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.”