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What is Cyber Security?

Cyber-crimes are consistently on the rise. Everywhere you look, you see that databases have been compromised and held for ransom, data has been stolen, records tampered with, and identities compromised. If your social media account hasn't been hacked or something similar, you probably still know someone who has been the victim of cyber-crime. Fighting cyber-crime takes deep knowledge and sharp skills that have been honed through academic rigor and professional experience. When a threat arises, you must be able to react in a moment to implement the remedies that the situation requires.

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Online Cyber Security Education in South Dakota

Online advanced degrees are needed in South Dakota to take your career to the next level. Whereas, in years past, you could do great things with a bachelor's or even only an associate degree; these days, you need a graduate degree to reach the C-suites. This is because today's cyber security realities are complex enough that you need to have top-level knowledge and skills forged by rigorous academic training in order to really advance. You might even consider a dual degree with an MBA so that you'll have the administrative and leadership skills to make the most of your job title.

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Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

You can launch your cyber security career with an online two-year degree from your local community college. There, you can study computer science, information technology, and other computer-related fields that tie in with security issues. If your local college doesn't offer the courses or degree you feel would best help you launch a career, there are online programs that can expand your options even further.

When you search for a worthy associate degree program in cyber security, look for CAE certification or accreditation. You can also look for courses in cyber security, database management, networking, or computer science.

Best Ranked Online Cybersecurity Associate Programs

Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)

A four-year degree should be your first major academic goal. With a four-year degree, you can delve deeper into your computer-related studies. There are degrees that specifically address cyber security with courses such as: Network Security, Systems Analysis, Cloud Computing, and Technical Writing.

To enter a cyber security program at the bachelor’s level, you will need to satisfy a set of prerequisites. Some programs will want students to have a certain minimum GPA or specific courses in their transcripts. Some more exclusive schools may also require that you take the SAT or ACT and earn a certain score. Note that each school decides their own requirements, so you should discuss your chosen institutions requirements with an advisor.

Example Courses

  • Calculus, 1
  • Introduction to Programming
  • Cyber Security Fundamentals
  • Introductory Networking
Best Ranked Online Cybersecurity Bachelors Programs

Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)

Though some begin applying for graduate school in their senior year of college, you might consider working for a few years prior to earning an online graduate degree. Because cyber security is an ever-changing field, your real-world experience can elevate your application and can help you exceed the limits of your undergraduate academic achievements. Some graduate programs actually require that you provide a resume along with your application.

When you start applying for a graduate program in cyber security, first look for the highest quality program. Those will be CAE accredited, or possibly accredited by ABET. Then determine whether you can fit traditional classroom work into your schedule or if you'd prefer the flexibility of online courses.

Example Courses

  • Information Security Assurance
  • Network Administration
Best Ranked Online Cybersecurity Masters Programs

Online Certifications in Cyber Security

Certification is a term that usually applies to non-academic credentials that you earn by passing an examination. There are often preparation courses, both online and in classrooms, that you can take from either approved or non-approved commercial vendors. The important thing is that you pass the exam and receive the credential. In fact, you can often find books or online study resources that will prepare you for the exam, so you have the option of studying at home. These credentials frequently require that you continue taking courses or exams to keep your status current, but they will expand your skill set and make you eminently more attractive as a hiring option.

There are also certificates that you can earn from a college or university. These confer prestigious credentials and provide academic credit that can boost your overall GPA. For instance, if you complete a postgraduate certificate, those courses could help you enter graduate school.

Best Cybersecurity Certification Programs

Why is Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is a vital part of your academic life. Though it is often an invisible part of one's schooling, it can make or break your career. This is because accreditation comes from various independent agencies that each have their own standards and reputations. For cyber security, the top program accreditations are from the Centers in Academic Excellence (CAE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering (ABET). CAE accreditation comes from the National Security Agency and Homeland Security. When you see CAE attached to a cyber security program, you will know that your education will directly apply to cyber security issues deemed important to our national security and the two largest employers of cyber security professionals in the nation. ABET credentials are more general and attest to a program's overall scientific worthiness.

