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Pitt To Launch Flexible Cybersecurity Programs To Help Fill Talent Gap

Mark Schiefelbein
In this Sept. 12, 2017, file photo, an attendee looks at a digital representation of network connectivity at a vendor's display booth at the China Internet Security Conference in Beijing.

Starting this fall, people will be able to take courses in cybersecurity at the University of Pittsburgh without attending the school full-time. Instructors say the opportunity is to address a growing gap between available cybersecurity jobs and those qualified to fill them.

There are an estimated 8,500 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, that number is more than 300,000. 

Leona Mitchell, founding director of the Professional Institute within the School of Computing and Information, said because there are not enough undergraduates going into the cybersecurity field to fill the job gap, instructors are turning to people who already have jobs.

"But, the ability for people to go back for a full graduate degree is becoming more difficult," Mitchell said. "We're trying to do something here that's a little bit unique, but that also meets what we consider a very serious issue in the market right now."

Pitt already offers a Masters degree in Information Science, which is being offered through the Professional Institute. 

The Professional Education program results in a credential upon completion, and is the less rigorous of the two programs. Enrollees can be remote most of the time, and Mitchell said the program can be completed in about a year.

The Graduate Certificate program requires more time in the classroom, but has flexible hours. Mitchell said this is targeted towards existing cybersecurity professionals who want to move into middle or upper management. It will take between one and a half to two years to complete.

Rodney Petersen, head of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, said the industry needs multiple solutions to address the worker shortage.

"I think this is a good example of how we can take working adults or people who are changing careers, and enter them into the cybersecurity workforce," Petersen said. 

Petersen said community colleges have been ahead of the curve in offering flexible cybersecurity certification, and now universities are trending towards offering similar programs.

WESA receives funding from the University of Pittsburgh. This story was updated Tuesday, March 12 at 12:18 p.m. to clarify that Mitchell is founding director of the Institute. 

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