Glen Olson is a faculty member at Estrella Mountain Community College, which has been recognized as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Linkedin profile
Key points and takeaways
- Value of an associate’s degree in cybersecurity: The college’s AAS in IT and Power Systems Security provides hands-on experience aligning with current workforce needs. It emphasizes ethical responsibility and critical thinking skills, preparing students for advanced study in cybersecurity.
- Preparation for a cybersecurity career: The program’s hands-on approach, in collaboration with industry and government partners, and specialized internships, equips students with practical experience. The program’s NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence designation assures high skill standards.
- Preparing for an associate’s degree: The program includes general education requirements to develop communication and analytical skills vital for cybersecurity.
- Industry certifications: The curriculum is designed around several industry certifications from Red Hat, Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA, providing a strong foundation for obtaining these certifications.
- Career opportunities for graduates: Graduates have landed roles in cybersecurity firms, network security, security operation center analysis, and server administration.
- Career advice: Olson emphasizes loving what you do, continuously learning, and maintaining an ethical focus.
Tell us about your background? It looks like you have degrees in business and computer science. Why did you choose that path?
I have a management degree and an MBA. I also hold several certifications including A+, Security+, MCDST, and CCISM. My previous cybersecurity work was with the Air Force.
And what do you do currently?
I am currently a faculty member of Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Arizona. My area of instruction is in Computer Information Systems, with a focus on Cybersecurity.
How valuable is an associate’s degree in cybersecurity in regards to the current workforce conditions? Do you see students getting jobs after receiving an associate’s degree? Are they continuing on to get a bachelor’s?
At Estrella Mountain Community College, we believe that our AAS in IT and Power Systems Security gives our students hands-on experience that directly translates to the current workforce needs. We focus on the ethical responsibility that we believe is necessary when dealing with data at every level.
Our students are also challenged in the classroom in order to develop critical thinking skills that allow them to analyze cybersecurity situations with real-time clarity. Many of our students do continue on to more advanced degrees within the cyber field and our program definitely prepares them for that advanced study.
How does an associate’s degree prepare someone for a career in cybersecurity?
Our hands-on approach is guided through collaboration with industry and government partners. We also encourage students to apply for specialized internships with our partners as they arise. This approach to learning gives our students the necessary experience to be effective cybersecurity workers on day one.
A key feature of the Estrella Mountain Community College AAS in IT and Power Systems Security is that our program is a designated NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Education. The national designation gives potential employers the added confidence that graduates of our program meet the highest standards of skills required within the cybersecurity field.
What’s the best way to prepare for an associate’s degree in cybersecurity? And/or what are some good skills to have before starting an associate’s degree?
The value of an AAS in IT and Power Systems Security from Estrella Mountain Community College is the addition of general education requirements that prepare degree seekers with the necessary communication and analytical skills in order to succeed in the cybersecurity field.
Are students also getting/preparing for industry certifications? If so, are there entry-level or basic certifications that are recommended?
Our program is designed around several industry certifications and is the baseline for our instruction. These include Red Hat, Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA. While we do not teach the test, we do provide a level of instruction to allow our students to feel confident in being able to obtain one, or several, of these industry certifications.
What’s the coolest/most interesting job that a student completing the associate’s program was able to land?
We have had several students go on to become a member of cybersecurity firms, both local and international. Areas that our students have been hired, or recruited into include, network security, security operation center analyst, and server administration roles.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever gotten or heard?
Love what you do, always keep learning, and maintain an ethical focus. It’s the best way to move forward with confidence.
Do you think there is a shortage of well-trained cybersecurity workers? Why or why not?
Absolutely. The threat landscape to the cyber world keeps expanding and the number of opportunities that exist for cybersecurity professionals to counter this is expanding as well. It is up to us, as educators, to work with industry and government to prepare this critical workforce.
What will the cybersecurity field look like in five years? In ten years?
The cybersecurity field will continue to expand for some time. Recent generations of people are considered as digital natives, who rely upon the cyber world far more than previous generations. With this reliance comes more risk.
I believe that current cybersecurity professionals are going to have a hard time keeping up with this growing risk. As a result, expansion within the cybersecurity field will continue to evolve into more specialized areas.
This, in turn, will necessitate the need for industry and to recognize the importance of expanding their cyber workforces at all levels. In the future, I anticipate that everyone across the cyber spectrum, from help desk to CISO/CIO, will have to be far more knowledgeable in cybersecurity in order to deal with growing cyber threats on a real-time basis.