PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Community College will add an associate’s degree in cybersecurity to its career options beginning in fall 2017. The college is adding the program to help meet the demand for well-trained, entry-level employees in a field that has as many as a half-million openings nationwide.
Cybersecurity involves protecting computer systems, networks and programs from the theft of data and damage to hardware, software and information. As more aspects of society become reliant on computers, the risk of security breaches increases.
Great Bay’s program will train students for jobs in the medical and financial sectors, where security risks are high, as well as national security and a range of other fields and industries that are central to the nation’s economy, including retails and manufacturing. The program will provide a transfer pathway to UNH-Manchester for a bachelor’s degree.
“The American economy is about knowledge, and cybersecurity is the forefront of American economy,” said Information Systems Technology professor Kevin Behnke, who helped design and will help implement the program.
In technology rich areas like Boston, roughly half of all entry-level security jobs are unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates, he said. Students who earn an associate’s degree in cybersecurity from Great Bay will be qualified for jobs with starting salaries between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries of experienced cybersecurity professionals and those with advanced training are three times the national average, paying $116,000 annually, or $55.77 per hour. Cybersecurity jobs pay about 6 percent more than other IT jobs, it said.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates there are more than a half-million job openings in cybersecurity across the U.S., and the field is growing. “These are not jobs, these are careers,” Behnke said. “There aren’t many jobs in America with long-term career prospects. Cybersecurity is one of them.”
The Department of Homeland Security promotes the community college system as an appropriate starting point for cybersecurity professionals, noting on its website that “IT and cybersecurity jobs are not only for those with advanced degrees. The skills required for these jobs can often be acquired through other ways, such as community college, military service, or online training.”
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