New cybersecurity degree introduced to fill the need for security professionals in the workforce

Shelley Marshall is an associate lecturer in information technology at Kent State Ashtabula.

Olivia Futo Reporter

Kent State regional campus students can now earn an associates degree in cybersecurity in a fully online program. With a need identified for security professionals in the workforce, especially in Ohio, Kent State introduced cybersecurity as a two-year degree program for students.

The new degree will be offered through the College of Applied and Technical Studies and will be available in the Fall 2021 course catalog.  

By earning this degree, cybersecurity students learn to protect networks, devices and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and at Kent State, students will learn these skills through hands-on experience. 

The need for security professionals is at an all-time high and is the main reason for the creation of the degree, said Shelley Marshall, an associate lecturer in information technology at Kent State Ashtabula. 

The number of individuals employed within the cybersecurity sector in the U.S. is expected to grow by 31 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

In addition to the projected increase, the COVID-19 pandemic has led Marshall and other professionals to see the importance of cybersecurity in the workforce.  

“The pandemic highlighted the reason that cybersecurity is so important. Small businesses, school systems, banks and hospitals need their own security professionals,” Marshall said. “The governor and his team identified cybersecurity as an area where we’re not graduating enough people to fill the workforce.” 

After two years, the Ohio Board of Higher Education officially approved the cybersecurity major within the Associate of Applied Business degree in late 2020 for Kent State. Students are already excited about the concentration that will be available at their school this fall, Marshall said. 

The cybersecurity program will be offered fully online. The pandemic has also shown the importance of online programs, said Will Ward, an associate professor of computer technology at Trumbull and co-designer of the cybersecurity degree. 

“We were one of the first programs, not only at Kent State but in the state of Ohio, to go fully online,” Ward said. “The pandemic impacted students everywhere but our students were already fully online, so it was an easy transition.” 

The degree can be taken at any of Kent State’s eight campuses, but both Ward and Marshall agreed that hosting the program at regional campuses benefits students because of convenience, open enrollment and the tight knit community from small classrooms.  

“We meet students where they are. If you come in needing math work or English work, we can provide that,” Marshall said. “Other cybersecurity programs may require you to do that before starting.” 

Small class sizes offer closer connections between students and professors and the regional campuses provide that connection, said Daniel Palmer, dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Trumbull. 

“Our largest programs are the Information Technology degrees at the bachelor’s and associate’s level so it was a very natural fit,” Palmer said. “They are online programs so they can serve students not just locally but across the system.”

Olivia Futo covers regional campuses. Contact her at [email protected]