In response to the surging, global demand for cybersecurity professionals, the West Virginia University Board of Governors has officially approved both undergraduate and graduate academic programs in cybersecurity. The approvals by the WVU board set into motion collaborative and independent curricula by the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the College of Business and Economics starting in the fall semester of this year.
The undergraduate degree offered by the Statler College will provide students with skills in areas such as business, criminal justice and cryptography to prepare them for careers in industry, law enforcement and defense.
“Cybersecurity draws heavily from computer science,” said Brian Woerner, chair of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. “The program will provide students with the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing society. By producing work-force ready cybersecurity experts, we hope to increase the prospects of enhanced economic development for West Virginia.”
“We are working collaboratively with the Statler College to have a strong WVU presence in cybersecurity in all levels across the institution,” said Virginia Kleist, chair and professor of management information systems, and MS business data analytics program coordinator at the College of Business and Economics. “The Statler College is offering an undergraduate program in computer science, and B&E has a master’s level program called MS business cybersecurity management. Both the computer science department and the MIS Department will also have minors in cybersecurity, one with a computer science emphasis and one with a business data protection focus.”
Javier Reyes, B&E Milan Puskar Dean, said the business school’s advanced degree in cybersecurity responds to an evolving niche in all kinds of industries: how risks can be identified and addressed.
“This graduate degree program would be suitable for participants from a broad range of backgrounds who have interest in a career in cybersecurity. The program is a combination of online coursework, which allows students the flexibility of maintaining a career,” Reyes said. “The curriculum is augmented by two, two- to three-day residencies where we focus on experiential learning. Students learn by doing along the way, and evidence of that is the capstone course where students will evaluate the cybersecurity risk of a real life company and make a presentation to company officials and faculty.
“This program is the business application of why cybersecurity is so important. The financial repercussions to a company that has been adversely affected by a cyber attack can be monumental. This degree program prepares students to evaluate those situations and focus on preventative strategies,” said Reyes.
Core requirements for the undergraduate program include a solid foundation in programming and computer science, as well four new courses that address core technical aspects of cybersecurity. Included are a foundations course, courses in secure software development and host-based cyber defense, and a course in attacks and countermeasures. The major’s required courses will be a part of the College’s ABET accredited programs of computer science and computer engineering. Additional courses will be offered in cryptography, information ethics and cybercrime, bringing a well-rounded perspective to the field.
“The Statler College has excellent working relationships with a number of area businesses including Leidos, KeyLogic, NASA Independent Verification and Validation Facility and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which could offer internship and employment opportunities to graduates of the program,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean. “Many governmental employers require applicants to have a degree from a designated Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense for both education and research by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, which WVU already has.”
The graduate program will feature experiential learning opportunities through which students can sharpen their business cybersecurity skills. Learning will be heightened through teamwork, professional communication, problem solving and engagement with real world business cyber challenges. Project work will include working with a client organization to provide an analysis, data collection and recommended solution to cybersecurity business problems. Students may also obtain temporary placement with public or private enterprises for professional competence development.
The West Virginia University Provost’s Cybersecurity Taskforce, which submitted its report in November 2016, indicated that there is a significant, national need for cybersecurity talent.
“More than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74 percent over the past five years, according to a 2015 analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” the report read. “Ninety-seven percent of the Fortune 500 companies have been hacked…and more than one hundred governments are gearing up to fight battles in the online domain.”
“The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society for Human Resource Management identified cybersecurity analyst to be among the toughest jobs to fill in 2016,” Woerner said. “The FBI has named the cyber expertise as the ‘most wanted talent’ of the 21st century. The workforce demand is expected to increase as every company, large and small, is in need of qualified personnel in cybersecurity.”
“In the end, participants in this master’s-level program will be competent in the management of business cybersecurity,” Kleist said. “This is a very hot job market and we anticipate high demand for our graduates.”
“Throughout the process, the Statler College and the College of Business and Economics have worked closely with one another to develop a set of program proposals that prepare students from many fields to pursue cybersecurity careers in government and industry,” Woerner said.