Cyber-attacks are occurring in nearly every industry in nearly every state at a growing rate. Small to medium-sized businesses are the next big sector to experience attacks. As the Montana economy consists of nearly 70% of small-medium size businesses, and employs over 65% of the entire private workforce, as outlined by the Montana Small Business Administration, preventing cyber-crime is essential to the future success and strength of the Montana economy, including job security and low unemployment. Just a few years ago, only one postsecondary program was offered in the entire state of Montana. Today, you have the luxury of choosing from a number of cyber security and information assurance degrees from various higher learning institutions.
Why an Advanced Degree in Montana is Needed
An advanced degree is essential to secure a cyber security job in Montana. Even if you are talented in the areas necessary to succeed in cyber security, a degree provides comfort and reassurance to employers and clients that you have been properly trained and educated. While it is possible to succeed with informal training, the current state of the job marketplace in cyber security if moving more and more towards the need for formal training and degrees.
You can pursue many different types of degrees that will lead you to employment in this rapidly growing sector such as computer science, cyber security, cyber forensics, information assurance, information technology, and more. You can also begin with certificates or an associate degree to gain access to entry-level positions before you continue your education to earn career advancement.Read More
Montana Cyber Security Education
Cybersecurity Associate Degrees
An associate degree is often required for non-professional, entry-level positions. These positions in cyber security might be in the form of customer service, a help desk technician, cyber security associate, cyber threat analyst, or penetration tester. You could also potentially qualify for several mid-level positions if you have relevant experience and superior practical and applicable skills. The courses you will take online or in a classroom setting will be similar. Many people have to take both math-based courses as well as technology-centered courses such as algebra, statistics, routing and switching, Unix operating system, database concepts, network fundamentals, and more.
Cybersecurity Bachelor's Degrees
A bachelor’s degree will make it easier to receive offers for entry-level positions, and they are a minimum requirement for many specialist positions. Most top employers will require a bachelor’s degree for any sort of career advancement in various job sectors such as IT security consultancy, information security management, and information assurance engineering. Even if you are self-taught and excel in your field, many employers are still beginning to require a bachelor’s degree. The courses you will be required to complete will vary based on your degree and your major but may include courses in information systems, cyber defense, ethics, data communications and networking, security systems, law and policy, information systems, and digital forensics.
Cybersecurity Master’s Degrees
Today, a master’s degree is often a prerequisite for managerial and executive positions. You could pursue any number of career opportunities with this advanced degree in cyber security such as director of cybercrime, cyber security engineer, IT auditor, CTO, consultant, or vulnerability testing manager. Many positions that require advanced degrees are available with top employers and government jobs. You can expect more sophisticated courses at this level of higher education as well such as network and systems security, e-commerce security, information security strategy and policy, information security management, and security governance and compliance.
Certifications in Montana
Certification in cyber security is available at every level of education. You can complete some certifications with just a few hours of course completion. Other certifications will require a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree before you can complete them. All certifications will advance your career regardless of your current career level. Some certifications include Certified Ethical Hacker, CompTIA Security+, Certified Information System Security Professional, Certified Information Security Manager, Certified Information Systems Auditor, and NIST Cyber Security Framework. You can expect a variety of focus points based on the certification you are pursuing such as Cisco networking, social and ethical concerns in computer science, computer modeling, enterprise security, and computer fluency.
Why is Accreditation Important?
Accreditation is essential for your future success in the cyber security profession. It is important to note the distinction between a college or university that has accreditation and a program that has received accreditation. Ideally, you would complete an accredited program from a regionally accredited college or university. This immediately informs potential employers that you have been educated by both a higher learning institute and a program with the highest of educational standards. While this combination is not always feasible for all students, it is possible for everyone to pursue or work toward a degree from a regionally accredited college or university. You can start with a community college and transfer to a four-year school with the desired accreditation. In cyber security, you may also want to think about finding a program that is endorsed by the Centers in Academic Excellence (CAE). The CAE program certification tells employers that your program meets the high-level requirements of Homeland Security and the NSA in regards to cyber security and allows you to work for either of these two prestigious departments.
