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Institute Launched to Address Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage

Young tech professionals seeking to climb career ladders or shift into more lucrative sectors can now develop skills on a flexible schedule through the School of Computing and Information’s new institute. 

The School of Computing and Information has recently launched a professional institute designed to steer early- and mid-career professionals into high pay, high-demand tech industry careers. Its first two programs — a graduate certificate program in cybersecurity, policy and law and a non-degreed cybersecurity professional education program — focus on helping working professionals gain skills and competencies to take on cybersecurity jobs and help protect the nation’s technology infrastructure.

Classes start Aug. 26 and both programs are accepting applications. The deadline to apply for the graduate certificate is Aug. 1. The professional education program will accept students on an ongoing basis for its short courses as space becomes available.

SCI Dean Paul Cohen said cybersecurity programs were launched first to help tech professionals pivot into a sector that is essential to the nation’s safety and productivity.

“The cybersecurity workforce is a key factor in securing the nation’s digital assets — from financial and health records to systems that control critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, that workforce is one of the most understaffed and undertrained in the nation. It is our goal to help working professionals gain the skills and industry knowledge necessary to step into these essential roles and make an immediate impact,” Cohen said.

Founding Director Leona Mitchell said the institute will address a need for a high-demand skill set that industry leaders are scrambling to add to their workforces.

Research from the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education showed that as of January 2019, the United States was experiencing a deficit of nearly 314,000 cybersecurity workers. A recent survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies revealed that 82 percent of IT executives noticed a shortage of cybersecurity skills among employees, and 71 percent said the shortage was linked to “direct and measurable damage” within their institutions.

“There is a tremendous skills shortage in the tech industry, cybersecurity being the most challenging and costly. The need for cybersecurity skills has accelerated to the point where almost half the jobs go unfilled due to lack of skilled resources,” said Mitchell.

“Not everyone can come back for a full graduate degree, so we want to target working professionals and help them gain skills and capabilities at a much faster rate.”

The programs are accessible for people with day jobs, with a mix of on-site and online classwork for both programs. The professional education program consists of short courses with boot camps that can range between 20–40 hours per course, while the Certificate of Advanced Study requires 15 credit hours.

Both programs are taught by leading industry professionals and leverage the knowledge of SCI, the School of Law, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security

Over the course of more than a decade, the University has built a reputation as a leader in cybersecurity education. Pitt is ranked sixth among the top cybersecurity schools for 2019 by CyberDegrees.org. It has also been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since 2004 and a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Research through NSA and DHS since 2008.   

The ultimate goal is to use those intellectual resources to build a pipeline of workers with the technical, social, political and legal knowledge to help institutions create safer and more secure infrastructures across the board.

“We’re starting with cybersecurity before this skills deficit results in a massive crisis, both nationally and internationally,” said Mitchell. “Cybersecurity is one of our strengths as an institution. We want to be front and center in solving this crisis.”  

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