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With a dearth of security professionals to cover the ever growing industry, the first student graduated from the University of South Florida’s new master of science program in cyber security this month.

While the first student just walked, another 170 students are in the program, more are getting ready to sign up.

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USF, designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity, and other schools across the country can’t recruit and graduate students fast enough.

Graduates in cyber security are not only in demand with companies at the local, state and national level, but can often command six-figure salaries, said Sri Sridharan, managing director and COO for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity headquartered at USF.

Cyber Security

Students in the master’s program must complete 30-to-33 credit hours and can pursue a concentration in one of three areas: Cyber intelligence, digital forensics or information assurance. Students can take the program online to make it easier for students to pursue while working full-time at other jobs.

For those not ready to pursue a master’s degree, USF also offers a 12-to-18 credit hour graduate certificate in cyber security and an industry certification review training for information security professionals.

“We live in the information age and cyber crime is a serious threat,” Sridharan said.

Sridharan, along with Jan Resch, senior director and chief partnership officer for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, or FC2, are laying the groundwork for what they and state leaders hope will be a blossoming cyber security industry in Florida.

Efforts are underway to develop Florida as a national hub for cyber security workforce development, research and innovation. It’s a plan that could pave the way for high-tech, high-pay job creation.

FC2, headquartered at the USF Tampa campus, is a collaborative effort among the state’s 12 public universities, Sridharan said.

The program launched in July 2014 with $5 million in initial funding from the Florida Legislature. It is currently on the seventh floor of the Interdisciplinary Sciences building, but Sridharan said the next step calls for a future “secure” facility with classrooms, labs, offices and a data center. A $36 million proposal needs approval from the Legislature, Sridharan said.

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