CAE Accredited Programs in Montana
- Great Falls College Montana State University
CAE-2Y / 2019-2024
- Missoula College
CAE-2Y / 2017-2022
Computer Science and Cybersecurity Programs in Montana
The University of Montana
Cyber security at the University of Montana is available in the form of certificates and associate through doctoral degrees. They have a partnership with Missoula College and Excelsior College to ensure that students have a clear and concise pathway from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree. You can complete courses both online and in the classroom with these programs.
Computer and Information, General - Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance - Undergraduate Certificate
Information Technology - Associate Degree
Average Net Price: $14,186
College Retention Rate: 68% (Full-time Students); 31% (Part-time Students)
At Carroll College, you can complete a few different types of computer and information technology degrees. It is important to note, however, that at this time you can only complete a high-level cyber security course rather than to complete an entire degree dedicated to cyber security specifically. However, do not fret as many cyber security jobs only require a strong degree in IT or computer science rather than to have a specialized degree. It is possible that Carroll College could begin offering a cyber security degree at any time, so be sure to check if their degree offerings have changed.
Computer Science – Associate & Bachelor’s Degrees
Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst – Bachelor’s Degree
Information Science/Studies – Undergraduate Certificate
Information Technology – Associate Degree
Average Net Price: $26,586
College Retention Rate: 81% (Full-time Students)
Montana State University
Montana State University offers a number of cyber security degrees and related degrees to make future employment easier. You can choose from bachelor’s through doctoral degree and even complete a dual degree program that reduces the time and cost of completing both types of degrees. You also have the option to complete a program that prepares you to pass a number of professional certifications such as CompTIA, Network+, and Cisco Certified Network Associate.
Computer Science – Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctoral Degrees
Computer Science – Dual Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees
Average Net Price: $15,801
College Retention Rate: 77% (Full-time Students); 60% (Part-time Students)
Little Big Horn College
Little Big Horn College offers both a certification course and an associate’s degree in information systems. These courses will help prepare you for entry-level positions within the computer and IT industry. It could also allow you to pursue entry-level cyber security jobs that provide training and apprenticeships. This higher learning institution is located on the Crow Indian Reservation. As such, you will also have access and insights into the remarkable cultural, social, and economic workings of this prestigious community.
Information Technology – 1- to 2-year Certificate & Associate Degree
Average Net Price: $6,840
College Retention Rate: 67%
Flathead Valley Community College
Flathead Valley Community College offers an information technology and security degree alongside a few other computer and IT-related degree programs that will prepare you for a career in cyber security. You can also find a transfer track program that will ensure you can transfer to various four-year higher learning institutions in Montana, or other states, as long as you have the grades. The partnership schools include Montana State University, the University of Montana, and Montana Tech.
Computer Programming/Programmer – Associate Degree
Information Technology – Associate Degree
Average Net Price: $9,499
College Retention Rate: 63% (Full-time Students); 39% (Part-time Students)
Morphisec's Women in Cyber Security Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 - $5,000
This scholarship offers scholarships for first, second, and third place. First place will receive $5,000, second place will receive $2,000, and third place will receive $1,000. You must be female and an undergraduate or graduate student studying cyber security or a related field, such as other STEM degrees, to qualify.
The (ISC)² Undergraduate Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 - $5,000
Deadline: February 17
The (ISC)² Undergraduate Scholarship is dedicated to undergraduate students in pursuit of an information assurance degree, cyber security degree, or a degree in a related field. You can be a current undergraduate student or a high school senior to qualify as long as you have a minimum of a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
(ISC)² Graduate Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 - $5,000
Deadline: February 17
The (ISC)² Graduate Scholarship is dedicated to graduate students in pursuit of an information assurance or cyber security degree. You can be entering a master’s program, a current master’s degree student, or about to begin a PhD program to qualify as long as you have at least a 3.5 GPA. Scholarships will range between $1,000 and $5,000.