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When your school is accredited by one of these, or if it has regional accreditation, your current and future employer will take note. Your current employer is also more likely to include your degree program in their tuition reimbursement program if it’s fully accredited. Then, when you are on a post-graduation job hunt, your resume will attract more attention if you list highly-regarded (and accredited) degree programs. The regional accrediting agency for South Dakota is the Higher Learning Commission and any school with regional accreditation can get you started in a cyber security career.

CAE Accredited Programs in South Dakota

  • Dakota State University
    CAE-CD / 2017-2022
    CAE-R / 2017-2022

Top College Programs in South Dakota for Computer Science and Cybersecurity

  • Dakota State University

    DSU is one of South Dakota's preeminent universities. Their tech-savvy campus will welcome you and foster your love of computing technology. Since the student body is currently under 4,000 students, you will find hands-on instruction, personalized attention, and the ability to involve yourself on a level you might not on a crowded campus of over 20,000.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences - Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral Degrees & Undergraduate Certificate
    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
    Information Science/Studies – Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral Degrees, Undergraduate & Postgraduate Certificates
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – Undergraduate Certificate

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $9,276
    Out-of-State: $12,249
    Average Net Price: $16,863
    College Retention Rate: 67% (Full-time Students); 40% (Part-time Students)

  • National American University – Rapid City

    This private university is located in bustling Rapid City, nestled up against the famous Black Hills. With nine total computer-related programs offering degrees and certificates, you can customize your education far more than students at many larger universities. Discuss cyber security with your advisor and determine how to create your path to success.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences, General – Associate Degree
    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Associate & Bachelor's Degrees
    Information Technology – Bachelor's Degree
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – Bachelor's Degree & Undergraduate Certificate

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $15,000
    Average Net Price: $18,133

  • University of South Dakota

    USD is perhaps South Dakota's best university. It’s the state's flagship institution of higher learning. If you aren’t interesting in moving to Vermillion, USD has centers in Pierre and Rapid City that may be more convenient. They also offer many degree programs online, but their computer courses must be taken on campus.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences, General – Bachelor's & Master's Degrees
    Computer/Information Technology Services Administration and Management, Other – Undergraduate Certificate

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $9,061
    Out-of-State: $12,425
    Average Net Price: $17,354
    College Retention Rate: 77% (Full-time Students); 50% (Part-time Students)

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  • Southeast Technical Institute

    This public, two-year institution is located in Sioux Falls and can help you launch a great career in tech. They offer four associate degrees in computer-related subjects, including systems security. You can also study programming, networking, and learn to be a system administrator if you wish. With credit hours priced at a fraction of many other institutions, you will graduate well ahead of the pack.

    Programs Offered:

    Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Other – 1-year Certificate
    Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Associate Degree
    Computer Programming/Programmer, General – Associate Degree
    Network and System Administration/Administrator – Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $6,240
    Average Net Price: $12,501
    College Retention Rate: 73% (Full-time Students); 59% (Part-time Students)

  • Mitchell Technical Institute

    MTI is one of South Dakota's great public educational resources. They boast a high rate of success for their graduates. With one of their computing degrees you can embark on a career path as a computer support guru or a systems administrator. With Sioux Falls just a short drive away, your job prospects are great.

    Programs Offered:

    Network and System Administration/Administrator – 1 to 2-year Certificate & Associate Degree

    Tuition Cost

    In-State: $6,720
    Average Net Price: $11,096
    College Retention Rate: 81% (Full-time Students); 90% (Part-time Students)

Top College Scholarships in South Dakota for Cyber Security

  • AfterCollege Engineering & Technology Student Scholarship

    Amount: $500
    Deadline: December 31
    The scholarship committee for AfterCollege views their scholarship awards process as though they were filling a position in their company. Thus, your application should reflect professionalism and a dedication to your field. You can apply for this scholarship through the AfterCollege website, which should make this one a no-brainer.

  • Society of Women Engineers

    Amount: Varies
    Deadline: Sophomores and Up – Feb 14; Freshman: May 1
    Women are sorely underrepresented in STEM fields. The Society of Women Engineers seeks to amend this problem by supporting female students who seek to be engineers or technology professionals. Thus, if you are working towards a degree in cyber security, you should apply to this scholarship program.

