Maryland to Add Cybersecurity Honors Program in 2013

In association with the Northrup Grumman Corporation, the University of Maryland at College Park will launch the nation’s first honors program in cybersecurity aimed at producing highly capable graduates who can answer the demand of this important area of economic and national security.

The new curriculum track, called the Advanced Cybersecurity Experiences for Students (ACES) program, has received $1.1 million from Northrup Grumman to launch it and will receive matching corporate and university support.

According to the university, “ACES will engage a highly talented, diverse group of students–majors in computer science, engineering, business, public policy and the social sciences–in an intensive living-learning environment that focuses on the multifaceted aspects of cybersecurity and develops team-building skills.

“Students will take on an advanced, cross-disciplinary curriculum developed through industry consultation, and will interact directly with industry and government cybersecurity mentors. Student enrolled in the program will have the option of interning with Northrop Grumman and preparing for security clearance. ACES will produce skilled, experienced cybersecurity leaders highly sought by corporate and government organizations.”

The curriculum “will include general cybersecurity courses, as well as a variety of other topics, including cybersecurity forensics, reverse engineering, secure coding, criminology, and law and public policy. In year-long capstone courses, teams of seniors will apply their knowledge and skills in solving complex cybersecurity problems.”

Northrup Grumman has headquarters in nearby Falls Church, VA.  The university is extremely well-suited to partner with the company on the cybersecurity program because of its nationally recognized living/learning honors communities and its strong academic departments in cybersecurity-related subjects.

“UMD is one of only 6 universities in the world with top 25 programs in Computer Science, Engineering, Economics and Business, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Physics, and Social Sciences, according to the Academic Ranking of Worldwide Universities.”

The program also offers a clear career path.  “Summer internships will augment coursework with real-world projects and develop a pipeline of talented students. Throughout, Northrop Grumman will provide guest lecturers, participate in an industry advisory board, pose real-world problems for students to solve, and provide advisors and mentors for capstone projects.”

Speaking of job “security,” see what Alex Fitzpatrick at Mashable.com has to say about the growing field of cybersecurity:

“Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation at the State Department, has a piece of advice for students tasked with the nerve-rattling dilemma of choosing a college major.

“’If any college student asked me what career would most assure thirty years of steady, well-paying employment,” said Ross, ‘I would respond, ‘cybersecurity.’”

“That’s because cybersecurity is a field where the rules of the recession seem flipped: There’s plenty of jobs, but relatively few qualified applicants.

“The government needs to hire at least 10,000 experts in the near future and the private sector needs four times that number, according to Tom Kellermann, vice president at Trend Micro and former member of President Obama’s cybersecurity commission. Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security firm in Mclean, has hired nearly 3,000 cybersecurity experts in the past two years, and that trend is expected to continue.”

Currently, cybersecurity grads do not earn as much as those going into computer software design and computer engineering, but the pay is certain to increase with the ever-increasing demand.  The story by Fitzpatrick states that the average starting salary in 2009 was $55,000 a year, with many of the jobs now in the public sector.  The joint effort by UM and Northrup Grumman are an indication that the demand is now strong in the private sector as well.

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