a school, college, or university. Accreditation agencies are not viewed as equals by employers, educators, and other educational institutions. The most widely accepted accreditation comes from regional agencies qualified by the US Department of Education. The DOE regional accreditation agency for Kentucky is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
In the field of cyber security, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program is an industry leader. This organization is co-sponsored by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CAE-CD was established to meet expanding federal government needs for advanced cyber security professionals. This organization seeks to increase skills and knowledge within states, local governments, and private industry.
Three Kentucky colleges have recognition by the Centers in Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations (CAE). These schools offer programs that meet the standards of the leading cyber security standards. They are the public Northern Kentucky University, University of Louisville, and the private University of the Cumberlands.
CAE Accredited Programs in Kentucky
- Bluegrass Community and Technical College
CAE-2Y / 2019-2024
- Murray State University
CAE-CD / 2019-2024
- Northern Kentucky University
CAE-CD / 2019-2024
- Owensboro Community and Technical College
CAE-2Y / 2019-2024
- University of Louisville – Graduate Certificate of Cybersecurity
CAE-CD / 2019-2024
- University of Louisville, Kentucky
CAE-CD / 2019-2024
- University of the Cumberlands
CAE-CD / 2017-2022
Computer Science and Cybersecurity Programs in Kentucky
Sullivan University is a private, for-profit institution. Sullivan University primary awards two-year degrees, but their programs include certificate, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and undergraduate and postgraduate certificates. The student body has about 3,600 total enrollments with 2,800 undergraduates. Sullivan offers small classes and a supportive learning environment.
Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance - Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s Degree & Undergraduate Certificate
Information Technology – Bachelor’s Degree
Information Technology Project Management – Master’s Degree
Network and System Administration/Administrator – Associate Degree & Undergraduate Certificate
Average Net Price: $30,541
Graduation Rate: 29%
Northern Kentucky University
Founded in 1968, NKU celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2018. NKU is a metropolitan university serving 14,000 students. The 2,000 member faculty and staff work in a thriving suburban campus area in Highland Heights, Kentucky, seven miles southeast of Cincinnati. NKU serves Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati Area; it offers private school education for a fraction of the typical cost. Despite its status as one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, the school prides itself on a student focused, supportive learning environment.
Computer and Information Sciences – Bachelor’s Degree
Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Undergraduate & Graduate Certificates
Computer Programming/Programmer – Undergraduate Certificate
Computer Science – Master’s Degree
Computer/Information Technology Services Administration and Management – Undergraduate & Graduate Certificates
Information Science/Studies – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
Information Technology – Bachelor’s Degrees
Information Technology Project Management – Undergraduate Certificate
Average Net Price: $9,753
College Retention Rate: 69% (Full-time Students); 20% (Part-time Students)
University of Kentucky
This four-year public institution is the flagship university for the State of Kentucky University system. It is located in a large city setting in Lexington, Kentucky with a total enrollment of nearly 30,000 students, of which approximately 22,000 are undergraduates. The school offers a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1.
Computer and Information Sciences – Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctoral Degrees
Informatics – Postgraduate Certificate
Information Science/Studies – Bachelor’s Degree
Average Net Price: $19,762
College Retention Rate: 85% (Full-time Students); 39% (Part-time Students)
Western Kentucky University
A four-year, public university offering certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Western Kentucky University offers a small city environment. The student population is around 19,500 with approximately 17,00 undergraduates. The faculty to student ratio is 18:1.
Computer and Information Sciences, General – Bachelor’s, Master’s Degrees, & Undergraduate Certificates
Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Undergraduate Certificate
Information Sciences/Studies – Postgraduate Certificate
Information Technology – Bachelor’s Degree
Average Net Price: $12,486
College Retention Rate: 71% (Full-time Students); 26% (Part-time Students)
Murray State University
Located in Murray, Kentucky, Murray State University offers a rural location and small town experience to its 9,400+ students. With about 8,000 undergraduates, the school provides a comfortable learning environment with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The school supports certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s , and doctoral degrees.
Computer Science – Bachelor’s Degree
Information Science/Studies - Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
Information Technology – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
Average Net Price: $12,270
College Retention Rate: 79% (Full-time Students); 100% (Part-time Students)
Cybersecurity Associates Programs and Certifications in Kentucky
The below-listed colleges and schools offer two-year degrees and one to two-year certificate programs in computer science, information science, and/or cyber security-related programs of study. Associate degrees and certificates can launch a career in cyber security, prepare you for a bachelor’s degree, or enhance an existing career path. Some schools offer programs that equip graduates to enter the job force at an entry-level.
Community Colleges are accredited institutions that most often offer degrees below the level of a bachelor’s degree. Many community colleges offer programs that allow students to transfer to a four-year college or university. Some community colleges have specific agreements that guarantee acceptance of their credits towards a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university.
Beckfield College - Florence
Average Net Price: $19,454
College Retention Rate: 18%
Ashland Community and Technical College
Average Net Price: $5,733
College Retention Rate: 59% (Full-time Students); 46% (Part-time Students)
Big Sandy Community and Technical College
Average Net Price: $5,398
College Retention Rate: 61% (Full-time Students); 34% (Part-time Students)
Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Average Net Price: $7,117
College Retention Rate: 57% (Full-time Students); 39% (Part-time Students)
US Bank Cyber security Scholarship/Northern Kentucky University
Applicants must be undergraduate students at the Northern Kentucky University, have a 3.0 GPA, and submit a letter of recommendation. The fund awarded three grants in 2018.
