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Old Dominion University Launches Cybersecurity School

ODU’s Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research is now the School of Cybersecurity, and it opened on Oct. 1, expanding degree options for a program that has grown from 11 students in 2015 to around 800 in 2020.

(TNS) — A new Old Dominion University school will help fill one of the fastest-growing and most sought-after career fields in Virginia.

ODU’s Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research is now the School of Cybersecurity. The new school, which opened on Oct. 1, expands degree options for a program that has grown from 11 students in 2015 to around 800 in 2020.

“The School of Cybersecurity is a great example of ODU’s commitment to providing educational solutions to address real challenges in our region and the world,” ODU President John Broderick said in a news release.

The school offers both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in cybersecurity. It also has a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations designation from the National Security Agency, making it one of only 21 such schools across the country. ODU is also the first research university in the country to open a school of cybersecurity. It was almost the first university ever, but Georgia Tech opened its School of Cybersecurity and Privacy in September.

The program’s explosive growth mirrors the demand for cybersecurity workers in Virginia. More than 54,000 cybersecurity positions are currently unfilled in the state, according to a National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education analysis of job openings. Around 5,000 of those are in Hampton Roads. The number of cybersecurity jobs nationally is expected to increase 31% by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Entry-level cybersecurity jobs usually pay $60,000-$70,000 annually in Hampton Roads, but some students have started at far higher salaries, said Brian Payne, ODU’s vice provost for academic affairs.

What makes ODU’s program unique is its interdisciplinary approach to cybersecurity, which is a directive straight from Broderick, Payne said. When the program was created, it included ethics, policy, law and communications courses. After speaking with area employers, the program also added hands-on experience in the form of apprenticeships and internships.

“We very much see this school as a solution to challenges that businesses are facing,” Payne said.

The school will allow around three dozen faculty members to focus on research that can help businesses through new commercial products and a greater understanding of the region’s workforce. Payne also wants to put a focus on bringing K-12 students into the fold with outreach programs. He’d also like to see a bigger focus on public awareness campaigns about the dangers of phishing and other cybersecurity threats.

“We know that a lot of times, cyber incidents in a business happen because someone in that business goofed,” Payne said. “They did something wrong.”

The school will eventually be located in ODU’s Cyber Innovation Park — a future $2.5 million physical space on campus for offices, classrooms and collaboration with area small businesses.

The school will be paid for through existing funds and the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative — a $25 million statewide effort to build a cybersecurity workforce pipeline in the wake of Amazon’s announcement of a second headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area. Payne said five new research scientist positions would cost around $500,000 but did not provide any other cost information.

©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.