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More than 531 million records were breached worldwide in September, according to IT Governance, a leading global provider of cyber risk and privacy management solutions. Such data breaches cost billions of dollars annually. According to IBM Security, the average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million and the average time to identify and contain a breach is 279 days.

The frequency and magnitude of cybercrimes creates an unprecedented need for skilled information technology professionals. Currently the United States faces a shortfall of almost 314,000 cybersecurity experts, according to Cyber Seek, an initiative funded by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). 

Our local colleges and universities are addressing the demand by offering cybersecurity programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

At Northwest Vista College, students can choose to pursue the Associate of Applied Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Security; Network Administration; and Network and Cloud Architecture. The program does not require prior security experience and anyone with interest in the field, basic computer skills, and access to the internet can pursue this high-demand and high-paying career path.

Although salaries vary depending on the industry and level of education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the median annual pay at $98,350.

Employees earning these salaries could almost double the current median household income in San Antonio, which is $49,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That should generate great interest among the traditional college-going student population as well as established professionals returning to college to retrain for new careers or to obtain needed credentials. The added incentive for those pursuing this field is the knowledge that employment can be found in all industries.

In all, four of the colleges within the Alamo Colleges District offer cybersecurity training. Professionals who are already in the field but need the credential may pursue the degree using shorter, accelerated eight-week flex semesters. Other flexible options include completing the degree online or selecting a milestone credential through a certificate program or an occupational skills award, which can be earned with just three courses in 16 weeks.

In addition, Alamo Colleges District’s university partners like the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University-San Antonio also have cybersecurity programs at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels. The transfer agreements between each of the community colleges and university partners make it possible for graduates to continue advancing their education and furthering their careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 5 percent average growth rate for all occupations whereas the demand for information security analysts in the next 10 years will increase by 32 percent.

The call to action for colleges, universities, businesses, nonprofits, and governmental entities is to strengthen their partnerships to create a pipeline of cybersecurity experts. Educators, legislators, and civic leaders need to work with parents and youth to:

  • strengthen interest in cybersecurity
  • communicate local and global need
  • educate and train
  • assist in job placement
  • provide salary incentives
  • enhance professional development and skillset

Nov. 30 is designated as a Computer Security Day and provides an added reason to bring this issue to the forefront of consumers, employers, and educators. Our task now is to ensure that we advocate this issue year-round. Cybercrime and the need for more security is not going away and continues to create havoc for individuals and communities. The way to fight cybercrime is to strengthen the workforce by creating a pipeline of cybersecurity experts.

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Ric Neal Baser

Ric Neal Baser is the president of Northwest Vista College, one of the colleges within the Alamo Colleges District. He is also the president of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, a consortium...