In 2017, Dan Stein, the Department of Homeland Security’s branch chief for cybersecurity education, visited UW-Whitewater to encourage the school to develop a cybersecurity program to help the industry.
The university evidently took the speech to heart because just four years later, the university created the Cybersecurity Center for Business. The center helps provide cybersecurity education and training for businesses, local governments and educational institutions in Wisconsin.
Jiazhen Zhou, chair of the department of computer science at UW-Whitewater, said creating the center was important for connecting businesses in Wisconsin with cybersecurity professionals who can safeguard companies’ computer systems.
In July, the school received approval from the UW System Board of Regents to provide a new bachelor of science degree in cybersecurity. The degree is only the second undergraduate degree of its kind offered in the UW System.
“We had an information technology major with emphasis in networking security,” Zhou said. “But nowadays, you’ll see more and more challenges, and we need a more in-depth study to handle the kind of challenges that we have.”
The bachelors program came into being after the popular cybersecurity minor in the College of Letters and Sciences was created. The cybersecurity minor currently has around 40 students. The school also offers an online master’s of science in cybersecurity degree. The new undergraduate cybersecurity program is designed to make it easier for two-year technical college graduates to transfer to UW-Whitewater.
The major will also be in the College of Letters and Sciences along with the minor. The program will include coursework from the departments of computer science, mathematics and sociology. Colleagues in the department of information technology and supply chain management in the business college will also teach students in the degree program.
Courses in the degree track include intro to cybersecurity, intrusion detection and information assurance and security. The undergraduate program will require 120 credits and will first be offered in person starting in spring 2022. Online coursework will be added over time.
Zhou said cybersecurity graduates would be able to enter a great job market. Through the organization Cyber Seek, a cybersecurity education initiative, students are able to see the amount of cybersecurity jobs available and how wide the market has gotten.
“In 2018, the number was about 2,900 (jobs available),” Zhou said. “Today, that number is close to 5,000. The demand for cybersecurity and people with those skills keep growing.”
The pay for cybersecurity professionals is also attractive for many who look into the market. For example, the starting salary for a Canon cybersecurity analyst or scale engineer is around $90,000.
“We can provide one of the most comprehensive and one of the best educations in cybersecurity to residents in Wisconsin and also serve local business and national needs,” Zhou said.