Ralph W. Whalin Scholarship/Eastern Kentucky University
The Ralph Whalin Scholarship awards funds to a junior or lower level student who is enrolled full-time in the Department of Applied Engineering and Technology. Applicants will have three or more semesters remaining before graduation and present a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Professor Ed Swinford Scholarship/Eastern Kentucky University
Eligible applicants must be full-time students, enrolled, and in the Eastern Kentucky University Department of Applied Engineering and Technology. Successful applicants will have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher along with a short essay supporting the use of the Swinford funds for their educational goals.
Rural technology Fund Cyber Security Scholarship
Deadline: April 15
Eligibility includes graduating high school seniors or college undergraduates attending school in a rural area. They may apply for this scholarship in computer science and cyber security. Applicants must demonstrate an interest in cyber security and show plans to pursue a degree in a computer-related field.
Stokes Educational Scholarship- National Security Agency
Amount: $30,000 tuition assistance and fees
Deadline: November 15
The Stokes scholarship program is a full-time student position and summer internship with the NSA. Students get an annual salary, attend the college of their choice, and get an internship in the field of cyber security. High school seniors intending on majoring in engineering and computer science are eligible for participation. The program requires US citizenship, and a minimum SAT score of 1200. They prefer to award students with GPA’s of 3.0 or higher and demonstrated leadership skills.
Conferences and Workshops
Conferences and workshops offer opportunities for information security professionals, students, and other interested persons to gather and exchange views. The list below describes some noteworthy annual Kentucky conferences and workshops.
Kentucky Digital Government Summit
The 2020 meeting is sponsored by Government Technology, a division of e.Republic,Inc. E.Republic,Inc. is a technology research company focused on public-sector innovation for state, local governments, and education. The Kentucky Government Technology Summit in Frankfort, Ky is an annual event that brings together government sand industry leaders to discuss and promote Digital solutions to public policy and governance.
NKU Cyber security
Symposium is an annual event hosted by Northern Kentucky University. It is a one-day event, consisting of four hour-long sessions. It has a broad agenda and participants can choose among six specialty tracks that include current topics of concern like health care cyber security.
Located in the center of Louisville, this five-day event attracts a wide range of infosec participants. The program appeals to nearly everyone in the cyber security sector including professionals, entrepreneurs, and hackers. DerbyCon offers five days of workshops, training sessions, and current issue presentations.
Louisville Metro InfoSec Conference
ISSA Kentuckiana Chapter has been sponsoring this annual one-day gathering since 2003. Members get in free, while all others must pay for entry to a packed agenda of security experts from the private sector.
Kentucky Cyber Security Jobs and Salary
Computer related occupations are an important part of the Kentucky economy. They fill important roles in the functioning of an increasingly computerized state economy and they also provide a substantial amount of income for Kentucky workers. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports fourteen classifications of computer related occupations, involving about 33,000 positions. They are technical occupations in high-demand with an overall average annual salary range of $72,000.
Computer and mathematical occupations occupy less than three percent of all current Kentucky jobs. The Computer and mathematics occupations show an annual projected growth rate of 1.5% per year through 2026. The 1.5% annual growth estimate is among the highest rates for Kentucky occupational groups. Available career paths include the below-described positions.
- Information Security Analysts have a total employment in Kentucky of about 800 jobs with an annual average wage of $84,000.
- Computer Systems Analysts hold about 4,310 total jobs in Kentucky, with an annual average wage of $71,500.
- Computer Programmers have about 1,270 jobs in Kentucky, with an annual average salary of approximately $73,000.
- Database Administrators hold about 960 positions in Kentucky, with an average $79,000 annual salary.
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators comprise a significant number of Kentucky jobs at about 3,190 total positions. Their average annual salary is about $65,000.
Kentucky currently has a relatively low number of cyber security organizations, and some do not maintain regular meetings. The benefits of working with these organizations are important for students as they can gain valuable insights and networking opportunities. Regular meetings are a helpful part of the Kentucky cyber security community; their agendas can highlight areas of interest for students and areas of change, growth, and innovation. They include the (ISC)2 Kentucky Triangle Chapter and ISSA Kentuckiana.
Kentucky Triangle Chapter (International Information System Security Certification Consortium) offers information and security professionals a vibrant setting for networking information and innovations. The chapter regularly invites government and leading industry voices to contribute to its educational events.
Kentuckiana is the Information Systems Security Association chapter located in Louisville. ISSA members are Infosec professionals and the organization also welcomes student attendance and participation at chapter meetings. The meetings are often based around presentations from government officials and industry leaders from the private sector.
Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an online community that provides an interactive platform for exchanging ideas, projects activities, and information for improving the security of software. OWASP projects offer students and professionals opportunities to engage in the state of the art problem solving, innovation, and research. OWASP is open to everyone and each user can have access to materials and information.
formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association - provides information and guidance for participants in the fields of cyber security and information technology. The Kentucky Chapter of ISACA offers student memberships that can support active networking, education, and industry insights. This group does not have regular meetings but they do offer a scholarship with three $500 awards.
- Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics,
- US Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity,
- Kentucky Center for Statistics, Occupational Outlook(2016-2026)
- Kentucky Center for Statistics, Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2026
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Kentucky