The threat of cyberattacks, cybercrimes, and security breaches seemingly grows daily. According to the database platform Statista, in 2022, over 1,800 data compromises impacted over 400 million people in the United States alone.

Because it is typical for the number of breaches disclosed for a given year to subsequently increase as the data matures, 2023 is expected to at least match the 2022 breach count and potentially exceed it by as much as 5 percent.

In turn, the demand for cybersecurity experts has increased exponentially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity employment is predicted to grow 35 percent by 2031, a much faster rate than the average for other occupations.

“The importance of cybersecurity for organizations cannot be understated,” said France Bélanger, University Distinguished Professor in Pamplin College of Business. “The most recent report from IBM Security on handling a data breach suggests the average cost to an organization in 2023 was $4.45 million. Not surprisingly, 51 percent of organizations in their survey plan to increase their cybersecurity investments because of a data breach.”

Currently, the need for cybersecurity jobs is outpacing the supply. According to Bélanger, the Tom and Daisy Byrd Senior Faculty Fellow in Accounting and Information Systems, there are between 1 million and 4 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs around the world, and these jobs include both cybersecurity experts with technical expertise and those with a managerial perspective.

Enhancing careers with cybersecurity

To help meet the growing demand for cybersecurity expertise, Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for Pamplin graduate programs, Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business Master of Information Technology program, or VT-MIT, offers a master’s degree and professional graduate certificates in three cybersecurity areas: management, policy, and technologies.

“Each concentration’s curriculum prepares students with a working knowledge of cybersecurity threats, an understanding of data collection and risk assessment, and the ability to use technology to implement regulations or protective measures,” he said.

The Pamplin College of Business and its graduate degree programs were recently highlighted in the fall 2023 edition of The Washington Post Guide to Graduate and Executive Education. The guide featured insights from both Bélanger and Ghandforoush.

The goal of the guide is to “take a closer look at executive studies and the future of work in an ever-more technology-forward world” while spotlighting the “latest programs throughout” the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region.

VT-MIT is an interdisciplinary degree and graduate certificates program and is made up of courses offered by the Pamplin College of Business and College of Engineering that span a diverse range of topical information technology disciplines that include cybersecurity. The cybersecurity modules teach students to assess current security operations, cybersecurity governance and risk management, and to evaluate if existing systems are adequate to protect an organization’s information systems from cyber threats, said Ghandforoush.

The program offers 10 graduate certificates that can be obtained independently or as a part of the degree program, he said. Students have the option to specialize their degree by completing up to two certificates in a variety of areas, including cybersecurity management, policy, and technologies.

Ghandforoush said the VT-MIT program is ideal for working or aspiring IT professionals who would like to upskill, gain a new skill, or enhance their career goals by developing knowledge and tools in the field of cybersecurity.

“MIT certificates can be earned as a standalone credential or complement a master’s degree,” Ghandforoush said. “Most MIT students come from the fields of engineering, health care, finance and commerce, marketing and media, and manufacturing industries.”

The Pamplin College of Business Master of Information Technology program offers a master’s degree and professional graduate certificates in three cybersecurity areas: management, policy, and technologies. Photo courtesy of Adobe.

Not just an IT responsibility

“Cybersecurity used to be an IT job, an expense that was necessary,” Bélanger said. “Fortunately, this has changed in recent years. Cybersecurity is now not just considered an IT issue, but something integral to the whole organization. Executives have now started to recognize cybersecurity as a business investment, something of value to the organization. Cybersecurity from a managerial perspective requires individuals that can merge technical knowledge and business acumen.”

According to Bélanger, organizations need people who can develop systematic approaches to identify and manage risks related to cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity managerial expertise is crucial for individuals who want to rise the ranks of the organization,” Bélanger said. “They need to understand the business side if one day they are going to represent the cybersecurity expertise we need on the board of directors.”

The importance of cybersecurity jobs goes beyond simple business needs, she said, and society may depend on them.

“The stakes are very high for organizations and society alike. We live in a world where cybersecurity is core to the continued functioning of our economy, our infrastructures, and our lives as we know them. This re-emphasizes the need for people of all backgrounds, expertise, and domains to be involved if we are to tackle the cybersecurity challenges we have today.”

Bringing Virginia Tech expertise to the D.C. area 

The Pamplin College of Business academic programs in Falls Church, Virginia, will be relocating to the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia. The first academic building is a state-of-the-art, 300,000-square-foot, 11-story building set to open in fall 2024 that will provide a cutting-edge environment for the graduate programs.

“Embracing the transition to the Innovation Campus is a testament to our commitment to advancing teaching, learning, and research in the digital age,” said Ghandforoush.

To learn more about the graduate and executive education options offered by Pamplin College of Business, please visit Pamplin's website.

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