Chestnut Hill College is poised to launch a new undergraduate degree program in cybersecurity — one of the first of its type in the region.
The new Cybersecurity major, also known as the Cyber Sentinels Program, welcomes its first class of students in the fall semester, 2018, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and assistance from cybersecurity experts from industry and government agencies.
These subject matter experts, from government and law enforcement agencies, and corporations and private security companies, collaborated with Chestnut Hill College to design the new curriculum and will serve as adjunct professors and advisors. In many cases, they also will welcome CHC’s students into their organizations as interns, with potential jobs waiting after graduation.
An intriguing component of CHC’s Cybersecurity program is that students will work with local small companies, hospitals, high schools and others to help them learn best practices to secure their systems and help them gain awareness of potential threats. This service aspect of the major will include offering basic security systems assessments and awareness of threats to their security.
The program also will emphasize top-notch internships. It’s not enough for students to simply read about security skills in this rapidly changing field. Hands-on experience with evolving hardware and software is crucial. More than classroom theory, the Cyber Sentinel Program will teach students how to build and secure networks and computer systems.
The cybersecurity field has exploded in the last few years, and currently, jobs are outpacing available professionals. It is expected that this lucrative field will see unprecedented growth within the next decade. King quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics as reporting that the rate of growth for jobs in information security is projected at 37 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.
“We are so fortunate to have received this grant and to work with this group of subject matter experts,” says Pamela King, instructor in the Computer Science and Information Technology Department. “The Cyber Sentinel Program at CHC will offer students a wonderful opportunity to begin careers in a cutting-edge field with high job growth and good salary potential.”
King adds that once the program is up and running, CHC will apply to be designated a Center of Academic Excellence through a program offered jointly by the NSA and DHS. The college follows the National Infrastructure for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework and complies with guidelines of the NSA and DHS in their program, National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). These initiatives aim to reduce vulnerability in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise for the country.
“Earning the CAE designation would put us on a national list,” says King. “It’s very exciting and wonderful for our students and for CHC.”