Cybercrimes are growing exponentially, posing tremendous threats to our financial markets, undermining public confidence, violating our privacy, and costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually (estimated to cost up to six trillion dollars by 2021). Malicious cyber-attacks are also used by government-led groups and terror organizations, inflicting chaos and fear, threatening critical infrastructure and nations’ stability.
It’s no wonder cyber professionals are in great demand in every walk of life. Contrary to common belief, cybersecurity is much more than a technical challenge. It is also a business challenge and a human challenge.
As a result, cybersecurity education has become one of the fastest growing disciplines in higher ed and vocational training. Building the cybersecurity workforce of the future and integrating cybersecurity awareness across all industries are top priorities for our national security, financial stability, and economic prosperity.
This landscape presents a unique opportunity for higher-ed institutions to introduce a breadth of new programs that increase their relevance to students, enhances student career prospects upon graduation, and can ultimately boost their financial health. Consider:
- Cybersecurity specialist jobs are in high demand and are well compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of an information security analyst in 2017 was $95,510, and these jobs are expected to grow significantly between 2016 and 2026.
- The cybersecurity market grew by roughly 35X over 13 years.
- The need for basic cyber-literacy skills is taking hold in virtually every non-technical sector.
- There is virtually a 0 percent unemployment rate in cybersecurity, with, according to experts, two job openings for every qualified candidate.
The Opportunity in Higher Education
Whether your institution is considering a full-blown cyber curriculum or merely “testing the waters,” I believe there are five key practices universities, colleges, and technical schools can implement to successfully incorporate cyber into their academic offering.
1. Assess the current level of cyber education for your institution.
To understand what your school may need, you must understand what it has. If the strength of your institution is in the STEM sector, you may need more sophisticated cyber program incorporation. However, if your school fits within the business, law, or liberal arts realm, a more basic level of cyber-literacy training may be the answer. In any case, integrating cybersecurity programs is critical to both technological and non-technological degrees.
2. Leverage resources.
There is substantial national and federal funding available to institutions in the area of cyber. Entities such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Council on Education, the Department of Defense Information Assurance, and CyberCorps (part of NSF) have grant availability. In addition, most states also offer funding opportunities.
3. Consider programs from a tiered approach.
Based on your students—traditional, adult learners, night school attendees, etc.—you can execute cyber education in a variety of ways. You might offer professional development with an online certification course for alums or adult learners; hands-on, in-depth training for a career in cybersecurity; a combination; or both.
4. Expand your view of cyber from security to intelligence.
We’ve laid out the stark case of the lack of cybersecurity expertise. But let’s flip that on its side and think about developing skills in cyber intelligence, discovery, and data analysis. These skills will allow our students in the STEM sector to identify and prevent cyber-attacks before they happen and do better profiling of potential attackers. In addition, our students in business, law, and criminal justice will use these advanced cyber-intelligence skills to conduct better due diligence, online research, litigation, anti-money laundering, market analysis, and other functions. Additionally, including a cyber-intelligence option can possibly differentiate your institutions and your students.
5. Focus on hands-on training.
Higher ed is going through an incredible change right now. Any program you implement should meet the needs of your current and future students, providing them with the knowledge and skills to make them ready for the industry. For our STEM students, we need to provide advanced, hands-on cybersecurity labs and simulators based on real-life scenarios. For students in non-technological degrees, we need to provide a deep understanding of cybercrimes, protection measures, and intelligence methods. These solutions should also be offered online, for adult learners and non-degree students who are looking to improve their career opportunities.
Everyone in higher ed has incredible opportunities within this exciting sector. I encourage you to take advantage of them.