With election security concerns and personal data breaches serving as the backdrop, Elmhurst College has introduced an undergraduate program in cybersecurity that launches this fall.
The cybersecurity coursework is a dynamic blend of computer science, information systems and mathematics that arms students with the skills to begin a career—not just a job—in an industry experiencing extremely rapid growth. Professor John Jeffrey, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, said the mix of disciplines will provide students a theoretical foundation in information assurance—as well as the network security skills necessary for hardening software systems and infrastructure.
“Today, it is crucial for anyone writing any type of software to have knowledge of writing secure software. Cybersecurity majors also have to understand the underlying theory and practice related to topics covered in the computer science major,” Jeffrey said.
“With the integration of computer science and cybersecurity, cybersecurity majors are prepared for positions in public and private sectors. They will be able to oversee, operate and protect critical computer systems, information, networks, infrastructures and communications networks.”
Jeffrey and Assistant Professors Dean Jensen and David Brown began planning the cybersecurity major partly in response to the wave of incidents involving identity theft and data breaches, including the massive hacking of credit reporting agency Equifax in September 2017. Jeffrey said the “time was right” to add the new major to the College’s existing minor and adult certificate in cybersecurity.
“The ability to secure information within a modern enterprise or organization is a growing challenge as systems become more complex; especially as threats to security are global and increasingly sophisticated,” Jeffrey said. “Part of living in a digitally connected world is understanding that our personal information is more valuable than ever before.”
Students who pursue the cybersecurity major will enter a workforce in dire need of their expertise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment of information security analysts will grow 32 percent from 2018 to 2028, a rate that far outpaces the 5 percent average for all occupations.
Jeffrey, citing CyberSeek.org, said the supply-demand ratio for skilled employees with detailed cybersecurity knowledge is very low. In the Chicago metropolitan region, which includes Naperville and Elgin, Jeffrey added that a wide range of needs exists in the field, including:
- Cybersecurity Engineer
- Cybersecurity Analyst
- Cybersecurity Architect
- Cybersecurity Manager
- Vulnerability Analyst
- IT Auditor
- Penetration Tester
- Software Developer
Elmhurst College faculty members in the CSIS department regularly communicate with IT professionals in the region, he said, and they are hearing firsthand about the demand.
“They need students with this knowledge,” Jeffrey said. “With our program, students have a foundation to join a company and quickly adapt to an institution’s internal practices for developing secure systems.”