Thursday, March 23, 2023

ODU graduates first cybersecurity class

ODU Cybersecurity class
(L to R) Cybersecurity graduate students, Joseph R. Pilla, Donte Shepard, Carlos Walker, Javon Purvis and Hongyi Wu, director of ODU’s Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Old Dominion University)

NORFOLK — In 2018 nearly every business and industry in the United States is dependent on computers and computer networks.

Computers keep businesses going, while critical — and sometimes sensitive — information sits on hard drives.

And every day it seems that another system has been hacked or hijacked.

To fill some of the estimated 33,000 jobs available in the computer security industry across Virginia, Old Dominion University in 2015 launched a cybersecurity program in which students can achieve a bachelor’s degree en route to a career in the ever-expanding field of cybersecurity.

Just 11 students registered at the time, most of them non-traditional students and ex-military, but the program now has more than 200 enrolled.

“More and more businesses rely on computers and computer systems,” said Hongyi “Michael” Wu, director of ODU’s Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research and batten chairman of cybersecurity. Wu noted that computers are critical to the operation of nearly every business, from banks to hospitals to government agencies.

The inaugural class saw 16 students graduate with bachelor’s degrees during ODU’s May 4-5 ceremonies. Wu said he believes most, if not all of the students had been offered jobs before they even graduated: In part because of the need, but also in part to connections made via the internships they were required to complete before receiving their degrees.

The need for cybersecurity experts will only continue to grow.

“Our lives depend so much on computers,” he said.

ODU is adding staff to teach related courses and creating labs where students can work on assignments and projects. Wu said they also hope to launch a master’s degree program in cybersecurity by the end of the year.

Some of the careers graduates of the program might move on to include: cybersecurity engineer, cybersecurity analyst, information security engineer, information security officer, cybersecurity data scientist, computer network defense engineer, and cybersecurity systems architect.

Wu said depending on the business or industry, salaries could be around $80,000 annually.

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