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Fight cyber crime with new cyber security degree at Jackson College

Today’s large computer networks offer speed and convenience, but too often they fall victim to security breaches that can put important information at risk. A new academic program at Jackson College is targeted at educating workers to prevent such attacks.

This fall, Jackson College will launch a new associate degree in cyber security. Cyber security analysts work to ensure that an organization’s computer networks, computer systems and digital information stay safe from cyber-attacks. Security analysts may plan, monitor and test computer systems for security and implement appropriate security controls. They may install and use software, such as firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information. They may also perform penetration testing, using simulation of attacks to look for vulnerabilities in an organization’s computer system before they may be exploited by hackers.

“This is closely related to the computer networking degree, but adding important studies in cyber security,” said Assistant Professor Larry Choate, Computer Information Services. Students may specialize in Microsoft or CISCO networks.

A few key traits will help those interested in cyber security careers:

  • Passion – Even after completing their academic programs, analysts working in the field must continually update themselves with the latest systems and developments, because that is the nature of the field.
  • Ingenuity – Related to passion, cyber security personnel need to constantly be on the lookout for new weaknesses in a system, because that is what hackers are constantly doing, looking for new ways “in.”
  • Ability to recognize patterns – It will help if they can recognize patterns in data and operations, because cyber security analysts will need to recognize a baseline for normal operations before they recognize any abnormalities.
  • Good analytical skills, attention to detail.

A growing field, jobs are available for graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs for security analysts to increase about 37 percent through the year 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. The federal government is expected to greatly increase its use of information security analysts to protect the nation’s critical information technology (IT) systems. Increases are also expected in the healthcare field, with the increase in electronic medical records.

Careers in the field may start in the $47,000 per year range in Michigan, and earnings will increase with education and/or experience. Students may transfer on to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree. Those in the field may have the opportunity to work remotely or from home.

Jackson College students have also participated for several years with the Michigan Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Teams simulate an information technology (IT) service company testing the security of an existing IT infrastructure, giving students more experience in a competitive atmosphere with other colleges and universities.