As the cybersecurity and information technology industries grow, so too must the opportunities for education in those fields.

Cybersecurity and information technology are ever-growing industries in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., region that need qualified workforces. According to statistics from the Frederick County government, jobs in information security and computer and information systems have grown 11.3 percent in the last 10 years. By 2029, that number is expected to grow by an additional 10 percent. In the state of Maryland, these jobs have grown nearly 50 percent in the last 10 years and are expected to grow another 15 percent by 2029.

“We are the cyber capital of the country,” said Kelly Schulz, Maryland’s secretary of commerce, at a breakfast meeting with Frederick County leadership this past spring. “The cyber pipeline in Frederick is a model for success.”

How do interested students break into the technology field? Baltimore and DMV residents have access to literally dozens of cybersecurity programs in their respective regions. From the University of Maryland system to sundry private universities in those regions, employees looking to make the move into a cyber career have many options at large higher education centers/institutions. However, western Maryland and Frederick County residents, in particular, have

fewer choices. Pair that with a growing aversion to huge class sizes (whether online or on campus), and it becomes challenging to find a respected cyber degree with a high-touch approach. Hood College in Frederick seems to have struck a balance between a high-touch program and respected technology degree options with its robust computer science, cybersecurity and information technology master’s degree programs. Since Hood’s cybersecurity master’s program began in fall 2017, enrollment increased 500 percent by spring 2019. Hood’s information technology master’s program, which began as computer and information sciences in 1984, has graduated 793 students.

Despite the strengths of Hood’s unique program, which is also aligned with the NSA’s Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, one of the challenges for students is the traffic along the Interstate 495 Beltway, the Interstate 270 corridor and Frederick’s U.S. 15, impeding access to Hood’s campus.

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, average daily traffic in 2017 on U.S. 15 between I-270 and Md. 26 was more than 100,000 vehicles, which is the highest of any other section of road in Frederick. A public-private partnership (P3) program is being developed to alleviate the congestion at peak times, but it will be several years at least until stop-and-go traffic is cleared up.

“I cannot overstate the importance of the expansion of Route 15 — it ties a knot around Frederick city and cuts us off from the rest of the state,” Schulz said.

These traffic issues, along with the dire need to fill jobs in IT and cybersecurity in Maryland, as well as Hood’s commitment to accessibility, led the college to build online programs in cybersecurity and information technology. These programs are now enrolling for the spring 2020 semester.

It was mission critical to convert the college’s high-quality programs to an online offering, thereby extending the educational support in these fields throughout the state and beyond. Hood will use video conferencing, chat and other online messaging to engage its students remotely. Unlike other cyber and IT programs, Hood has perfected the high-touch classroom by keeping class sizes small for its 125-year history.

“The Hood online programs are identical to our rigorous on-campus program, ensuring that our students get the same faculty engagement, attention and access to resources as if they were physically present,” said George Dimitoglou, associate professor of computer science at Hood College. “We deliver an unparalleled educational experience by leveraging modern tools and technology platforms. This allows us to offer various options for communication and offer seamless student-faculty collaboration and interaction.”

(10) comments

TomWheatley

I am trying to work out the connection between cyber technology (aka Internet based) and traffic concerns. Clearly an outmoded way of thinking that everyone has to hop in a car to 'show up for work' in a day and age with videoconferencing and reasonably well connected Internet. What happened to those offsite workplaces that were all the rage a decade ago? Why do we not use the empty offices over on English Muffin and elsewhere for an Internet-based workforce or better yet, utilize the Jefferson 'Technology' area for that?

sue1955

Tom, it was more trouble than it was worth to go to an offsite facility. The employee still had to get out of their home in bad weather and fight traffic within their town/city. With decent infrastructure, it was simply easier to stay home. Also, not being on the road enables employees to deal with issues on their computer instead of out driving.

I actually was able to deal with problem solving beyond the workday because if a district director or regional director on the west coast (for example) wrote me an e-mail or called me as I was to end my workday, I could take care of his issue (instead of waiting until the next day).

TomWheatley

OK and thanks. Ideally, most homes have good enough Internet now to be able to work from home.

sue1955

True, Tom. But even if a specific employee does not have the technology on their own, that can be (and "is" depending on the employer) provided by their office. I forget the technical terminology, but security aspects of the computer are addressed and have to be in place. Naturally, what is needed is dependent on the employees' job.

sue1955

MD, I'm not saying against the bridge. I'm just saying that it isn't on the horizon any time soon. For commuters, it obviously will be another way to get where they are going instead of the American Legion Bridge. (People who live in the vicinity of a new bridge will likely not be thrilled with the construction and additional traffic (in their immediate area), but that's another story).

sue1955

Besdies the very real concerns about 270 traffic, Frederick County typically offers lower salaries than other areas in the greater Washington, D.C. region. Shultz' comments are just espousing local politics-speak. High-performing companies that offer hgih salaries and employee benefits are located closer to their client base. They are also close to major airports. Frederick does not fall into that category of close proximity as deemed by corporate management.

gary4books

Salaries are going up in Frederick, with adanc4d technology not so tied to older bases. A new bridge across the Potomac, if properly placed, could make Dulles a close departure point.

sue1955

Salaries may (as in "might") be going up in Frederick, but they're not equal to companies closer to or in the District. And, when is the desired bridge across the Potomac to be opened? To the best of my knowledge, it isn't even built yet. Moveover, that doesn't help people now or in the near future.

MD1756

But the bridge would help people live in VA and commute to Frederick.

gary4books

My point, exactly. Our solutions do lie in the future, either near or later. It is not as reasoned to make conclusions on just what we have now. And good planning will locate new bridges, rail lines, and even highways. That keeps us from building a "bridge to nowhere." I do not dispute your earlier point. I just want to give another perspective on the planning process.

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