Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of four articles featured on the UMGC Global Media Center during Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
For anyone thinking of a career or considering a career change, there are many reasons why cybersecurity should be high on the list of options. Cybersecurity jobs are in demand, pay well and, generally, can be performed remotely.
If you do plan to enter the field of cybersecurity, you should consider a training path that emphasizes hands-on skills and prepares you for industry certifications, which many employers require. The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) Cybersecurity Technology bachelor’s degree program offers classes that map to specific IT certifications, including CompTIA Security+, Cisco CCNA, CISSP or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
Most UMGC students take one or more IT certification exams as they also work toward their degree. Acquiring industry certifications demonstrates to employers that you have achieved a level of skill and expertise that will allow you to hit the ground running.
One of the ways that UMGC students gain real-world skills and network with recruiters is through competition. The UMGC cybersecurity competition team routinely competes in local, regional and national events. These encounters challenge participants in a variety of skills that employers demand, such as reverse engineering, system hardening and penetration testing.
Competitions not only allow students to showcase the hands-on skills they have learned in the classroom, but they place students in a virtual lab environment where they can practice with tools that are used in the industry. Competitions such as Hivestorm, a collegiate-focused cyber defense challenge, feature a virtual lab like that in a cybersecurity classroom.
Many employers who sponsor these competitions, including Raytheon and Parsons, use them as recruiting events. Companies will collect the resumes of participants, which can lead to job offers for students who compete. UMGC’s award-winning cyber team has been involved in competitions since 2011 and even won gold at the prestigious Global CyberLympics, underscoring the important way these events enable students to gain and demonstrate the skills that employers demand.
So, who is a good candidate for a career in cybersecurity? When I meet students in high school and community colleges or adults looking for a career change, I first tell them that cybersecurity is not computer science, which emphasizes complex math courses and logic. Cybersecurity is much broader, offering career paths rooted in both the technical and the non-technical. UMGC’s technical programs, such as the bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity technology, are great choices for anyone who enjoys configuring smartphones and smart devices in their home, setting up home networks or has a general interest in information technology.
For the non-technical, UMGC offers bachelor’s and master’s programs in cybersecurity management and policy that focus on developing a security approach in an organization that combines technology, governance, and compliance perspectives.
Jesse Varsalone is a collegiate associate professor of cybersecurity technology at University of Maryland Global Campus.