Cyber talent is in big demand and short supply, a trend that’s driving new cyber education programs with specific advantages for cleared veterans interested in cyber jobs.

The growth rate for cyber professionals is now double that of other IT jobs.  To address the talent shortage, the defense intelligence sector is working with the academic community to boost cyber-specific education options.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.  It’s not a new program, but it’s getting bigger.  Across the country, more than 80 colleges and universities now take part, offering education options aimed at developing the knowledge necessary for jobs related to securing the nation’s information infrastructure.  Veterans holding security clearances already have an advantage in the defense sector.  But those who add cyber education to their list of assets only boost their appeal among hiring managers, and potentially, their salaries.

A snapshot: Cybersecurity in San Diego

San Antonio is now second only to the Washington, D.C. region for the number of cyber jobs.  And the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is ranked number one in the nation for its cybersecurity education programs.   It was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education in 2002, and Information Assurance Research in 2009.

“Several years ago, UTSA made a strategic decision to invest in cybersecurity and hire experts in the field from around the nation to conduct research and teach our students,” said Mauli, Agrawal, UTSA vice president for research.

Students have plenty of education choices.  The school provides a clear map for those select courses, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs.

“UTSA students also have an opportunity to conduct impactful research alongside our cybersecurity faculty or through our three research centers: the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security, Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security, and Center for Education and Research in Information and Infrastructure Security,” said Agrawal.

A Master’s in Cybersecurity

There are additional options for service members who already have attained bachelor’s degrees in other fields, and those who are only interested in taking specific courses.

“Students who want to earn an M.S. degree must be admitted to the M.S. program,” said Glenn Dietrich, professor, UTSA College of Business, and director of the UTSA Center for Education and Research in Information and Infrastructure Security.  “If they have not taken undergraduate info security or cybersecurity course work, they must take up to five leveling courses, which include courses in programming, databases and telecommunications.  They take up to eight classes in Information Assurance and three other classes to earn a master’s degree.”

Dietrich explained that if students are only interested in taking cybersecurity classes, they can register as a special student and take classes for which they are qualified.

“Classes that will prepare them for a career in cybersecurity include voice and data security, incidence response, intrusion detection, risk assessment, digital forensics, cyber physical systems security, security policy and security network design.”

As with other universities throughout the country, UTSA’s security students are highly sought-after by both government and private employers, which include the Air Force, NSA, FBI, CIA, USAA, Digital Defense, Raytheon and General Dynamics.

“These alumni work in intrusion detection and prevention, digital forensics, intrusion response, policy making, network defense, risk assessment and security design,” said Dietrich.

The number of higher education institutions participating in the National Centers of Academic Excellence security program changes annually, as do some of the designations that replace existing programs.  Most states have schools included in the program, but cleared veterans looking for proximity can check out the website to learn which specific schools are designated and what their curriculum entails:

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Tranette Ledford is a writer and owner of Ledford, LLC, which provides writing, editorial and public relations consulting for defense, military and private sector businesses. You can contact her at: