The tech world doesn't start and end in Silicon Valley, Washington DC, and the nation's megalopolises. Wherever there's computing—namely, everywhere—there's a need for tech-savvy professionals.
That's certainly true in the state of Oklahoma, home to five Fortune 500 companies and a slew of entrepreneurs and creative thinkers looking to revolutionize the tech, energy, and business sectors. These enterprises also hope to lure more like-minded innovators to their home state.
Consider the state capitol, Tulsa. Its business and tech leaders include service providers like the popular co-working space StarSpace46, business incubators like the Oklahoma City Thunder's Thunder Launchpad, and Techlahoma, a nonprofit supporting the tech community. The city also hosts emerging startups based in aviation, energy, healthcare, and other fields.
Tulsa isn't yet home to lots of big-name tech companies. However, the city recently (June 2020) landed a $50 million investment in its burgeoning technology, healthcare, and energy industries. Just months before, the city opened the Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL), a technology-led economic and workforce development organization.
Even apart from the growing startup scenes in the Midwest's "Silicon Prairie," Oklahoma has long been home to a mix of public and private research universities, midsize institutions, and community colleges that boast quality cyber security programs across a range of degree levels. Let's look at where you can find them.
Our guide to cyber security programs in Oklahoma answers these questions:
Cyber security refers to the technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from unauthorized access or attacks. The term applies to the safety of our personal data and to the sensitive information housed by organizations in virtually every sector.
Cyber attacks come in all shapes and sizes. Malware, for instance, is a form of malicious software designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. Ransomware, a specific type of malware, blocks or limits access to a computer system until the targeted user pays a sum of money.
From social engineering and phishing to data breaches and beyond, the list of methods to steal, alter, or destroy data or information systems is long—and only growing. As a result, there are many cyber security jobs to fill. Demand doesn't appear to be slowing any time soon.
While it's possible to find entry-level cyber security positions with an associate degree, most jobs require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in cyber security, information technology (IT), computer science, or a related field. Management and leadership positions in the field may require a master's degree and significant professional experience. By design, graduate programs build on students' core skills from bachelor's coursework by emphasizing advanced concepts like cyberlaw and policy, digital forensics, cryptography, and risk analysis.
The good news is that there's a range of unique roles and career paths for every level of cyber security education. They include:
The seven cyber security degree programs available within the Sooner State include associate, bachelor's, and masters-level study. Apart from the fully online bachelor's at OSU's Institute of Technology and the online coursework available through the University of Tulsa's master's in the field, all programs are campus-based.
Cameron University, a public university in Lawton, Oklahoma, offers a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program in combination with specialized study in one of three areas: computer information systems, management information systems, and cyber security and information assurance (IA).
The cyber security and information assurance concentration encompasses 15 credit hours of coursework, focusing on the fundamentals and best practices of systems thinking alongside current topics in assurance and network security. The experience culminates in a capstone project challenging students to create a software project employing the skills and knowledge they've gained throughout the program.
Northeastern State University (NSU) is the oldest higher education institution and fourth-largest public four-year institution in Oklahoma. The school's main campus is in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with two other campuses in Muskogee and Broken Arrow. Currently, NSU enrolls just over 7,500 full- and part-time students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
NSU's Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security combines 46 credit hours of general education coursework with an additional 49 credit hours of work in criminal justice, computer science, and information systems. Students also complete 12 elective credit hours ranging from data mining and introductory study of homeland security to ethical hacking and other specialized subfields. At the end of the program, students apply the research they conducted in a seminar to create and present a senior project that highlights their skills in the field.
Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) is a public community college in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Since its founding in 1972, the school's enrollment has grown to more than 28,000 through associate degree and certificate programs as well as a range of community and continuing education courses and workshops. In 2010, OCCC was among the first six institutions to receive the Center of Academic Excellence in Two-Year Education (CAE-2Y) designation from the NSA and DHS. It continues to hold the title today.
In the school'sAssociate of Applied Science in Cyber Information Security program, students complete a range of general education credits, but the bulk of coursework highlights a mix of foundational computer science and cyber security topics like computing technologies, introductory programming, and principles of information security. The program progresses through a focus on more complex subfields like computer security ethics, enterprise security management, and cyber forensics.
Oklahoma State University (OSU) Institute of Technology is a public institute in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and part of the Oklahoma State University system. The school holds designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) and sits at #20 on U.S. News and World Report's 2021 rankings of Best Colleges — Regional Colleges West.
The school's Bachelor of Technology in Information Technologies program offers a concentration in cyber security and digital forensics, and, as mentioned earlier, is the only fully online cyber security undergraduate degree offered by an accredited institution in the state. Its coursework mixes current technology, software, and tools with comprehensive training on industry standards, forensics, and IT and security ethics. Students must also complete either a nine-hour internship in the IT field or six hours of an internship experience combined with an additional six hours of technical elective coursework.
Of OSU's five branch campuses, its main campus in Stillwater, Oklahoma, is its largest in size and student population. It's also where students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems (MIS) with a concentration in information assurance, backed by school's CAE-CDE designation, no less.
Core classes within the MIS program emphasize information systems from an organizational perspective through network security, systems management, analytics, project management, and additional topics chosen to help students grow their programming, analytical, and communication skills. Concentration-based courses include business data science technologies, information assurance management, and data communication systems.
Oklahoma State University's Oklahoma City campus (OSU-OKC) took shape in 1961 as a branch of the Oklahoma State University system, changing its name from Oklahoma State University Technical Institute to its current designation in 1990. Despite the change, the school remains focused on certificate and two-year degree programs.
Like the cyber security programs at other OSU schools, the Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology track at OSU-OKC emphasizes a more generalized IT curriculum alongside a computer forensics concentration. Coursework within this area introduces students to science related to evidence found in computers and other types of digital storage media through topics like computer programming languages, networking technologies, and principles of criminal justice.
Rose State College is a public two-year community college in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Today, the college welcomes more than 13,000 students each year through an "open-door" admissions policy, which grants enrollment for students who are 18 or older, have their high school diploma or equivalent, and have participated in some sort of prep testing, such as the ACT. In 2014, the school gained the designation of CAE-2Y, which it continues to hold today.
The University of Tulsa (TU) is a private research university in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The school ranks #55 on U.S. News and World Report's 2021 list of Best Value Schools alongside CAE-CDE, Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE-CIA), and Center of Academic Excellence in Research (CAE-R) designation.
While TU provides undergraduate-level exposure and research in cyber security, degrees in the field are only available through its Master of Science in Cyber Security program, which allows students to complete their coursework either online or through a traditional residential program.
The program's online option is considered a "professional track" geared for professionals seeking to gain skills and expertise without having to take time away from their careers. Students must spend one week on TU's campus completing intensive hands-on training guided by faculty. Completing a master's thesis or report is optional.
On-campus, the MS in cyber security operates in a thesis and a non-thesis option. Students gain a comprehensive understanding of the foundational concepts of cybersecurity while engaging in research in the thesis track. Non-thesis students swap research with several additional advanced electives.
While many cyber security jobs are open to candidates who've graduated from an accredited program, completing a degree from a designated Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) is often an additional benefit to cyber security professionals when seeking out employment opportunities.
The product of a partnership between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CAE designation offers schools a means of gaining formal recognition from the United States government for their robust academic programs in the areas of cyber defense, cyber operations, and cyber security-related research.
Cyber security certification programs available from colleges and universities in Oklahoma are limited. Depending on the certificate, programs may cover only a broad view of essential industry-related topics and practices or dive deep into sophisticated issues in the field. They include:
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