It’s not enough for a mathematician to be a math whiz, or for an engineer to build a bridge. In today’s complex–and technological–society, there is an increasing need for professionals whose skills cross many fields.
Kevin Kelly, CEO of Herndon, VA-based LGS Innovations serves on the advisory boards of several universities including George Washington and Penn State, offering guidance on their STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum so that graduates will be more prepared to apply these skills in the real world.
“Ten years ago, for example,” says Kelly, “LGS Innovation researchers and scientists could have an in-depth background in a single discipline such as mechanical engineering (as Kelly himself did).”
Today, however, cybersecurity underscores everything LGS researchers do and mechanical engineers must have a firm understanding of the electronic systems involved in everything they develop.
According to Kelly, for a company like LGS Innovations, which is heavily involved in R&D and focused on helping government tackle the most challenging networking and communication challenges, an available pool of qualified STEM graduates and future employees is necessary for it to thrive.
Yet, there is currently a tremendous shortage of students interested in the STEM fields. It is estimated that by 2018, there will be a shortage of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM workers. This will impact both our economy and national defense, Kelly asserts.
While Kelly advocates identifying students at a young age who have both the skills and interest to pursue these cross-disciplines, higher education is addressing the issue as well by inviting industry leaders to meet with students (at George Washington University, for example, female engineers are encouraging young women to consider engineering as a viable career option).
“Cross-discipline studies are really important,” says Kelly, pointing out that everything–from your computer to your refrigerator–will have an IP address, which will make us all more vulnerable in years to come.
“We need to understand our cyber-risk,” he says.
That’s just what University of Maryland University College is doing through its master degree programs in both cybersecurity and cybersecurity policy.
According to Alan Carswell, Chair of Cybersecurity and Information Assurance, UMUC recognized four years ago the critical need for cybersecurity professionals.
“The Internet is so integrated with the fabric of our lives, and the ‘bad guys’ are growing in numbers,” he says, explaining that the need for qualified cybersecurity professionals is only continuing to grow, compounded by a generation on the verge of retirement. There is a critical need to fill 50,000 cybersecurity jobs in the near future in the federal government and private industry, and Maryland boasts more than 19,000 of those job openings, cites Carswell.
Since its inception, the programs have seen tremendous growth, with 1,600 students now pursuing one or the other of the cybersecurity master’s degrees. Certificate programs are also offered, as is a new master’s level degree in digital forensics and cyber investigations.
“There are people who would like to disrupt our cyber structure,” says Carswell, “and it could be seemingly as innocent as a kid in his mother’s basement making mischief.
“From stealing our credit information,” Carswell adds, “to creating a life-threatening emergency, it doesn’t take much to disrupt our lives