What is Cyber Security?
The cyber security field is one of the most important fields these days. Since virtually every segment of society has migrated its data onto electronic servers, black hat hackers have sought to steal that data. Sometimes criminals hijack medical records in lieu of ransom money and others try to siphon electronic funds into their accounts. Still others seek to steal personal information and whole identities, thus putting ordinary citizens in jeopardy. This has made our society's infrastructure increasingly reliant on the strength of its cyber security measures. For that reason, cyber security degrees are proliferating and graduates from these programs are able to command high salaries.
Alaska may evoke images of glaciers, polar bears, and igloos, but it's also full of high-tech professionals and the schools that trained them. Though Alaska may be small in terms of population and even the number of colleges and universities it holds, it is large in terms of its computer science acumen. After all, computer technology has reached deep into Alaska. The role of cyber security will continue to grow in Alaska, just as it will in the lower 48 states. Thus, this page seeks to help budding computer experts find the training they need to help protect Alaska's technological assets and even start their own high-tech firms.
A cyber security specialist is a high-tech worker whose job is to help protect the digital assets of their employer or client. This position can involve duties that can include working to secure networks, encrypting databases, attempting to hack systems (also known as penetration testing), designing new security architectures and systems, and even conducting educational sessions with non-technical co-workers.
Cyber security specialists thus do most of their work on computers in an office setting. The nature of the work does allow for a great deal of flexibility and many cyber security workers work from home or on some mix of remote and in-office work. They can also be found working as contract workers or as full-time employees, depending on the need of the company for which they work.
Those who work as contracted consultants may find that travel is a large part of their working week. While they might be able to complete much of their work from a remote station, clients often want face time with their consultants. Furthermore, cyber security consultants may need to train the full-time IT employees on new security technologies and protocols.
Cyber Security Education in Alaska
Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
This is a terrific first college degree to use as a kicking off point for a career in cyber security. Since the field is growing so rapidly, many Alaska community colleges are scrambling to add this degree to their curriculum. Indeed, any student of computer science or information technology from a two-year program should graduate with at least some knowledge in the cyber security field and this can be enough for some graduates to find an entry-level position in cyber security.
Students who are interested in cyber security should seek out associate degrees from programs that are accredited by ABET or CAE. Those credentials indicate that the academic programs can compete on a national level. Furthermore, a CAE accreditation is the result of vetting by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Even if one's associate degree in cyber security doesn't have national accreditation, graduates can still apply their knowledge towards cyber security industry certifications which can also help elevate one's professional status. Any employer will reward their tech workers who continue to grow and develop their skills and an associate degree is a perfect foundation for that development. Industry certifications are a terrific way to continue learning while also adding new credentials.Read More about an Associates in Cybersecurity
Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
A four-year bachelor's degree in cyber security will help launch a career from a very strong foundation. One benefit of entering into a bachelor's degree program is that these programs tend to offer more variety in the courses provided to students and they may also have the option to add a minor to their degree. This can help students steer their careers in the precise direction they desire.
Some Alaskan college students may add a minor in management, for instance. This could help them rise in the ranks of their firm's administration and may help them with an MBA application later. Others might dive deeper into a STEM subject, such as statistics or data science, which will complement their work in information security.
A bachelor's degree can also be helpful when seeking a certificate. Some certifications require a certain degree and a bachelor's degree should cover most of those. Furthermore, four-year degrees from accredited universities are terrific training for any and all future learning.Read More about a Bachelors in Cybersecurity
Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)
A graduate degree in cyber security or an MBA with an information security or even computer science concentration could help boost nearly any career. At this level, graduate students make sure to choose the program that directly matches their long-term career goals. If you are deep into the technology, it may be best to stick with a master of science in cyber security, information security, or a computer science degree that has a strong infosec focus. However, if you are looking to move into management or for more flexibility in a higher-level degree, an MBA may be the right option for you.
Another option is to seek a dual MBA program. For this option most students take a leave from the working world as these programs are rather intensive and require a lot of time. Look for programs that have national accreditation in both cyber security and business. For the cyber security degree, look for a graduate degree program with credentials from ABET or CAE. For an MBA, accreditation from agencies such as AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE will stand out on any resume.Read More about a Masters in Cybersecurity
PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
This degree level is for those who have an abiding passion for learning as much as possible about cyber security and computer science. Employers often seek out PhDs for jobs that focus on research and development. Since a PhD education is highly specialized, graduates from doctoral programs can dive deep into the topics that intrigue them the most. In fact, some PhD students use their dissertations as the starting point for start-up businesses. For instance, a PhD thesis might cover a hot topic like blockchain technologies and thus launch the next hot cryptocurrency or provide blockchain solutions for medical records.
Another benefit of a PhD is that it can open the door to a second career. Colleges and universities all over the U.S. are seeking new PhDs to teach their computer science students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. It may also be possible to win a fellowship that can support ongoing research into cyber security.
