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AAS Degree in Cybersecurity Helping to Knock Out Threat Actors

Hector Garza, UST Chair for Kolbe School Technical ProgramsThe whole world is experiencing a growing number of “threat actors” who alter data and steal information. At the same time, we have a critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals to counter the attacks. The University of St. Thomas-Houston’s Associate in Applied Science Cybersecurity degree is equipping its graduates to help fill the demand for these important positions. 

Learning to Harden Networks

Students in the two-year online program learn all about security threats and what they can do to “harden the networks,” putting security controls in place so hackers cannot get in.

Hector Garza, Chair for UST’s Kolbe School Technical Programs, said, “We give them solid networking knowledge. They learn how to use the networking controls and how and where to apply these security settings. That means they learn about computer networks, what’s involved in setting up a network, and all the related components, including security locks to prevent entry by intruders.”

They also manage hacks through hands-on simulations, making students immediately productive when they enter the workforce.

The Danger Without Cybersecurity

“The internet is a public network,” Garza reminded. “You never know who may want to break into your network, and a breach can cause a company shutdown and huge financial losses.”

In the AAS Cybersecurity program, professors cover all the vulnerabilities and the different types of attacks, including ransomware.

“We focus on risk management,” Garza said. “If threat actors encrypt one of the master files, bad news, they can extort your company. Remember the pipeline company that was hacked and paid $4.4M to get their files released?”

Anthony Eldridge, AAS in Cybersecurity studentAAS Can Break Through Your Career Ceiling

Cybersecurity student Anthony Eldridge has been laying cable and installing phones and computers for almost 20 years in the Texas Medical Center. He said at UTHealth, his current employer, he has hit the ceiling on that career path and wanted to try something different. In December, Eldridge will graduate with the first cohort for the AAS in Cybersecurity.

“I love UST,” Eldridge said. “They have made these courses so convenient. Being a working dad, this accelerated program gives me all the flexibility I need for my job schedule.”

The program has placed Eldridge and several other students in a remote internship at a cyber company.

He said, “We’re getting hands-on experience, actually doing cybersecurity research and troubleshooting and locating hackers. It’s putting us in a position where, when we come out of the internship, we will be ready to apply for a job.”  

Dean for The Kolbe School of Innovation and Professional Studies Dr. Nicole McZeal Walters, said, “We are excited to include coursework mapping for all students to study for and gain certification prior to graduation. We want to ensure students are equipped with all the tools in hand to be marketable UST students.”

Cybersecurity Career Roles and Grant Money for the AAS

Eldridge has a good possibility of moving into a cyber spot with his present employer. Potential roles are information security analyst or remote security specialist.

It so happens that his UTHealth employer supports his education by providing tuition reimbursement. For potential cybersecurity students who don’t have such a company benefit, a different financial opportunity may be available. Currently, UST has workforce grant money to help eligible students go or return to college. The Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant Program provides this educational assistance. UST is making some of these funds available for earning the AAS Cybersecurity degree. Interested persons need to complete the 2022-2023 FAFSA form (UST’s FAFSA code is 003654) and apply here.

Students seeking grant assistance must be eligible for federal student aid. They also must affirm the COVID-19 pandemic has economically impacted them.

Explore your opportunities within UST’s AAS Cybersecurity program.