WMU Launches New Cybersecurity Degree

May 28, 2020

Monitors check their screens in the Governor's Office of Information Technology in Denver in 2019
Credit David Zalubowski / AP Photo

Western Michigan University launches a new four-year degree program in cybersecurity in the fall 2020 semester.

The program is a collaboration between the the College of Engineering and Appied Sciences and the Haworth College of Business. Its co-director, Alan Rea, a professor of business information systems, says there are a lot of high-paying jobs waiting for students who graduate.

"There's more jobs than people who are skilled to take them. There are 2.5 to 3 jobs for every person coming out with this degree in cybersecurity. So, we really wanted to meet the need not only of students in Michigan but worldwide."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median salary for cybersecurity professionals was $98,350 in 2018. It says the number of jobs in the field is expected to grow 32 percent over the next eight years.

The new WMU undergraduate program joins the graduate-level degree begun in 2017.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious security problems in popular platforms like Zoom. But Rea says WMU's program will teach students more than just how to deal with immediate threats.

"We're teaching them the basic skills, the critical ways to think like a cybersecurity professional. Just like many jobs now, it requires people to constantly train and keep up with new threats."

Rea also says having the cybersecurity program bridge the colleges of business and engineering makes sense because dealing with hackers and other threats involves more than just code and IT technology.

"The most secure firewall would not let anything in or out. But that's not great: your email doesn't go out; you can't talk to clients. So, not only do they learn how do you do it but you learn why you have do do things that way to keep the business and the organization flowing."

All classes will be taught online, making them available to students anywhere in the world. Rea says WMU is working with community colleges in Michigan so students could take the first two years of classes there before transferring to Western to complete their degrees.