Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Workplace

Mar. 26, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (MARCH 26, 2014) - Mark Burditt has had a somewhat unusual Air Force career. In his 24 years with the military, his positions have always involved music. Burditt currently serves as the chief enlisted manager of the U. S. Air Force Academy band. But now, with retirement from the military just a few years down the road, Burditt is preparing himself for a career in the civilian sector.

His choice? A complete “180” from the music world. Burditt is enrolled in the new master’s degree program in cybersecurity at Webster University’s Colorado Springs campus.   

“I wanted to do something that’s not music-related to broaden out,” he said. “I see this academic endeavor as a repositioning. I’m also anxious to get into a field where there’s a real need.”

The cybersecurity field is just that. It’s been a hot topic in the news recently, given the numerous data breaches at major retailers and financial institutions. So it should come as no surprise then, that cybersecurity is – and will continue to be for years to come – one of the most in-demand sectors of the job market.

According to a recent report by the labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, postings for cybersecurity jobs have grown 74 percent since 2007. In 2013 alone, the report said, there were more than 200,000 postings nationally for cybersecurity jobs, with an average salary of $93,028. That’s more than $15,000 higher than other IT positions as a whole. And because the number of qualified candidates for these cybersecurity jobs far lags the number of open positions, these postings tend to remain open much longer than other IT jobs, according to the Burning Glass Technologies report.

Webster’s new master’s degree program in cybersecurity was established to help fill a staggering demand for cybersecurity training in the Colorado Springs area. The U.S. Air Force Space Command approached Webster to create the program because it has 1,400 employees who need training in cybersecurity.

Tom Johnson, cybersecurity program lead and chief of strategic initiatives for Webster University, said the program focuses on the management level. “We need skilled people who know how to manage and lead projects involving cybersecurity. This degree prepares students for demanding cybersecurity leadership and management positions in the public and private sectors.” The point of the program is not how to prevent hacking, Johnson said, but, rather, developing the leadership skills necessary to analyze and assess cybersecurity needs. “We’re giving students the big picture of what hacking is and of what’s the next wave in cybersecurity.”

Webster faculty member Bill Hoffman, who teaches a class in cybersecurity infrastructures at the Colorado Springs campus, said the program includes hands-on components. “We have a private cloud cyber computer security laboratory that will enable students the opportunity to participate and engage in real, live exercises with computer viruses, malware, DDoS attacks, and to test preventative tools and designs,” he said. Classes also include courses on viruses and threat detection, while others address policies and ethics related to cybercrime, the forensics of cyberspace and more.

Graduates of the 39 credit-hour program will be well-versed to apply their knowledge and critical thinking skills related to domestic and international legal systems, private and public policies, and ethics as they apply cybersecurity practices to information protection, terrorism, fraud, theft, intelligence/counterintelligence, digital forensics, and pre-emptive and strategic force operation application situations.

None of this would be possible without an outstanding group of highly experienced faculty members. “That’s what sets Webster’s cybersecurity program apart,” Hoffman said. “Our classes are taught by practicing professionals. They bring practical experience from their day-to-day work into the classroom. For our students, being able to go to work and practice what they learned the night before is huge.”

Burditt agrees. “The teaching has been great,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased with the quality of instruction.” 

In the coming months, in addition to Colorado Springs, Webster plans to launch the master’s degree in cyberecurity at its metropolitan and military campuses in other high-demand locations, including San Antonio, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Orlando.

With its home campus in St. Louis, Webster University ( is the only Tier 1, private, non-profit U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses. Founded in 1915, Webster University’s campus network today includes metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as traditional residential campuses in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. The university is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.