Anyone wondering just how important cybersecurity is to the nation’s future need only visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website. There, in bold print, the federal agency makes the case for a clear and present danger…well beyond the likes of anything Tom Clancy might imagine. “Our daily life, economic vitality and national security depend on a stable, safe and resilient cyberspace.” This declaration is validated by the sobering statistics one finds in Symantec’s 2018 Internet Security Threat Report: 71 percent of all targeted cyberattacks started with “spear phishing” to infect their victims.
Malware implanted into the software supply chain has increased by 200 percent – remember “Petya”? And, the prevalence of mobile malware continues to surge, though the average ransomware cost in 2017 had dropped to $522 per event. Experts believe this drop in price signals that “ransomware has become a commodity.” Drop the ransom price, but increase the number of targets and bingo! Major profits for the cyberattackers. As cyberspace criminals become more creative and more brazen, the need for trained information security professionals has never been greater, which is why Tarrant County College now offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Technology: Cybersecurity, along with a Level 1 Cybersecurity Specialist certificate and a Level 2 Ethical Hacking certificate.
To create the Cybersecurity curriculum, newly introduced in the fall 2018 semester, TCC faculty and staff engaged in intensive planning. According to Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Nancy Curé and District Director of Curriculum and Educational Planning Candy Center, the focus for new program development will be on high-demand, high-wage and high-skill programs. They further offered that District offices will facilitate the work of campus academic teams in determining the appropriate facilities and resources to support new programs. “TCC’s goal in this new, more thoughtful planning is to help students find new ease in charting their educational plans and navigating their time as students from day one on campus, through commencement, with clearly structured approaches to program completion,” said Curé.
According to the Forbes Coaches Council at Forbes.com, corporations seeking to close the middle-skills gap are looking less for applicants with bachelor degrees and leaning more strongly toward students who have been exposed to various career pathways including apprenticeships, certificates and two-year degree programs that better align with their career aspirations and current workforce needs.
Introducing the new curriculum to those outside the field, Cybersecurity Team member Jeffrey Koch, of TCC Northeast, finds he’s asked the same question over and over. “To answer the #1 question I get from people outside the computer field: No, ‘ethical hacker’ is not an oxymoron! Ethical hackers use the same skills as black-hat hackers (the bad guys) to find problems with computer systems and networks before the bad guys do. Unlike black hats, they have permission to do it, and unlike black hats, they don’t do anything malicious,” said Koch.
TCC has become an EC-Council Academia partner, and now its Ethical Hacking class is an official Certified Ethical Hacker class. Students who finish the new class can take the Certified Ethical Hacker exam at a lower price without going through an expensive boot camp or demonstrating two years of computer security experience.
TCC student Justin Ward found it extremely difficult to find a job in information technology (IT) without some sort of certification or degree. “I have a friend working in IT and he began teaching me the ins and outs of computers. He helped spark my passion for computers and now I’m pursuing a formal education. I couldn’t be more thankful that TCC helped open my eyes to a new world right under my nose,” said Ward.
Assistant professor of Computer Science John Kidd, a member of TCC’s Cybersecurity Team and the representative for faculty teaching the new security and hacking curriculum, quips, “All I care about is cybersecurity.”
Kidd addressed the increasing divide between jobs that demand digital skills and jobs that do not. Interestingly, it’s those that do not that are falling behind.
In searching for meaningful work in the IT world and given the ubiquity of cyber skills, needs are more unique. In Tarrant County and North Texas, for every two jobs open, there’s one qualified employee. With the skills being less common, it’s harder to fill those jobs.
TCC Cybersecurity Team
Graduates from two-year degree programs and those with specialized advanced security and ethical hacking skills will be able to command high salaries and other benefits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported not only students earning bachelor degrees, but also graduates from two-year degree or certificate programs and those with highly skilled technical knowledge, are attractive to recruiters and employers. Across Texas, cybersecurity jobs abound in both the private and public sectors, with entry-level salaries starting from $59,000 for those with certifications and perhaps an associate degree, according to payscale.com, the market leader in compensation platforms.
TCC South Department Chair of Business, Computer Science-IT Shalha Durany said there has been a significant increase in cybersecurity job openings in the past three years. “There are approximately 200,000 positions in the cybersecurity area that are unfilled, and this number is expected to rise. As a community college, we have to make sure that we are actively involved in educating students for careers in high-demand technical fields,” said Durany.
“I live and breathe for information technology. I am looking forward to receiving my certifications, entering the IT world career path and basing my future goals on knowledge and experience I gain. There are hundreds and hundreds of high paying IT jobs that are going unfilled,” said Ward.
“It turns out that many other colleges are also seeking to accomplish similar goals and designations that we are seeking to gain in order to help prepare our students to develop leading-edge practices, gain skills and learn to tackle the latest threats in cybersecurity,” said TCC Northeast Dean of Technology Eli Mercer. “The 3Cs Conference proved a great introduction to a community of likeminded professionals and a network of colleges and companies working together to tackle an emerging national challenge in cybersecurity,” Mercer added.
“I’d say I’m far from a cybersecurity expert at this point, though I’m working to reach that point. There will always be a constant need to improve in cybersecurity. It is a never-ending battle to secure private information and the fight against cybercrime is always going to be interesting, changing and challenging,” said Ward. “I may not be an expert now, though I hope I will be one day.”
This fall, TCC began offering students six new Associate of Applied Science degrees and 16 new level I and II certificates, in addition to more than 70 other Associate of Applied Science degrees and certificate programs.
Associate of Applied Science Degrees
- Anesthesia Technology, Heath Science
- Automotive Service Technology: Toyota Technician Education Network
- Information Technology: Cybersecurity
- Electrical Line Technician
- Nuclear Medicine Technology, Health Science
- Surgical Technology, Health Science
Associate of Applied Science Credit Certificates
- Toyota General Service Technician, Level 1 Certificate, Automotive
- Toyota Service Technician, Level 2 Certificate, Automotive
- Computer Support Specialist (Customer Service/Call Center Teleservice Operations), Level 1 Certificate, Information Technology
- Horticulture Business Management, Level 2 Certificate, Horticulture
- Beverage Management I, Level 1 Certificate, Hospitality Management
- Beverage Management II, Level 2 Certificate, Hospitality Management
- Animation for Game and Simulation, Level 1 Certificate, Information Technology
- Cybersecurity Specialist, Level 1 Certificate, Information Technology
- Ethical Hacking, Level 2 Certificate, Information Technology
- Ground Technician, Level 1 Certificate, Electrical Line Technician
- Line Technician, Level 2 Certificate, Electrical Line Technician
- Medical Assistant, Level 1 Certificate, Health Science
- Healthcare Leadership, Enhanced Skills Certificate, Health Science
- Conversational ASL for Healthcare Workers, Occupational Skills Award
- Central Sterile Processing, Level 1 Certification, Health Science
- Surgical Technology, Level 2 Certificate, Health Science