June 21, 2017
Businesses are straining to find experts who can protect their data, computers and networks from an array of threats.
To help meet that need, The University of Akron is offering a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. UA is the only public university in the state to offer such a degree.
“We have designed the degree to appeal to traditional-age students and to mid-career pros looking to broaden their expertise and deepen their value to their employers,” said Dr. John Nicholas, professor of business and information technology. “It’s a hot market now for these experts, and from what we are hearing from the business community in Ohio, we expect enrollment to be brisk.”
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts the market for cybersecurity experts will grow 18 percent between 2014 and 2024, a much faster rate than most occupations. The median salary in the field is $92,600 annually.
The cybersecurity degree is part of UA’s College of Applied Science and Technology, and an extension of its unique and popular Computer Information Systems Networking bachelor’s degree.
Students in the cybersecurity track will learn about computer network configuration, computer network and data security, network intrusion prevention and detection, computer networking forensics and digital forensics. Students will also benefit from an in-depth study of the mathematics included in modern cryptography and cryptanalysis (encrypting and decrypting information) as they relate to cybersecurity and computing.
“It’s truly an interdisciplinary program,” Nicholas said. “Graduates will be armed with the tools and knowledge necessary to help businesses answer the nonstop challenges of cybersecurity.”
The curriculum will offer a co-operative education opportunity for students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and it will offer internship opportunities for all others. The opportunities will provide the students with real-world learning opportunities in the field while completing their education, all to better prepare them for the workforce.
In a typical day on the job, cybersecurity professionals work on methods to prevent or mitigate attacks through their expertise and knowledge of databases, networks, hardware, firewalls and encryption (cryptography), Nicholas said. They will work for large corporations, consulting firms and nonprofits.
‘Graduates will be armed with the tools and knowledge necessary to help businesses answer the nonstop challenges of cybersecurity.’
—DR. JOHN NICHOLAS,
PROFESSOR OF BUSINESS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
“They keep computer systems running, prevent the theft of financial and personal information, and block intruders from accessing proprietary data, to name just a few responsibilities,” he said. “They play an important role in any organization’s success.”
Those interested in the degree should have an interest in computer networking, a foundation in math (to understand cryptography) and a commitment to lifelong learning, because the threats continuously evolve. Candidates should be of high moral character, as they will have access to sensitive information and will likely be subject to a background check before being hired.
Students holding an associate degree in computer networking, digital forensics and computer security can earn the bachelor’s in cybersecurity in as little as two years.
UA’s College of Applied Science and Technology makes extensive use of advisory boards comprised of local business leaders; it was one of these boards that urged the college to develop the degree.
“We are very close to the businesses across the region,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy, dean of the college. “They guide our curricula so that our graduates are walking through the door with the knowledge and soft skills needed to contribute meaningfully on Day One. It’s part of what sets us apart from other institutions locally.”
The new degree requires approval by the Ohio Department of Higher Education.