In September, 2017, the credit-reporting bureau Equifax made a stunning announcement: the personal and financial information of almost 146 million U.S. consumers had been compromised in a hacking breach of Equifax’s computer database. This was just the latest in a long line of cyber thefts affecting companies in industries as diverse as retailing (Target, Whole Foods), healthcare (Anthem), entertainment (SONY) and even the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel Management.
These and other cyber-crimes have created a huge demand for cyber-security professionals who have the skills and knowledge needed to protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of the information and information systems that keep businesses, governments, and other enterprises humming. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs in the information security field are expected to grow 37% by 2022, much faster than average for all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that the median pay for professionals in this field is over $90,000 a year.
Responding to this demand, a growing number of colleges and universities have launched undergraduate majors in cybersecurity. Although there can be differences among programs, the typical major includes classes in digital forensics and cyber investigation, cryptology, ethical hacking, software development, database design and Internet law and ethics. Internships in the field are often a key component of the major. At some schools, the major is offered as part of the computer science program, while at others it is offered in the school of engineering or business.
Cyber-security is a key concern for the United States government. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Security education programs. The programs that have received the CAE designation have undergone a rigorous review and met NSA standards for training professionals. Students and parents can find a list of CAE designated programs at https:// www.caecommunity.org/resources/caeinstitutions.
At certain colleges, cyber-security majors also have a unique scholarship opportunity, called the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service. Funded through the National Security Agency, this scholarship covers full tuition for three years at participating universities and colleges, and also pays a stipend of $22,500 a year. In exchange, recipients must agree to work in a cybersecurity position after graduation for a Government agency for a period equal to the length of the scholarship. Students in the program also do a 10-week paid summer internship before graduation. A list of colleges and universities participating in the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program is available here: https:// www.sfs.opm.gov/ContactsPI.aspx. In addition to the CyberCorps Scholarship, some colleges and universities also offer institutional scholarships for students majoring in cyber security.
Is a career in cyber security right for you? Successful professionals in this field are usually highly curious, enjoy solving complex problems, and have a strong sense of ethics. Most undergraduate programs require good math skills and familiarity with computers. A good way to find out if cyber-security might be a match is to attend a GenCyber Camp. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency with the goal of encouraging more students to enter the cyber-security profession, these free camps are designed to help students learn more about cyber-security careers. For information on GenCyber Camps, visit http//www.gencyber.com.
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