Why Study Cybersecurity?

Written by: Shydale James,
"Cybersecurity is a big tent. It requires strong analytical thinking skills, quite a bit of creativity to understand how systems can be broken, protected and should be used."

If you’re thinking about studying cybersecurity or already working in the tech field and want a career change, now’s the time to act.

8: cybersecurity’s ranking on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the 100 best jobs for 2015

36.5%: the rate at which the cybersecurity profession is projected to grow by 2022

209,000: number of vacant cybersecurity jobs in 2015 in the U.S

$88,890: median yearly pay for an information security analyst

1 to 2 million: number of global cybersecurity jobs expected to go unfilled by 2019

Cybersecurity education is a strategic priority at NJIT, which is home to the largest computer science program among all research universities in the New York metropolitan area.

The Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC) offers two M.S. programs in cybersecurity: M.S. in Cybersecurity and Privacy; M.S. in Information Technology Administration and Security, and over 40 courses that focus on, or have a significant component of, cybersecurity.

The National Science Foundation CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service, a program seeking proposals that address cybersecurity education and workforce development, awarded a $4 million grant last February to YWCC.

In 2015, the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security have designated NJIT as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education through the 2020 academic year.

In honor of National Computer Science Education Week, associate professor and director of NJIT’s newly-minted Cybersecurity Research Center, Kurt Rohloff, discusses why cybersecurity is the hottest career in computer science, how it’s taught at NJIT and what kind of careers await students eager to crack down on cyber criminals.

Associate computer science professor Kurt Rohloff

What kind of student should consider majoring in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a big tent. It requires strong analytical thinking skills, quite a bit of creativity to understand how systems can be broken, protected and should be used. As engineers, particularly in industry, we design things and we see users using the technology in ways we never expected. It requires a certain amount of creativity to think through those kinds of things.

NJIT offers a graduate level cybersecurity program. What would be a good major to pursue for someone who wants to study cybersecurity as an undergrad?

We offer a very large number of electives that are associated with cybersecurity. Right now, I’m teaching an undergraduate class in the fundamentals of network security. Half of the class is computer undergrads, half is IT undergrad. We offer general classes in software engineering, networking and mobile systems that do bring in large elements of cybersecurity. It really touches on a lot of what we do in computer science and the college of computing. I know that other majors, particularly electrical computer engineering, also have a lot of issues related to cybersecurity.

What are the main industries in which cybersecurity professionals work?

Anywhere and everything. In my lab we’ve had folks who’ve gone into the defense industry. We have a very active master’s degree program that helps to pair students with government positions, whether it’s in the military or civil government. I’ve had some folks who’ve gone off in the financial industry, and I’ve had a number of students who’ve gone off to the local communication industry and work for companies like Lucent and AT&T.

How do you teach cybersecurity at NJIT? What kind of classes do cybersecurity majors take?

Most of the hands-on cybersecurity classes focus more on network security. There are some more forensic analysis-type of classes that look at cybersecurity in individual devices, like phones and routers that are taught in the CS and IT departments. We also offer a number of classes in cryptography.

Do cybersecurity professionals often work in teams?

Very much so. When I was in industry we would always have teams both small and large sitting next to each other and working with teams across different companies that would be in different time zones and potentially different countries.

Are cybersecurity professionals well paid?

Right now is a particularly demanding time. When I was in industry, we always had a hard time finding strong candidates. Here at NJIT we’re always looking for good grad students. We can never get enough of them given the funding that we have right now. Scarcity drives up salaries, which is good for the candidates that are looking for positions right now. Good candidates do get top dollar.