Contact: James Carskadon
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Building on its robust cyber security research and education programs, Mississippi State University is launching a master’s program in cyber security and operations.
The new master of science degree was recently approved by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. The program will be administered by the Bagley College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and will be open for enrollment this fall or earlier, administrators said. It will be one of the only degree programs in the Southeast to offer a cyber defense and a cyber operations concentration.
“Mississippi State University is well known for its cyber security research abilities,” Bagley College of Engineering Dean Jason M. Keith said. “This new degree will attract students from a variety of undergraduate disciplines including computer science, software engineering, computer engineering and electrical engineering.”
Surveys in 2014 and 2016 ranked MSU among the top five in the nation for providing cyber trained personnel. The proposal submitted to the IHL notes that master’s degree holders with credentials in cyber security are regularly offered salaries in Mississippi of approximately $65,000 starting immediately after graduation.
“I get inquiries regularly from employers for students with these skill sets,” Computer Science and Engineering Department Head Donna Reese said. “I believe this option for students will be very good for MSU and the department.”
David Dampier, director of MSU’s Distributed Analytics and Security Institute and Mary Lyn and Niles Moseley Endowed Chair of Cyber Security, said there is no shortage of jobs for cyber security professionals.
“With the cyber defense option, graduates can go to work in any private corporation or government organization interested in securing their systems against outside aggression,” Dampier said. “With the cyber operations concentration, most opportunities are going to be in government, but some cyber operations types can go to work for penetration testing firms, and those businesses are growing as the need for their services grows.”
For approximately 20 years, MSU has worked to grow its leading cyber security research and education programs. The university is certified as a Center of Academic Excellence in both Information Assurance Education and Research, as well as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. MSU is the only university in the state with all three designations.
For more on the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, visit www.cse.msstate.edu.
The Bagley College of Engineering is online at bagley.msstate.edu and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching for @msuengineering.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
With one of the top schools for cyber security in the country, Mississippi is a great place to earn a degree. See our list of programs, and then read on to discover scholarships, events and employers for Mississippi’s cyber security aces.
Studying Cyber Security in Mississippi
Many consider Mississippi State University one of the best schools for cyber security in the country — experts ranked it third in a 2014 survey. The Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency agree, designating it a National Center of Academic Excellence in information assurance education, cyber defense education, and cyber defense research. Here’s what MSU and other Mississippi colleges are contributing to the field:
- Mississippi State University, which already integrates security concentrations into its Computer Science programs, launched an MS in Cyber Security and Operations in 2017. The new program complements the work of its Center for Computer Security Research, which focuses research on three areas: artificial intelligence, computer forensics, and cryptography. Across campus, the High Performance Computing Collaboratory maintains both the Center for Cyber Innovation, which runs exercises with federal government agencies, and the Distributed Analytics and Security Institute, which coordinates research across disciplines.
- The AAS in Network Security Technology at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is a technical program designed to make students employable in the field upon graduation. In other words, it doesn’t have to be a stepping stone to a bachelor’s.
- Through the UM/JSU Intelligence Consortium, the University of Mississippi and Jackson State University are looking to get in the game. Both schools are already recognized by the Defense Intelligence Agency for their academic excellence in security. Now they are finding ways to integrate cyber security coursework into their curricula and fund student research in this area.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Mississippi
Academic departments are the most common sponsors of cyber security scholarships, although you may also find some alumni-endowed awards from university foundations. Here’s what we’ve discovered:
Mississippi State University
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: High-performing undergrads, grad students and doctoral candidates in the Computer Science & Engineering Department can win a full scholarship and generous stipend in exchange for working in cyber security for a government agency after graduation.
University of Southern Mississippi
Cyber Security Events in Mississippi
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Mississippi
To find professionals in your field away from campus you may need to broaden your search to include groups like JXNtech, which meets monthly to discuss entrepreneurial endeavors in the capital’s tech community, or Jackson Area Web and App Developers, another networking group that meets monthly. Below is the lone cyber security community we found operating in Mississippi:
- Mississippi InfraGard: Joining InfraGard entails an FBI background check. That’s because members work with the agency to protect Mississippi’s physical and virtual infrastructure from malicious hacks.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Mississippi
The Magnolia State sponsors a smattering of one-day events pertaining to cyber security:
- BSidesJackson: The most fun event of the season for cyber security aficionados is also free. Come to the capital for a day of presentations, workshops and trainings put on by local professionals and professors.
- Mississippi Annual Cybersecurity Summit: Government officials and academics convene every October at Jackson State University’s Mississippi e-Center to discuss security awareness.
- Mississippi Digital Government Summit: This event is meant to inform state government managers from non-tech backgrounds about IT issues such as computer security. You probably won’t learn any new techniques by attending, but you will learn about how the state is addressing challenges.
Cyber Security Jobs in Mississippi
Mississippi has the second-lowest demand for cyber security talent in the nation. Until the state catches up, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for career opportunities. The hottest company to work for is Bomgar Corporation, headquartered in Ridgeland, which creates secure access software for use on remote desktops; Bomgar is listed on the Cybersecurity 500 as one of the most innovative firms in the field.
Out-of-state companies with a hand in cyber security also maintain a presence in the state, among them network communication specialists Vectrus and engineers UIC Government Services, both in Vicksburg, as well as government contractors Defense Point Security in Kiln.
Cyber Security Salaries in Mississippi
Cyber security salaries in Mississippi are among the lowest in the U.S. with an average of just under $70,000 in 2016 — $26K lower than the national figure. But it’s not all doom and gloom. For one thing, in 2015, the average salary was under $64,000, meaning that in just one year wages jumped 10 percent! There’s likely more growth ahead in this market. And since Mississippi boasts the lowest cost of living of any U.S. state, your salary goes further than it would elsewhere.
All Cyber Security Programs in Mississippi
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 4 Mississippi schools.