The rising demand for cybersecurity professionals is fueling the development of undergraduate security degree programs at colleges and universities across the country. Many programs are thinking beyond traditional courses to offer more resources and tools for aspiring security pros.
"Enrollment numbers have increased, and there's been a lot of publicity about cybersecurity issues and a lot of publicity related to how [the job market is] underserved," says Anthony Pinto, cybersecurity program coordinator for the University of West Florida computer science department. "There's a shortage now. There's been one for a long period of time."
As more schools create cybersecurity courses, many are learning how broad and complex the field is. Educating a cybersecurity pro isn't limited to teaching penetration testing or malware analysis, Pinto explains. There also are practitioners and specialists out there who focus on network security, information assurance, system administration, incident response, and digital forensics.
"It's constant evolution and a constant change of curriculum," says Kevin Nolten, director of academic outreach for Cyber.org, a nonprofit for cybersecurity workforce development.
Some schools have begun to branch out from the classroom to offer laboratories, competitions, and mentorship programs to security students, notes Chris Brook, program manager at Digital Guardian and editor at Data Insider, who has done extensive research into degree programs.
"Looking at all of these listings, something that also caught my eye were when universities highlighted centers and laboratories that students could use for extracurricular learning," he says. The NYU Tandon School of Engineering, for one, has the Offensive Security, Incident Response, and Internet Security (OSIRIS) laboratory and runs club meetings, hack nights, and capture-the-flag competitions.
With so many options available, how does one choose an undergraduate degree program?
Being government-certified is a plus. For example, the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) sponsor the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program, which has more than 330 participating schools in the US and aims to create standards for security education, professional development, and leadership.
You'll also want the school to be accredited, learn instructors' qualifications, and if you'd like to earn certifications, find those that help prepare for the CISSP, CISM, CRISC, CEH, and other certifications.
Here, we take a closer look at schools thinking outside the box when it comes to undergraduate cybersecurity degree programs. Did we miss any? Feel free to add more in the comments sections, below.