Become a Cyber Security Specialist in Alaska
To become a cyber security professional in Alaska, a student should first start off with a passion for learning about computers. Those who learn computer code as a hobby or who enjoy building custom computers might take note of cyber security degree programs in Alaska. The field is also an excellent choice for those who love mathematics but who aren't interested in a career teaching in public schools or in one of the Alaska universities.
For students who find that they are particularly interested in cyber security, there's no better time than now to start seeking an area to focus on. Some may be drawn to cryptography and the various ways to encode and secure data including dynamic network communications and static databases. Others may find it more exciting to study how to create a network security architecture. Before one even begins a cyber security degree in Alaska, they can begin reading books and even taking introductory online courses. There are also certificate programs that don't require a degree.
Nevertheless, an information security degree will go a long way towards launching a career. When an employer sees even an associate degree in cyber security, they will put their trust in that candidate. Furthermore, when students complete internships as part of their security degree program, employers can hire them with the assurance that they have been tested and vetted. This is all the more true in the case of CAE-certified security degree programs. Since Alaska is sparsely populated it may be optimal to investigate online degree programs for cyber security.
Once in the cyber security industry, professionals should continue learning. An industry certification will likely require additional courses and then may also require continuing education to help keep that knowledge current. There is a wide array of cyber security certificates available including those in network infrastructure, server operating systems, networking systems, and more. Online certificate programs can be completed at night and during other free time. After all, effective ethical hacking requires that professionals remain current with what the bad guys are up to.
Top College Programs in Alaska for Cyber Security
Alaska is a sparsely populated state with few colleges and universities. While the state does offer some terrific computer science degrees, students may want other options. Thankfully, Alaska is part of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). The WUE allows Alaska students to attend public colleges and universities in states such as Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado, to name a few, without having to pay out-of-state rates. Once accepted, students only have to pay in-state tuition for those schools, which can help students from Alaska who are looking for a different educational experience gain the education they need without breaking the bank.
- University of Alaska Anchorage:
UAA offers students the opportunity to study computer science and engineering in an ABET accredited program. While the program doesn't focus on cyber security, students will receive top-notch instruction that they can apply towards a career in the field. With this degree, students can adopt new security training.
- University of Alaska Fairbanks:
Computer science students at UAF receive the benefit of an ABET accredited education. While UAF doesn't yet offer a special track for information security, the computer science department will provide a solid foundation for any future security certificate or degree.
- University of Alaska Southeast:
The computer and information systems degree at UAS includes a course in information security management that can form the foundation for professional development in the field. Other courses in the degree likewise provide exposure to security issues.
- Alaska Vocational Technical Center:
The information technology program at AVTEC provides Alaskans with the opportunity to dive into the field. The degree program can help students launch a career with an academic background in network security. That knowledge can support later work towards an industry certificate or an advanced degree.
- Ilisagvik College:
Alaska's only tribal college has an information technology program that helps students get started in the IT field. The degree is best when paired with another field such as allied health, construction technology, or business. However, once IC students get started in an IT department, they can always move their careers in the direction of cyber security.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
- Cloud Information Security Engineer:
Cloud storage is a hot topic these days. This career requires deep knowledge and understanding of networking, database management, and the security issues each faces. Professionals should be able to write and debug code that is specific to cloud technologies. It's also vital to be current with the top technologies in this field. Learn More
- Information Security Analyst:
This position requires that professionals have the depth of knowledge and experience necessary to evaluate security systems and protocols. Many security analysts are also asked to design and build cyber security systems for their clients and employers. A degree in computer science with a focus on information security should be helpful when pursuing this career. Learn More
- Security Software Engineer:
This position is more on the vendor side of the IT industry than the client side. That is, the security software these engineers create is usually sold to IT departments and even individuals for the purpose of thwarting virus attacks, malware, and other cyber security threats. Learn More
- Security Architect:
Much as a regular architect designs and oversees construction of a building, so information security architects design and oversee cyber security systems for their clients or employers. This position generally comes in the middle of one's career, after having spent years coding and proving oneself in the technology trenches. Learn More
- Penetration Tester:
These profession is often referred to as ethical hackers. That's because these cyber security professionals make their living attempting to hack into a cyber security network using whatever tools they have available. The idea is to identify any vulnerabilities so that they can be bolstered and thus thwart any unethical, or black hat, hackers. Learn More
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
This position often comes as a final chapter of a long career in cyber security. CISOs frequently have at least one graduate degree, often an MBA. However, many have at least an MS in computer science, if not a PhD. Additional training in business or leadership often helps these professionals reach the C-suites. Learn More
While housing data behind firewalls and passwords is a vital part of cyber security, encrypting that data in impenetrable code is likewise necessary. Cryptographers are hard at work creating solutions that will safeguard medical records by way of decentralized, cryptographic systems, and other projects. Learn More