Todd Wasserman

Sep 21st 2018

George Mason University’s Cybersecurity Engineering Degree Addresses an Increasingly Pressing Need


By 2021, global cybersecurity expenditures are expected to exceed $1 trillion, according to CSO. By 2022, there will be 265,000 more cybersecurity jobs in North America than workers to fill them, according to a Frost and Sullivan report outlined in The Wall Street Journal. Many organizations rely on outsourcing because experts in the field migrate to the private sector. The market need for cybersecurity talent is acute, which is why the Cyber Security Engineering Bachelor of Science degree being offered by George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering is so important. While there are other cybersecurity programs — Purdue University, New York University and University of Maryland offer such degrees — George Mason University’s is the first to tackle engineering cybersecurity systems.

What’s a Cybersecurity Engineer?

The average cybersecurity engineer’s salary is $131,059, per Glassdoor. Not only does the position pay well, it is applicable to any industry. As George Mason University said, “Students who earn their degree from the first such program in the U.S. will be uniquely positioned for high-demand careers protecting physical systems from cyber attacks. Graduates will find jobs in government, defense, transportation, telecommunications, or almost any field they choose.”

The Cyber Security Engineering undergraduate program is “focused on the cyber security engineering of integrated cyber-physical systems,” according to the university. “This degree provides a foundation in cyber security engineering, and is most appropriate for students with a strong mathematics and science background.”

The program promises to teach students how to safeguard existing systems against cyberattacks and to build resilient new systems. It allows students to study and explore transportation systems, RF communications, a healthy dose of physics and more.

What Is the Value of a Cybersecurity Degree?

The risks of cyberattacks weigh heavily on businesses. A successful attack — like the ones executed against Target, The Home Depot, Equifax and Sony in recent years — can undermine a brand’s image among consumers and ruin executives’ reputations.

That’s one reason for corporate interest in George Mason University’s cybersecurity degree. Mike Papay, chief information security officer for Northrop Grumman, was instrumental in developing the program. Executives from Applied Systems Analytics and Robison International also contributed.

Papay’s involvement was organic: When GMU’s Peggy Brouse — now the director of the program — read about hackers sabotaging the engine of a cruising Jeep Cherokee, she emailed Papay. That incident confirmed the need for such a program, according to GMU’s blog. Brouse said she felt she needed to educate students to prepare and fight such attacks.

In recent years, the risk for attacks on U.S. infrastructure and financial systems has increased, with Russia eyeing attacks on the U.S. power grid, according to The New York Times. It’s easy to see how the loss of electrical power and internet access could cripple American society. Unfortunately, the power grid is just one of many hacker targets. Against that backdrop, the GMU program is an encouraging development. We can only hope that other schools follow suit.