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Ohio Life

How Students Can Explore a Career in Cybersecurity

The nation faces a demand for cybersecurity professionals, and students can begin exploring the range of career options available before they leave high school.

There’s a significant skills gap hindering employers’ ability to grow, and it’s also creating a national security issue. There are currently 769,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States and more than 18,000 opportunities in Ohio alone, according to CyberSeek (cyberseek.org), a project of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“The internet was built for sharing, not for security,” says Rebekah Michael, co-director and executive staff director for the Ohio Cyber Range Institute at the University of Cincinnati. The institute is a collaborative network that supports cybersecurity programs across Ohio.

Many high school students don’t realize cybersecurity is a job option, but it is a multidisciplinary field that involves social engineering, psychology, networking, programming, policy and law.

“Once students find out how flexible a career in cybersecurity is, they realize they can blossom and choose their path,” Michael says.

The University of Cincinnati initially offered cybersecurity as part of an information technology program that includes data tech, software, networking and gaming/simulation. Today, the school offers a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology, a Master of Science degree in information technology with a cybersecurity focus and a Ph.D. in information technology with a cybersecurity focus.

Courses include covering the defensive side of cybersecurity. Students learn how computer systems work and how communication pathways are exploited.

“We cover adversarial thinking, and students also take courses in our School of Public and International Affairs, so they learn about law and get that cross-pollination and different skill sets,” says Ryan Moore, lead educator for the Ohio Cyber Range Institute.

“One of the classes students love the most is the ethical hacking course — it’s exciting [for them] to see how computers can be manipulated,” Moore adds.

As for the psychology side, cybersecurity involves identifying social patterns like how a disgruntled employee might act to create an issue for their employer. Then, there is the keyboarding side, which includes programming, networking, securing and problem solving.

“A lot of cybersecurity jobs have nothing to do with hands on a keyboard,” Michael says.

The Ohio Cyber Range Institute partners with the National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, participating in national programs, competitions and workshops. The school is also involved with the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation grant program GenCyber that offers free camps across the country.

Students in high school can begin exploring cybersecurity and earn college credit through the College Credit Plus program or if their school is connected to the University of Cincinnati School of Information Technology Early IT program.

“That is where they can earn the first year of the bachelor in cybersecurity for free at their high school,” Michael says.

The school also offers a free, two-week high school summer camp that includes cybersecurity, along with programming and networking. With so many openings in the field, Michael and Moore say students pursuing an IT degree often go back to school for the cybersecurity training when they could start it and enter the workforce sooner.

“We need to get the word out to middle and high school students,” Michael says.

Where to Learn More
Students with questions about careers in cybersecurity can find out more here: 



Ohio Cyber Range Institute


University of Cincinnati Cybersecurity and IT programs

This story ran in the Winter-Spring 2023 issue of College 101.