Thursday, November 5, 2020

From the trenches (episode two)

A ubiquitous question posed to any long time Cybersecurity practitioner is, “how can one get into the Cybersecurity field if they have focused on a non-technical or non-cyber related vocation?”

This question is complicated to answer on many levels because companies looking for Cybersecurity talent need people that can jump in and add value at the start. 

There are limited intern openings almost every spring, but these are impractical for a working professional with full-fledged obligations, and there’s a 50%/50% chance of a follow-on offer. 

Cybersecurity “Boot camp” is a recent advent. These boot camps typically prepare the student to pass an exam and rapidly obtain a certification. The challenge with this learning style is that a seasoned security professional will see right through the regurgitation of “frameworks” or “best practices.” The craft surrounding cybersecurity is the comprehensive understanding of balancing risk, business objectives and applying necessary practices commensurate to both. 

More and more outstanding Cybersecurity degree programs have been cropping up that provide a good “ground up” view of Cybersecurity. All with their unique focus and curriculum designed for various end goals for the students. Some focus on pushing the student towards industry certifications, some focus on audit, while others may take a deep technical dive. Many universities employ professors that are active practitioners like the Webster University Master’s Degree program.

The Webster University Master of Science (MS) in cybersecurity readies individuals for demanding positions in public and private sectors overseeing, operating, or protecting critical computer systems, information, networks, infrastructures, and communications networks. Students entering the cybersecurity program should know about computer systems, digital networks, familiarity with internet and wireless applications, and possess stable (high school algebra and exposure to trigonometry) mathematical and written and oral communication skills.

Graduates will be capable of explaining the essential principles and theories used throughout the field of cybersecurity. Graduates will also be capable of applying knowledge in the field of cybersecurity to analyze real-world problems. And finally, graduates will be capable of effectively integrating cybersecurity knowledge to propose solutions to real-world problems.

Yet one more shift is taking place in the Cybersecurity education landscape. Partnerships between businesses and universities have made higher education in Cyber more attainable to non-technical/Cyber career-changing learners. An exceptional program recently brought to my attention is the 100% Online NYU Tandon Bridge program. Students accepted to this program are indeed endowed with the tools to hit the Cybersecurity field running no matter their previous occupation of course of study. It is an affordable, flexible way for students with a non-technical background to attain admittance into select graduate programs.

Through the Tandon Bridge program, there are many STEM Master’s degree programs at NYU a student may shoot for, but, for the focus of this discussion, I will simply highlight the Cybersecurity, or Cyber Fellows M.S. and NYU Cyber Fellows program. 

The NYU Cyber Fellows provides a 75% scholarship towards tuition for the elite online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree. Thanks to generous industry support, this first of its kind program is offered for the affordable price of approximately $17,000 and includes access to a hands-on virtual lab, industry collaborations, an industry-reviewed curriculum, exclusive speaker events, and peer mentors. This multi-company industry input to the learning experience makes this program stand out. This junction between Higher Education and multi-company exposure is where “practical application” and operational sustainability skills are tested and shared.

By closing the financial gap through endowments and scholarships, Companies and Higher Education can help fill the cybersecurity talent gap through attention to structuring coursework along with affordability. If an employee can leverage a companies’ tuition assistance program, break into a desirable field, and have a minimal financial burden, the incentives for success are visible for all. 

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