Universities adding cybersecurity programs to their curricula to meet growing demand

Cybersecurity educationUniversities adding cybersecurity programs to their curricula to meet growing demand

Published 14 January 2015

The cyberattacks of recent years have not only increased the demand for employees who understand the field of information assurance and cybersecurity, they have also created a demand in cybersecurity education. Universities across the country are adding cybersecurity concentrations to their curricula to train students who will later help secure network systems.

The cyberattacks of recent years have not only increased the demand for employees who understand the field of information assurance and cybersecurity, they have also created a demand in cybersecurity education.

Major private sector firms including Wal-Mart, BP, and Citibank, along with critical federal agencies such as the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Defense Intelligence Agency, are faced with millions of cyberintrusions every day. Universities across the country are adding cybersecurity concentrations to their curricula to train students who will later help secure network systems.

“It’s a hot topic — a very hot topic,” said Sri Sridharan, managing director and chief operating officer at the Florida Center for Cybersecurity(FC²) on the campus of the University of South Florida. The center opened last year to act as a statewide clearinghouse for cybersecurity education and training for the state’s twelve public universities. FC² expects eventually to produce 550 certificates, 475 undergraduate certificates or concentrations, 270 graduate certificates or concentrations, nearly 900 bachelor’s degrees, 215 master’s degrees, and 50 doctoral degrees each year.

The Tampa Tribune reports that other universities in Florida have also invested in cybersecurity education. University of Tampa(UT) will begin offering an undergraduate major in cybersecurity this fall. Saint Leo University launched a master’s program in cybersecurity in August 2013, which will help complement its undergraduate program in information assurance and security. The school expected a dozen students in its inaugural class but ended up with nineteen. For the spring session they expected fifteen students but now have more than thirty students on board.

Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland offers a concentration in information assurance and cybersecurity in its computer science and information technology degree program. “The demand is very high. I’ve had students get into cyberspace companies with just one security class, never mind an entire major,” said Kenneth Knapp, a professor of information and technology management at UT and head of the school’s cybersecurity program. “With all of the high-profile breaches over this last year or so, more focus has been on security than I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing it since I was 21 years old in the Air Force.”

The most widely accepted certification for cybersecurity jobs is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), but obtaining that takes at least four years of work experience. Some cybersecurity programs have begun to offer their own certifications as a fast-track approach to cybersecurity accreditation for students. Other schools are taking a multidisciplinary approach. “Our cybersecurity program is housed in the College of Business, because we emphasize it as a business problem,” said Knapp. “These students are going to get the full load of tech classes and cybersecurity, but they’re also going to get the business classes, finance, law, accounting. They’ll understand the business environment and they’ll also understand the technology. They’ll be very well-rounded.”

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