Resources for High School Students Interested in Cyber Security
Cyber Security is a booming field. Right now the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28% employment increase for related positions like Information Security Analysts (for reference, the national growth average for all jobs is only 7%). Not only is employment expected to grow rapidly, but government organizations, like the NSA, are collaborating with computer science and information security institutes and organizations across the country to bolster interest in cyber security. So what does that mean for high school students interested in computers? For starters, it means that there are now a vast range of resources available to help boost their interest and cyber security knowledge. In this post, you’ll find an interactive list that maps 3 common pathways for high schoolers who are interested in cyber security. These three pathways are summer camps, online courses, and hackathons.
- Summer Camps are a great introduction to cyber security.
- Online Courses are the next step to growing knowledge and experience, while at the same time learn more about a potential career path.
- Hackathons are the playground for testing how far you’ve come.
- All three types of resource are currently the best way to supplement the lack of computer science courses at your own high school.
If you decide that cyber security or computer science is the career for you, and you are looking for cyber security college degree programs, check out our Comprehensive List of Cyber Security Scholarships.
Summer Camps are a great way to get your feet wet with cyber security or to further develop your existing skills in computer science. Summer camps listed below last for 1-2 weeks, but some go for a full month. Often these camps are associated with local universities or research labs, which means they can provide attendees with networks of cyber security professionals, something that’s helpful as students move out of high school and into college and careers down the line.
Organized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), GenCyber offers summer programs designed to grow and improve cyber security education across the nation. The national program sponsors summer camps in most states, with the goal of helping students understand safe online behavior, how to be digital citizens, and increase interest in cyber security careers. Most GenCyber camps are hosted by universities in the area and some cover special interest topics, like girls and cyber security.
Cybersecurity: Hack-A-Thon Challenge
This 2 week camp is run by Syracuse University’s Summer College for High School Students program. Syracuse’s Hack-A-Thon is a fairly standard course offered in the summer college program from year to year and typically runs 2 weeks. In the camp, students will learn how easy or hard it is to hack computer systems and introduce the idea of joining a community of ethical hackers who work to improve cyber security. The culmination of the camp is a hack-a-thon in which students have to maintain and defend their system against hackers.
CS4CS for High School Women
The Computer Science for Cyber Security (CS4CS) Summer Program for High School Women is a free, three week summer program run by NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. The program covers fundamentals of cyber security and computer science that’s mission is to encourage more young women to enter tech fields. The program is led by members of NYU’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Offensive Security, Incident Response and Internet Security (OSIRIS) Lab. While there is no cost to apply or attend, applicants must live within commuting distance from NYU as no housing is provided during the camp.
CyberSTEM & Cyber Defense Training Camp
The Maryland Center for Women in Computing sponsors several cyber security camps designed exclusively for young girls in middle school and high school. Their 2 summer camps for 2018 for high school girls are Intermediate CyberSTEM camp for 9th and 10th grade girls and the Cyber Defense Training Camp for 11th and 12th grade boys and girls. The CyberSTEM camp covers cyber forensic techniques, industrial programming languages, and locating vulnerabilities in computer systems. The Cyber Defense Camp focuses on networking, programming, hacking and more in order to introduce high schoolers to cyber security careers. Both camps include a trip to the NSA Cryptologic Museum.
Penn State Berks: Computers and Cyber Security Camp
Penn State Berks hosts a series of High School Discovery Summer Camps each year covering a range of topics. One of these camps is the Computer and Cyber Security Camp. In this week-long camp, students are introduced to topics like networking protocols, information security, PC security, and internet privacy. Students learn to apply these concepts through hands-on activities like designing and defending a network system, as well as practicing detection and recovery related to cyber security threats.
For high schoolers who already have a fair amount of interest in cyber security and computer science, taking online courses can help to increase that knowledge base, give a leg up before starting college, and even lead to certification. Because the online courses listed below are open to all, most high schoolers can take them in their spare time or even to supplement a lack of computer science classes at their school.
Cyber Technologies Academy
Sandia National Laboratories hosts the Cyber Technologies Academy(CTA). The academy offers entry-level classes for high school students wanting to learn more about computer science and cyber security. CTA offers after-school classes year-round in 10 week sessions or condensed summer courses. Class offerings vary in topic, like Introduction to Cyber Technologies, Programming, Introduction to Cryptography, Wireless Penetration Testing, and Virtualization.