  • Rebecca Gurley Bace SWSIS Scholarship

    Amount: Up to $10,000
    Deadline: February 1
    SWIS stands for Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security. It's rare to find a scholarship with such a specific focus for cyber security students. Thus, if you are a woman seeking to defend the nation's infrastructure from bad-person hackers, you should apply. With up to $10,000 at stake, it's worth your time to try.

  • Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship

    Amount: $3,000
    Deadline: April 10
    In order to promote diversity in STEM fields, AFCEA is promoting this scholarship for women and minority scholars. As such, you'll be competing against engineers, computer forensics students, IT, and students in a vast range of tech majors. You'll need to provide two letters of recommendation, a resume, your undergraduate transcript, and your current graduate school transcript.

  • CIA Undergraduate Scholarship

    Amount: Up to $18,000 for school expenses plus salary, benefits, and other incidentals
    Deadline: June 15
    The CIA is very interested in thwarting cyber-crimes that threaten US interests both at home and abroad. Thus, they have started this scholarship program that includes full-time work during your summer breaks. The scholarship is open to most every field including those studying finance, foreign languages, or cyber security.

Conferences and Workshops

CLEAR Cyber Leaders Conference

You'll find the CLEAR conference in Sioux Falls, SD. The intention of the conference is to intersect cyber security with law, education, and research. Interestingly, the conference comes from a partnership between Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota School of Law, and the Better Business Bureau. This conference is quite unique in the cyber security world, so if you're in South Dakota, you should take advantage of this unique opportunity.


DakotaCon is a three-day conference that offers the opportunity to learn, socialize, and find inspiration for your cyber security career. This conference has been going on since 2014 and it's only getting better. However, perhaps due to the location, the conference is still rather small. This means that you have more opportunities to ask questions, meet your fellows, and it'll be easier to find a good seat for the brilliant speakers. And don't forget, Friday night is free.

Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

If you are going to take all the time and effort necessary to complete a cyber security degree, you will want some assurances that it will pay off. While there are no iron clad guarantees in the world of work, you can be assured that demand for cyber security continues to rise. With that demand comes higher pay rates, bonus plans, and benefit packages. On top of all this, you'll go home every day with the satisfaction that you are helping to protect South Dakota, and, by extension, the nation, from cyber-threats.

South Dakota is a sparsely populated state, but there are still many opportunities for you to use your cyber security or other computer-related degree. For instance, there are currently 250 information security analysts in the state. Their annual mean salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is currently just over $91,000. Given the lower cost of living in the state, that salary is sure to go far. The BLS shows that computer systems analysts more than double information security analysts with 760, but their wages lag behind, making an annual mean wage of $75,800.

Information security analysts are in one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation. The BLS shows that they are projected to increase their numbers by 32% through 2028. Further, they state that the typical education level is a bachelor's degree. Thus, if you earn a graduate degree you can expect your earnings to exceed the average.

It's important to keep a few factors in mind when reviewing salary information. First, try to avoid comparing South Dakota salaries with elsewhere. For one, the numbers provided by government agencies are accurate, but they are only averages. Additionally, keep in mind that salary doesn't often include other pieces of compensation such as bonuses and benefits and, while South Dakota salaries may seem lower than other parts of the US, the cost of living is much lower as well.

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Resources in South Dakota for Cyber Security

  • SANS Information Security Training: South Dakota
    SANS offers private training in South Dakota. Their website indicates that you can be in any town on any date. Contact them and discuss plans for your private cyber security training. They also provide online training in case you are having a hard time scheduling a location. Your firm will thank you when you're able to implement security protocols that protect everyone.
  • SBS Cybersecurity Resource Page
    SBS is a cyber security firm located in Madison, SD. The company provides a range of services to its clients and they also have a resource page on their website that is full of interesting and useful tidbits from the world of computer security. The list includes webinars, videos, and more.
  • South Dakota Cybersecurity
    South Dakota's state government is responding to the growing cyber security threat with many actions, including a website full of resources. There, you can learn about training, report cyber-attacks, discover other sites and publication, and even peruse the state's laws and policies regarding cyber security. The site also maintains an archive of its security newsletters - each of which addressed a vital topic in cyber security.

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