(HARLINGEN, Texas) – What does a group of employees at law offices, restaurant chains, retail giants, insurance providers, school districts and banks have in common? They are all recent alumni who graduated from Texas State Technical College’s Cybersecurity program — and that is not counting individuals who have positions at information technology and security-centric companies.
“We don’t have one industry,” said Jan Nesmith, TSTC Cybersecurity master instructor. “We service all industries, from the small business all the way up to data centers — and everything in between. The world is our industry.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity, a Digital Forensics Specialist advanced technical certificate, and an occupational skills award in Basic Cybersecurity. All coursework is completed online. The Cybersecurity program in Harlingen is recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
TSTC Cybersecurity alumni in the Rio Grande Valley have gone on to work for school systems, banks and other entities, Nesmith said, adding that more opportunities are available if graduates are willing to relocate.
“It all depends on where the students end up and what they end up with a passion for within the course of a program,” she said. “There’s lots of different career pathways that a student can take. Some people work on the communications side of the house, meaning the equipment — routers, switches — while others work on the servers.”
Digital forensics analysts and information security engineers can make an average salary of $89,750 in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Onetonline.org projects that both positions will grow by 20% over the next seven years.
No matter where a Cybersecurity graduate starts their career, their skills are needed.
“Everybody has an identity, and we have to protect it,” said Cesar Ibarra, TSTC Cybersecurity associate professor and lead instructor. “Everybody needs a person to protect their data. We’re needed everywhere.”
As technology advances, so does the need for cybersecurity professionals in a wide range of applications. Ibarra pointed to the rise of autonomous vehicles as an example — and the need to keep them safe from hackers.
That is why TSTC Cybersecurity instructors like Ibarra and Nesmith work to give their students the big picture when it comes to the industry.
“The smaller the company, the more hats they wear, the more generalist they are and get to utilize all the skills from the program,” Nesmith said. “For a medium- to large-sized company, it’s much more specialized. They become subject matter experts. In that bigger company, having that knowledge (of) when they change something, what the bigger impact to the whole network is, is very critical to success.”
Enrollment for the fall semester at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.