What is it and what it can do for you
By KELLY MILLER
With the pandemic’s current so-called Great Resignation wave, many people are looking to change careers at a time when tech skills are at their highest demand and education is at its highest price. According to a 2021 Bankrate survey, 55 percent of Americans are looking for a new job, with many placing higher wages, job security and flexible work arrangements as their main priorities.
But changing careers is no easy feat, especially when you are also trying to improve your marketable skills. You’ll likely need education and training, both of which cost money and time. Yet bills are due tomorrow. You can’t just go back to college on little or no income. If you need to work, will you really have time to attend classes? And if you’re going to risk everything in a new career, you need to know the path you choose is sustainable.
Where do you go? What do you do? Cuyahoga Community College may have an answer for you with its Cybersecurity Post-Degree Professional Certificate.
All Online, Using a New CBE Model
By the fall of 2023, Tri-C’s goal is to implement a more accessible format of its existing Cybersecurity Post-Degree Professional Certificate. A relatively new educational model called Competency-Based Education (CBE) will allow students greater flexibility compared to the traditional higher education route. This course of study will be a game-changer for anyone who already possesses a degree but wants to jump-start into a new career.
So, what exactly is CBE? “(CBE) is measuring mastery versus measuring time in a semester,” said Dee Dee Pfister, the Associate Vice President of Academic Professional Development, Online Learning and Articulation and Transfer at Tri-C. Compared to the traditional credit hour system, students are simply able to show their mastery through assessments like projects instead of putting in a set number of hours.
Pfister explained that “each student takes his or her own journey with mastering concepts,” and CBE allows students to do so at their own pace.
How does this program allow for that? By being a 100 percent online, open format.
“Not everyone has time to sit in a classroom or be online at a certain time. Competency-Based Education allows them…to work at their own pace online,” said Charles Dull, the Associate Dean of IT and member of the program’s development team. So long as you submit your work by the end of the semester, you can complete the class whenever you want.
This creates some interesting possibilities depending on your availability and skill level. “You can keep enrolling (in classes) up through eleven weeks (of the semester),” Pfister said. “If you keep cruising through (classes), there is no limit on how quickly you can complete (the certificate).”
This means that students with a large amount of time or background in the content and quick learners could breeze through courses much faster than a traditional class would allow.
Despite the optional accelerated pace, students still receive the same educational benefits— and credits—as a traditional credit hour track. Tri-C has chosen to use a Credit Equivalency version of CBE, meaning students are still accruing 36 credit hours over twelve classes.
“In case somebody wants to take (those credit hours) to another institution, the courses are still transferable,” Pfister said.
Given the credit hour equivalency, this means pricing for the certificate is also the same, regardless of your chosen format. This allows students to plan ahead easily, without confusion over costs.
On top of having the benefit of credit hours like a traditional course, students also still have access to help from professors, just in a different mode.
“Your professor will be a ‘guide on the side,’ who provides more content when you’re ready, at your pace,” according to Dull.
Professor Keith Lyons, another member of the program’s development team, suggests “students also have the potential for more personalized attention from faculty,” with this setup. The unique self-paced option gives students a chance to examine their specific needs for better instruction, making collaboration with instructors more effective. That opportunity becomes even more important in the cybersecurity field.
Certifications in Cyber Security
When pursuing a field like cybersecurity, there are multiple existing industry standard certifications able to be obtained through outside companies like CompTIA to help boost a resume.
Having that individualized attention from faculty will allow students to reach the mark more quickly for these industry standards within their education plan.
“We have built the curriculum around several of those certifications,” Dull said.
Essentially, students will learn the skills needed to pass those certification exams within the related courses in this program. In some cases, students can choose to take electives that cover the material not already included in the main required classes.
Even before a student finishes the full program, if they feel they know the content, they can sit for certifications like Network+, Security+, Linux+ or Cisco CCNA. Doing so could lead to getting a job in their field even earlier than expected.
The available jobs you could get after completing those certifications or this program are high-paying and in an ever-expanding field.
“As security threats continue to grow, the growth in the cybersecurity job market will continue as well,” Professor Kathleen Tamerlano, also a member of the development team, explained.
Security analysis positions are one example of that growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts Security Analysts, who attend to companies’ cyber security needs, can expect field growth of 33% through 2030. That’s much higher than average. And the median pay? About $103,000 per year. Given the strong market of high-paying jobs, a career change to cybersecurity appears to be a safer transition and investment than many other fields.
In combination with Tri-C’s accessible format, this becomes a viable option for people hoping to change their lives for the better who may not otherwise have the chance.
“I don’t think the program is for absolutely everyone,” Dull said. “But it’s an opportunity to open doors for people where a traditional format is not possible.”
CBE: Is it for you?
If this program sounds too good to be true, or iyou’re worried about your own capabilities, understanding the necessary skills needed for completing a program entirely online, at your own pace, is vital.
“The one thing this program requires is self-discipline,” Dull said. If self-discipline isn’t your strongest asset or you’re just not sure, don’t worry too much.
The program will implement safeguards to help students decide what will work for them. Dull reassured that the program is “going to have an intake process … an assessment at the beginning … and student interviews.”
If this screening process, which is currently being developed, is still not enough to ensure the administration directs students to the best program for them, there is still an option to switch formats in the first semester. If you find CBE difficult and would prefer the traditional learning experience, there’s time to figure that out, according to Dull.
Want to Know More?
If you’re interested in Tri-C’s upcoming, all-online Cybersecurity Post-Degree Certificate, you can visit the existing traditional program’s page for a better idea of what this certificate covers. Here’s a link: https://www.tri-c.edu/programs/information-technology/cyber-security/index.html
Tri-C is still developing the online version and is are preparing to submit the program’s application to the Higher Learning Commission, https://www.hlcommission.org/ which accredits secondary learning institutions.
Charles Dull is happy to speak with anyone interested in the program and can be reached via phone (216-987-4677) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kelly Miller is a student at Tri-C. She wrote this article for her MJS 2010 News Writing class and can be reached at S01279423@acad.tri-c.edu.