Cybersecurity professionals are needed—how one NSA-recognized university is addressing the demand
PER Meghan is lazyJuly 8, 2022, 12:52 p.m.
Early voting at New Southeastern University, as seen in October 2018. (Susan Stocker — Sun Sentinel / Tribune News Service / Getty Images)
In 2005, a university in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, received the designation of the National Security Agency as a leader in cybersecurity advocacy, the beginning of nearly two decades of maintaining and regaining that recognition. At the same time, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has risen rapidly and this NSA-designated school has long hoped to meet that demand.
New Southeastern University is not on the shortlist of the best elite technology schools in the world, but it is positioned to make a significant contribution to the cybersecurity space. His most recent NSA appointment came in 2021 and will remain in effect until the university is re-evaluated in 2028. The school ranked 15th among the best online master’s degrees in cybersecurity degree programs for Fortune.
Trying to meet the demand for cybersecurity professionals is no small task, given that the demand for cybersecurity experts is strong; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 33% job growth for information security analysts from 2020 to 2030. And Florida has one of the highest demands for these workers in the country. The state has 36,612 cybersecurity jobs open in April 2022, according to Cyberseek.
“We’re very agile here and we’re evolving our curriculum, our center, and our research to fit in with what’s happening in the industry and other academic institutions,” says Greg Simco, a professor and professor of computer science at New Southeastern University. . . “I think I see this more as a cooperative effort between the government and academic institutions in this than almost anything else I’ve been involved in during my 26 years here.”
To find out how the school remains a major player in the cybersecurity space, Fortune spoke with Simco and Meline Kevorkian, the dean of the university’s Faculty of Computer Science.
What is an NSA designation?
A National Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) is a school that approves the rigorous program and curriculum requirements established by the NSA. There are three different types of designations: Cyber Research (CAE-R), Cyber Operations (CAE-CO), and Cyber Defense (CAE-CD), which New Southeastern University has.
The designation program is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and exists to ultimately increase the number of cybersecurity professionals with degrees, allowing for better cyber protection of U.S. infrastructure.
To meet the demand for cybersecurity professionals, New Southeastern focuses on early intervention
It’s no secret that cybersecurity is a growing career field, especially given the high wages associated with the industry. The average salary for an information security analyst is $ 102,600 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Amid this growing demand, Simco and Kevorkian say there is a greater interest among undergraduate and K-12 students in pursuing a job in cybersecurity. However, there are other barriers to entry that need to be addressed to fully update this interest. As a result, New Southeastern has taken a direct approach to preparing the next generation of cybersecurity students by working with K-12 teachers and students in Florida schools.
“Degrees in these areas require some mathematical maturity,” Kevorkian says. “If a student has difficulty in algebra or precalculation, they will certainly not be able to easily do a curriculum with calculus 2 and linear algebra.”
Computer degree programs do not have the best retention rate nationwide, Kevorkian notes. That’s why New Southeastern soon interacts with potential cybersecurity students to make them understand why they need to pay attention and accept their math classes.
Once students enroll at the undergraduate level in New Southeastern, they will be a minority of the school’s academic composition, a significant advantage according to Kevorkian and Simco. The private school predominates in the graduates, and represents approximately 70% of its students. The enrollment of graduate students was 14,574 students in the fall of 2020, more than double the enrollment of 6,314 undergraduate students, according to IPEDS.
“Most universities don’t have enough space for undergraduate students to get involved in research and other types of activities, and because we’re very important in the graduate area, it’s a rich experience,” says Kevorkian. Because many graduate students are working professionals, flexibility is also a priority.
Intervening soon also offers the school the opportunity to show students all the different facets of the growing industry.
“That’s the nice part about being dominant in graduates: we have a solid health professions division and a strong legal division,” Kevorkian says. “Whether students want to work in the environment or in medical matters, we can expose students from the beginning to many areas of the field.”
In addition to students looking to change careers, many New Southeastern cybersecurity master’s students are there to upgrade their set of computer and protection skills as the field evolves.
“They see the future and really come here to make sure they can meet the demands of what their job will be,” Kevorkian says.
The university works alongside other schools to drive cybersecurity programming
A central goal of the NSA-designated school is to help other schools obtain their designation as well. New Southeastern University regularly works with other schools to help foster cohorts of successful students in cybersecurity. The university has partnered and worked with other Florida schools such as Broward College, Miami Dade College, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University. New Southeastern also recently began a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico.
“From the point of view of the Centers of Academic Excellence, you are collaborating with all the other universities in the constituency to create better programs and feedback,” says Simco. This includes coordinated training and research-oriented events for students with schools such as the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and the University of Miami.
How do you plan to evolve New Southeastern as the cybersecurity space evolves?
The field of cybersecurity has changed since New Southeastern University first received the NSA designation 17 years ago, and approaches to cybersecurity have also changed. What was once a complement to computer programs is now largely considered its own domain.
At the same time, it’s become clear that information security is more than just for engineers to say, “Here’s your protection,” and then administrators are ready, Simco explains. That’s why cybersecurity management has evolved and that’s why it’s a crucial focus of New Southeastern’s master’s program in cybersecurity. Today’s solutions require more cybersecurity literacy than just designated cybersecurity experts, he says.
Understanding where all the pieces of a good security system fit is the trick. Balancing the management of people with technical aspects such as cryptography is the focus of New Southeastern’s graduate programming in space. In short, the future of cybersecurity in businesses, organizations and governments places emphasis on communication and management.
“It’s not that people have to be expert at all the components, but none of that should be a black box for them,” Simco says. “Everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing, otherwise you end up with these silos, and that’s why we have so many vulnerabilities in systems because someone just looks at what they know, not their periphery, and not behind them.”