International Association for Intelligence Education Scholarship
Deadline: July 31
The International Association for Intelligence Education Scholarship is committed to individuals in pursuit of a career in intelligence, which could very well include cyber security. This scholarship is for existing professionals changing career paths to intelligence and the scholarship amount is $1,500.
Montana’s STEM Scholarship Program
Amount: $1,000 - $2,000
Deadline: March 15
Montana’s STEM Scholarship Program is for all students seeking careers in STEM fields, including cyber security and information assurance. Scholarship winners could receive between $1,000 and $2,000. It is a renewal scholarship dedicated to high school seniors committed to pursuing degrees in STEM programs. This particular scholarship’s requirements, criteria, and award amounts could change at any time as the scholarship is dependent upon Legislative approval each year.
Conferences and Workshops
INTERFACE - Montana
The INTERFACE - Montana conference is one of the longest-running cyber security and information assurance conferences in Montana. Each year, they choose several critical topics of relevance such as offensive security, which includes malware. The conference may also include IT infrastructure, data storage and recovery, enterprise communications, and information security. This is an F2F Event sponsored by Kuppering Cole for IT experts and CPE-accredited IT educators.
State Information Technology Services Division Workshop
The State Information Technology Services Division (SITSD) Workshop offers cyber security awareness and training. The workshop centers around human error leading to cyber-criminal success and the solutions participants can implement to prevent and avoid these dangers and risks. You will learn about non-secure mobile devices, unencrypted data, harmful websites, a misconfigured server, and more.
METAtechED Spring Conference
The Montana Educational Technology Association regularly holds a conference dedicated to technology topics, often including cyber security and information assurance. The program is dedicated to technology educators from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The conference covers a wide array of subjects, concerns, and solutions for all who attend. It also helps to ensure young people in Montana will minimize their likelihood of falling prey to online dangers both in their personal and professional lives.
Montana Cyber Security Jobs and Salary
Information Security Analysts
There are roughly 120 Information security analyst jobs in Montana with a median salary of $64,790. These cyber security professionals are responsible for monitoring business networks for violations and security breaches, as well repairing and preventing such attacks. You will be required to stay current on the latest trends and possibly complete additional certifications to remain qualified to work in the field.
Computer Systems Analysts
The roughly 640 computer systems analysts in Montana earn a median salary of $76,380 annually. As a computer systems analyst you will analyze the existing design solutions, practices, and systems of an organization to determine optimal performance enhancements. You will also likely be responsible for implementing recommended improvements.
Around 650 people in Montana work as computer programmers. They earn a median salary of $94,480 each year. As a computer programmer, you can expect to write code in several languages such as Java and C++. The code you will be required to use will vary greatly based on your employer and projects. You will have to write, analyze, and test code for errors and improvements.
There are roughly 240 database administrators in Montana with a median annual salary of $69,270. The responsibilities of database administrators will largely depend on the size of the employer. If you work for a smaller organization, you will likely have more responsibilities with fewer team members to delegate. Regardless, many tasks will be the same for all including preventing data loss, improving database operational efficiency, updating user permissions, and merging old and new databases. You could also choose between different types of database administrators, such as systems and applications database administrators.
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Network and computer systems administrators are more common in Montana with around 600 people employed in such positions earning a median annual salary of $64,780. You will have to work on both LANs and WANs, upgrade computer systems, ensure security for computer and network systems, resolve issues, prevent problems, and train end-users on software and hardware.
The Montana State Information Technology Service Division offers a wide array of cyber security awareness programs and resources for all Montana residents and businesses. You can choose to attend various workshops and conferences held throughout the state each year or study and learn online.
The Montana Information Security Advisory Council provides alerts pertaining to the most recent security information threats. As information security threats changes on a daily basis and cyber-criminals are constantly posing new threats and breaching information vulnerabilities, this Montana resource can help you remain current in one place.
The Department of Homeland Security offers a program called Stop.Think.Connect to help teach businesses and employees the best way to prevent becoming a victim of cyber-attacks through your own online activity. You can also take these learned best practices to your home so that your personal network, devices, and accounts are not attacked.