Fortune ranked the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s personal master’s degree in cybersecurity as the best program in the country.
“We are proud to be recognized by Fortune for academic excellence and to have been named the nation’s leading institution for graduate cybersecurity studies,” said Pam Benoit, UAB Provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “UAB’s Department of Computer Science has created an excellent collaborative master’s degree program that prepares students to lead careers in solving the world’s toughest cybersecurity problems.”
According to Fortune, there are nearly 770,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States.
Fortune’s first-ever ranking of in-person cybersecurity master’s programs compared 14 programs across the country on three components: Selectivity Score, Success Score, and Demand Score.
“I am very pleased with this recognition of our master’s program in cybersecurity,” said Kecia Thomas, dean of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “Our students and graduates benefit from excellent teachers and a local community that invests in their education and success.”
Working together for professional success
Established in 1967, the UAB Department of Computer Science provides students with a collaborative educational experience and emphasizes key cybersecurity tools, including data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Cybersecurity students at UAB can take Data Science and ML/AI courses as electives, greatly enhancing their skills and job prospects. The program is interdisciplinary in nature and admits students with a variety of undergraduate majors.
“Cybersecurity is not just a technical problem — it’s a human problem that requires knowledge of social dynamics, criminal laws and policies, and the ability to work in a team,” said Ragib Hasan, associate professor at the Department of Computer Science. “As part of UAB’s face-to-face curriculum, students work as part of a team, collaborating and learning from each other.”
Key collaborative opportunities within cybersecurity, data science, and machine learning labs of the Department of Computer Science and the UAB J. Frank Barefield Jr. Department of Criminal Justice ensure students receive a quality cybersecurity education experience and exposure to real-world cybersecurity. AI, data science and digital forensics projects.
“Demand for cybersecurity professionals will continue to grow in the coming years, and UAB is a good choice for cybersecurity education to launch a career,” Hasan said. “Cybersecurity is a problem-solving profession that is constantly evolving. Earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity from UAB is a potentially promising route to finding a high-paying job.”
Most UAB graduates take a two-way approach to their cybersecurity careers. Some focus on a cyber defense career and become cyber security engineers, designing and building security solutions and protecting computer systems from cyber attacks. Others focus on cybercrime investigation, where graduates explore careers as analysts for law enforcement and other agencies to help conduct digital forensic and cybercrime investigations.
Grants and research partnerships from practice
Cyber security is one of the central research areas of the UAB Department of Computer Science. Several faculty members specialize in cybersecurity and are funded and supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
“Our faculty conducts cutting-edge research on a wide range of aspects of cybersecurity, from digital forensics, blockchain, web security and secure Internet of Things to cryptographic algorithms and protocols,” said Yuliang Zheng, chair of the faculty of computer science and director of investigators for the CyberCorps program UAB Scholarship for Services (SFS). “Your research results are recognized by peers from all over the world. Some of their innovations have been incorporated into international cybersecurity standards, helping to build safe, secure and effective digital lives for billions of internet users.”
UAB’s faculty is passionate about incorporating advanced research into the classroom and giving students the opportunity to learn from world-class experts who have cutting-edge knowledge and skills in cybersecurity, Zheng said.
UAB’s SFS program has 24 cybersecurity masters students who have affiliated with top national and state cybersecurity agencies including the FBI, MITER, Government Accountability Office, US Air Force, Social Security Administration, Department of Defense, Marshall Space Flight, Full Scholarships and Scholarship support provided by Center, FDIC, Sandia National Labs and the Department of Justice.
Female and Black students make up 35% of SFS grantees, well above the national average. UAB’s SFS program differs from peer programs in that it helps build a more diverse cybersecurity workforce, Zheng said.
Numerous technology companies in the Birmingham area offer cybersecurity students hands-on internship opportunities, where they can combine classroom theory with real-world work.
“Learning cybersecurity in person is pretty important,” Hasan said. “We use techniques such as active learning, which means our courses are designed to combine theory and practice. This gives the students valuable practical experience.”
Examples of hands-on learning at UAB include courses such as network security, cyber risk management, blockchain, computer forensics, data mining, and modern cryptography. In these courses, students work on projects involving real-world problems and design solutions using industry-standard tools that cybersecurity professionals would use.
“Our students can receive a world-class education, gain hands-on experience, and explore employment opportunities—all at a low total cost,” Hasan said. “The tuition fees and cost of living are quite low compared to many other areas. The student population of UAB and the demographics of the surrounding area are very diverse. As a result, these factors make UAB a strong choice as a university for cybersecurity education.”
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.