Top 8 Things Higher Education Should be Teaching Cyber Security Students

The cybersecurity job market is full of opportunity. Experts predict that by 2021, there will be 3.5 million unfiled cybersecurity jobs. This reflects the both the growing number of cyber threats and lack of properly trained cyber professionals. This workforce shortage is crippling the field, and cyber security educators are struggling to keep up. Now, more than ever, it’s important that colleges and universities prepare the future workforce for what lays ahead. Here, we compiled a list of the top 8 lessons for your students when teaching cyber security in higher education:

1. Step outside of your comfort zone

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with a role in cybersecurity. When faced with many of the challenges cyber pros deal with, it can feel like managing expectations is an impossible feat. Cyber students need to be able to get out of their place of familiarity and certainty, however, as this field is not a static one. A day in the life of a Cyber Security Analyst might surprise you.

Teaching Cybersecurity In Higher Education

2. It’s not just about the hard skills

Soft skills are crucial in this field. A common misconception about cybersecurity is that it is an extremely technical and solitary job. While technical know-how is obviously a requirement, cybersecurity is also about flexibility, creativity, and adaptability. The industry needs technical people who also have strong critical thinking, organizational, communicative, and management skills. Cybersecurity professionals need to be team players who can work and communicate with all sectors of an organization to achieve goals and objectives. 

3. Get acquainted with the law

Cybersecurity is subject to a number of regulations. Cybersecurity, as demonstrated above, is not simply a technical industry — it is also an emerging sector of both domestic and international law. This means that cybersecurity is no longer a luxury, it is the law. Emerging cyber regulations will only increasingly affect organizations in the future, which means that students should get acquainted with cyber regulations as it will be an important facet of any job.

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4. Be a team player

Cybersecurity, unlike many other industries, benefits from collaboration over competition. Collaboration in cybersecurity is necessary through both internal teamwork within organizations as well as external cross-sector communication.  The rate of expansion of new cyber threats as well as devices, software, and techniques is unprecedented, and all industries are struggling to keep up. In turn, collaboration through public-private partnerships and information sharing is necessary to battle cyber professionals’ common adversary.   

Cybersecurity In Higher Education

5. Hands-on experience trumps theory

It’s no secret that there is there is a cybersecurity skills shortage, with 53% of cyber professionals reporting a problematic shortage of cyber skills at their organization. This is largely because many new cybersecurity employees have conceptual knowledge, but lack hands-on experience and practical know-how. Cybersecurity is a job that requires quick thinking and swift, confident responses, thus employees need to know how to execute their knowledge instinctively.

6. Certifications can only go so far  

Certifications aren’t always a ticket to landing the job. Following the fact that hands-on experience is invaluable to employers, it should be communicated to students that cyber certifications are not a prerequisite for a cybersecurity career. Certifications are non-interactive and go out of date rather quickly, as the cyber landscape is constantly evolving. Therefore, certifications do not automatically translate to qualification , and their value is decreasing in comparison to hands-on experience and practical cyber skills.

7. Small mistakes have large consequences

One wrong click can be catastrophic. But the good news is that most threats can be effectively mitigated. 90% of data breaches are caused by human error, and can be avoided by establishing protocol and a culture of cyber awareness. For real-world experiences without real-life consequences, students can benefit from virtual simulations.  

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Teaching Cybersecurity In Higher Education

8. Learning doesn’t end in the classroom

Cyber threats are ever-evolving and constantly finding new ways to infiltrate systems. This means that cyber professionals will always have new technologies and techniques to learn and master. The most successful cybersecurity professionals are those who are eager to learn on the job and continuously hone and develop their practical skills. While a cybersecurity degree or class is an essential foundation for a cyber workforce, cyber learning must continue past higher education to keep skills relevant.

There are so many challenges in teaching cyber security in higher education. Delivering hands-on practice to your students can make a world of difference to them and prepare them for real-world environments, but often a lack of resources and tools can prevent this from becoming a reality. That’s why Cybint is making it easier than ever for colleges and universities to jumpstart their cyber program. Find out how to receive our complete Cyber Launch Package at zero costs to your institution.

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Catherine Fredette

Catherine Fredette is a student at the University of St Andrews, where she has academic research experience investigating cybersecurity and International Law. Catherine is curious and excited to learn more about the cyber world.