Udemy is just one of many MOOCs that offer cyber security courses fully online. Most of these courses are open to anyone, which means they could be a great way for a high school students interested in computer science to get their feet wet, especially if their high school doesn’t offer any computer science courses. Udemy courses cover topics like network security, ethical hacking, as well as programming specific courses like Python.
CompTIA Certification Training
High schoolers who already have a fair amount of knowledge in computer science and want to get a jumpstart on their careers might consider preparing for and taking the CompTIA IT Fundamentals or A+ Certification exam. CompTIA offers several training options for those wanting to earn this certification, including study guides, exam prep, and classroom training. While completing a professional certification may seem daunting, the A+ is attainable for most students willing to memorize many common aspects of hardware and computing.
Coursera Cyber Security Classes
Coursera is another MOOC that offers widely available classes in a range of topics. They have many courses on cyber security as well as “specializations,” or sequenced courses, that walk students through various cyber security knowledge paths. Most of the courses are free unless students want certificates of completion. Because Coursera offers so many different courses and at every knowledge level, high school students can find a good introduction to cyber security and computer science through a Coursera class, especially if their own high school doesn’t offer any computer science courses.
Minecraft: Education Edition
While this technically isn’t a class, Microsoft did roll out a special edition of Minecraft designed for use in educational settings to teach students how to program. While the education edition includes lessons for a wide range of subjects and grade levels, at its core the game and the later education edition were built around teaching kids to code. The education edition website lets you sort by age level and lesson, which can give you results like “Intro to Computer Science with Makecode,” “QR Code Generation,” and “Events in Programming.” By combining these lessons with an already popular video game, high school students can also gain more experience in coding and computer science while finding ways to express their creativity through whatever they decide to create.
Hackathons, or hack marathons, are growing more popular as a way to grow interest in computer science and cyber security. At hackathons individuals or entire teams compete against each other in building and protecting their computer systems from hackers. Most hackathons also include workshops and networking opportunities for participants to learn new skills and meet other like-minded people. While many hackathons include prizes for the winner and promotional discounts for all participants, they are also a great way to build your college admissions profile and showcase your skills to potential future employers or internship opportunities.
Major League Hacking
Major League Hacking (MLH) is the official student hackathon league. Every year, MLH helps to organize over 200 weekend-long invention competitions to help advance and inspire computer science skills to more than 65,000 students around the world. MLH hosts hackathons across the world, many of which are high school friendly. Your own high school can even apply to host a hackathon and MLH will help organize and assist administrators in putting on the event.
Chicago Hacks is associated with MLH, but it is also a hackathon specifically geared towards high schoolers in the Chicago area. Like many other hackathons, it is designed to teach computer science to a wide range of people and also improve the skills of more advanced programmers. Individuals and teams can create any project they want during the course of the hackathon, but Chi Hacks explicitly encourages computer science projects that can cause an impact or social change.
MetroHacks is a hackathon that takes place in Boston, MA. It is designed specifically with high schoolers in mind, and is the largest high school hackathon in New England. The event is free and meals are provided to all participants. Each year MetroHacks picks 3 tracks that all projects and workshops revolve around. This gives students additional areas to explore their interests as well as direction for how to focus their projects. This annual hackathon allows participants to collaborate with teams upon arrival, includes prizes, lessons, and networking abilities with the event’s sponsors, like Staples, Microsoft, and PennState, and the opportunity to experiment with new hardware like Particle photon kits and 3D imaging sensors.
A partner organization to MetroHacks, MetroHacks Women is a 12 hour hackathon hosted at the Cambridge Innovation Center that is specifically devoted to engaging more high school women in STEM fields. Over the course of the hackathon, students learn new technology through several workshops, collaborate with other participants to create new projects, and compete for prizes. Each year MetroHacks Women picks 3 themes that all projects and workshops revolve around. This gives students additional areas to explore their interests as well as direction for how to focus their projects. Like the larger MetroHacks, this event is also completely free.
Technically, this isn’t a hackathon. But, it is a database of hackathons and Hackalist lets you sort according to hackathons that accept high schoolers. Hackalist also lets searchers sort according to travel reimbursements, prizes, or free participation. Because of those search narrowing features, Hackalist is a great resource for any high schooler looking for hackathons near them. The list only shows hackathons a couple of months in advance, so you’ll have to check back regularly, but for hackathons that are not part of MLH or one of the major events listed on the rest of our resource list, Hackalist is a great way to find them.