UW Bothell accelerates cybersecurity careers

Students at work on computers.

By Douglas Esser
The demand for cybersecurity professionals who thwart hackers is growing. Businesses from the corner market to the stock market and institutions from the library to the Pentagon need people to protect digital information from attack. The University of Washington Bothell is in a select position to accelerate students into those high-demand careers.

The UW is a leader in cybersecurity programs, says Lynne Clark, the director of the National Security Agency’s National Information Assurance Education and Training Program.

Lynne Clark“The interface you all have been developing with industry is a great example of where we need to go and the partnerships we need to have,” said Clark, right, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel with experience in federal operations security, education and training. (Photo by Marc Studer)

The Washington, D.C., official visited the Bothell campus Jan. 23-24 to review its Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC). She also visited T-Mobile where 10 UW Bothell students are interning.

cybersecurity graphicThe T-Mobile partnership is a model for cooperative education arranged by CIAC, which works through all three UW campuses. CIAC is exploring more industry affiliates. The affiliates not only help students and develop employees, they also contribute to the direction of training programs and research.

CIAC also is developing a program to train military veterans and reservists in cybersecurity. Meanwhile, CIAC is a resource center that will share best practices and build a professional network with universities and colleges in 12 western states.

“When we talk about producing work-ready students who are already on a path to being professionals, we need those kind of programs where there is a partnership between academia and industry,” Clark said.

“Students have an exposure to work environment before they graduate and they can incorporate what they’re learning in business into what they’re learning in programs.”

Cybersecurity talent is so limited, businesses often pirate experts from each other, Clark says. Colleges have trouble keeping faculty who are lured away by higher salaries.

computer keyboard graphicIn a 2015 report on cybersecurity jobs, burningglass.com reported job postings for cybersecurity were growing three times as fast as openings for overall information technology jobs. The job market analytics company reported cybersecurity workers could command a salary premium of 9 percent more than other IT workers. The midpoint salary for cybersecurity jobs on glassdoor.com is $112,000 a year.

The most marketable cybersecurity professionals are those who also have expertise in another field, such as business, health care, law or finance.

“That person is like gold out in the world because they have broader ability than others around them,” Clark says.

Professionals also need “soft skills,” Clark says, such as speaking ability. They’ll have to explain to leadership when they have a problem and what they need to fix it.

Clark’s agency works with 213 schools nationally. Only about two dozen are centers of education and research like the University of Washington. Clark says only a small percentage of schools around the country are doing the type of work done at the University. It has a unique opportunity because of the tech industry leaders in the region.

“The interface between government, academia and industry is very rich here.”

- Lynne Clark, director of the National Security Agency’s National Information Assurance Education and Training Program

UW Bothell plans to continue building its cybersecurity education model, integrating more programs from the School of Business and the School of STEM, computing and software systems division. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affair Susan Jeffords has named an advisory committee to coordinate the University’s cybersecurity initiatives.

While many people think foreign adversaries are the foremost cybersecurity threat, Clark says the biggest risk is crime.

“Criminals come up with a new way of taking your money every day. People who don’t know how to protect their networks and don’t know how to protect their technology are going to be victims,” she says.
Cybersecurity professionals trained in leading-edge practices at UW Bothell are ready to step in as protectors.

“They come out of here prepared. They understand the business aspects. They understand the security requirements. They’re prepared to take jobs in policy or the technical fields,” Clark said. “I see a level of commitment to taking a role in leadership in this part of the country that is encouraging and exciting, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

UW Bothell offers several degree options in cybersecurity. They include a Bachelor of Science in computer science and software engineering with the information assurance and cybersecurity option, and also the Master of Science in cyber security engineering.