(HARLINGEN, Texas) – After an Air Force career spanning 50 years, Ed Brown has been spending his retirement learning new skills.
“I’ve always been a student all my life,” he said. “I’ve earned 10 college degrees. I like going back to college.”
Three of those degrees have been from Texas State Technical College: Web Design and Development, Computer Networking and Systems Administration, and now Cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity was an excellent follow-up to my earlier experience in network and systems administration,” Brown said. “They combine and provide some synergy. Working together, I think it gives me a very broad experience in information technology and computers.”
Brown’s wife worked as a secretary at TSTC’s Waco campus, leading the way for him to start pursuing degrees there in 2013. Though she has since retired, Brown, 73, hasn’t stopped attending, driven by his passion to continue to learn.
In particular, Brown was fascinated by the forensics aspect of cybersecurity — learning tools to extract data while improving security to prevent intrusions and attacks.
“The difficult part of teaching cybersecurity is the ability to put together curriculum that stays ahead of an always-changing environment,” Brown said. “It’s always evolving into something more complicated and more complex in terms of the threats.”
Even with that challenge, Brown made his mark on the program.
“I’m a really Type A, tenacious person,” he said. “My goal was never to get anything below 100. At the end of the semester, I ended up with a 1-0-0.”
That level of success led to him tutoring his classmates, helping them interpret the feedback they received from TSTC Cybersecurity instructor Jan Nesmith to improve their grades.
“He’s my first and only perfect score of mastering every element that we ask of a pending graduate,” Nesmith said.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity, an advanced technical certificate for Digital Forensics Specialist and a Basic Cybersecurity occupational skills award. All courses are offered online. The Cybersecurity program in Harlingen is recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, signifying that it has met requirements set by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Since cybersecurity has applications in all industries, graduates can go on to work everywhere from small businesses and school systems to banks and large companies.
“It is the field that probably is going to have the greatest growth over the next decade,” Brown said. “There will be plenty of job opportunities. There will be great chances for advancement within your career with that background.”
Digital forensics analysts can make an average salary of $89,750 in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Onetonline.org projects that this position will grow by 20% by 2028.
Enrollment for the fall semester at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.