There is a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals despite workforce gains in recent years.
A 2022 workforce report by (ISC)2 found that the global cybersecurity workforce grew to encompass 4.7 million last year. However, the same study showed that there is still a need for more than 3.4 million cybersecurity professionals across the globe. In the United States alone, there are more than 750,000 open positions based on research conducted by CyberSeek.
The University of Missouri–St. Louis is working to address that need.
The university offers both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity, along with minors and certificates. Students can choose an emphasis in either computer science or information systems and technology. The master’s degree program builds on students’ existing knowledge to qualify graduates for advanced cybersecurity positions while being designed to meet the needs of busy working professionals. To that end, the flexible program offers in-person, evening and online courses.
Two publications recently recognized the master’s program for its efforts to meet the growing need for qualified professionals in the industry. Fortune ranked UMSL No. 9 on its list of “Best Master’s in Cybersecurity Degrees in 2023,” and Forbes ranked the university No. 9 on its list of “Best Online Master’s Degrees In Computer Science 2023.” Fortune’s rankings were based on factors such as program acceptance rates, retention rates and graduating class sizes, While Forbes considered affordability, student outcomes and student experience.
“This recognition means a lot to us, professors, because it encourages us to continue the hard work we have put into building the cybersecurity program,” said Abde Mtibaa, assistant professor and cybersecurity program director in Department of Computer Science. “We will continue to improve our cybersecurity master’s program and aim for a higher ranking. We have discussed with many cybersecurity employers and stakeholders and used their feedback and recommendations to better prepare our students for the job market.”
Mtibaa also noted that the interdisciplinary master’s program is jointly provided by the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Information Systems and Technology, which makes it possible for students to craft a customized study plan tailored to their needs.
“We strive for excellence in the educational and learning experiences we provide our students to prepare them for successful careers tackling the nation’s critical challenges,” said Vijay Anand, associate professor and cybersecurity program director in the Department of Information Systems and Technology.
Forbes pointed to the online MS in cybersecurity with a computer science emphasis in particular. In its ranking of UMSL, the publication noted, “The master’s degree builds on knowledge gained in learners’ cybersecurity or computer science bachelor’s programs, focusing more deeply on the technical aspects of cybersecurity.”
The publication also commended UMSL for being marked as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a designation granted by National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, the Masters in Cybersecurity with information systems emphasis is a Program of Study recognized by the NSA and DHS.
In addition to quality degree programs, UMSL supports cybersecurity students through scholarship, research and networking opportunities.
US Bank has donated four scholarships, each valued at $2,500, to UMSL students each year since 2017. Students are also encouraged to assist faculty members in both computer science and information systems and technology with research aimed at addressing pressing cybersecurity issues. The annual STLCyberCon – a flagship cybersecurity conference that brings together academics, researchers, practitioners, students and community members – provides a venue for students to participate in professional development and network with industry leaders as well.
Technology is becoming increasingly embedded in everyday life – smartphones, Internet of Things devices such as voice assistants and augmented reality – and because of that, there is a continuing need for enhanced cybersecurity to protect sensitive information.
Industry demand is expected to continue to expand during the next decade; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of information security jobs will grow by 35% between 2021 and 2031. UMSL’s master’s degree program in cybersecurity can put students on the path to success in the industry.
“Cybersecurity executives, professionals, and other experts agree that there are a variety of ways to break into the industry,” Fortune said in its ranking methodology. “Earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity is one promising route for finding a high-paying job. In fact, some cybersecurity master’s programs report six-figure salaries from their recent grads.”