UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is expanding its online portfolio of information technology degrees to help cybersecurity professionals acquire the skills needed to work in this rapidly growing industry.

Penn State is accepting applications for the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations for admission in the fall 2020 semester, which starts in August.

The degree program is being offered online through Penn State World Campus. The core courses will be taught online by the faculty from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology.

The curriculum focuses on the skills cyber professionals need to recognize, analyze, manage, and eliminate risks from a wide range of threats. The course work builds on a foundation of mathematics and computer programming while addressing the critical areas of technical cyber defense strategies, risk management, and data-driven cybersecurity analytics.

According to a report from Hiscox, a specialist insurer, 53 percent of companies experienced a cyberattack in the past year, compared with 38 percent the year before. Furthermore, 27 percent of U.S. companies experienced four or more cyberattacks in the past year, and the average attack cost $119,000, according to the report.

The number of jobs in cybersecurity is forecast to grow 32 percent through 2028, a much faster rate than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau expects the field to add more than 35,000 new jobs.

Cybersecurity Ventures, a leading expert in the field, has predicted there could be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the field by 2021, up from 1 million open positions seven years ago.

“The cybersecurity analytics and operations program at Penn State is designed to train professionals who can fill these roles and help to not only address the technical elements of cyberattacks, but also to understand how each attack could impact the organization as a whole,” said David Fusco, associate dean for graduate and undergraduate studies at the College of IST. “As technology advances rapidly and more vulnerabilities are realized, the opportunity to now offer these in-demand credentials online through Penn State World Campus will aid in enhancing the global response to cyber threats and strengthening a highly trained workforce to protect information, systems, and organizations.”

The bachelor’s in cybersecurity analytics and operations consists of 126 credits with core course work in information sciences, cybersecurity, and security and risk analysis. The requirements also include an internship and the Cybersecurity Capstone, a culminating course in which students complete a practical application.

The curriculum is based on the same degree that has been offered by the College of IST at Penn State’s University Park campus since 2017.

The program has opportunities for students to earn credentials as they work toward the completing the bachelor’s degree. Penn State World Campus and the College of IST offer the following in IT:

  •  Undergraduate Certificate in Information Science and Technology
  •  Undergraduate Certificate in Security and Risk Analysis
  •  Associate in Science in Information Sciences and Technology

Many of the credits from these certificates and programs may be applied to the requirements for the bachelor’s degree.

Joanne Peca, assistant teaching professor of information sciences and technology, said cybersecurity has not always been available as a formal academic program at many universities. For instance, she said, it may have been a component of a degree program, and people with established careers in IT or security fields may lack those skills.

“We are giving those folks an opportunity to continue working in their current roles while earning a degree that can help them move into new positions,” Peca said.