Baylor beefs up digital defense programming with new cybersecurity major

Baylor is introducing a new cybersecurity major in fall 2024, allowing students to declare one of four concentrations. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Josh Siatkowski | Staff Writer

An expansion to Baylor’s major catalog is on the horizon, with a new cybersecurity major set to begin next fall.

According to Shaun Hutton, a clinical associate professor in computer science and executive director of the Central Texas Cyber Range, the new major will address a “huge need” for more cybersecurity professionals around the globe.

“We see a huge need,” Hutton said. “There are three and a half million jobs open globally … in cybersecurity.”

The new major is one of multiple ways that Baylor has recently added to its cybersecurity offerings. Since Hutton’s arrival at Baylor in fall 2020, growth in this area has occurred through the introduction of a cybersecurity concentration in 2021 and the opening of the Central Texas Cyber Range — a cybersecurity education facility for Baylor and McLennan Community College — in 2023. As Baylor’s cybersecurity programs continue to develop, they have solidified the university’s status as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

Students with a cybersecurity major will select one of four concentrations in order to develop talents beyond their computer and technical skills. Each concentration will require six courses, many of which are outside the department of computer science.

The first of these concentrations is business and entrepreneurship. Hutton said business skills are crucial for anyone wanting to start their own cybersecurity company.

“Maybe you want to build your own app or develop your own cyber company when you graduate,” Hutton said. “You’ll probably need some business classes and entrepreneurship classes to take your cyber knowledge and build your own business out of it.”

For those interested in government work, Hutton said the policy, law, and geopolitical issues concentration will suit them best.

“Maybe you want to help one of our government agencies in developing strategy and policy related to cyber[security],” Hutton said. “Well, you need classes to understand that, like political science or history classes.”

Thirdly, there’s an option for students who strictly want to improve their technical skills within cybersecurity: the analytics concentration.

“Maybe you want to be really awesome at analysis, … machine learning, statistics, things like that,” Hutton said. “That’s what the analytics concentration is for.”

Finally, there will be an interdisciplinary concentration, which combines aspects of the prior three into a single concentration.

Hutton said the major will bring with it five new computer science courses. The courses range from 2000- to 4000-level and will start entering the registrar in fall 2025. However, some of these courses are not planned to be released until 2027 or 2028.

Because the major is still being developed, the earliest that someone could earn a degree with a cybersecurity major is spring 2028. This means that current students who wish to earn a degree on time cannot declare a cybersecurity major.

Although current students in the computer science department won’t be able to fully experience the benefits of the new major, that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy about it.

Garland junior Misty Kurien is a computer science major with a concentration in cybersecurity. She also competes for Baylor’s nationally ranked cyber-defense team.

Kurien said she’s grateful to have the opportunity to learn important cybersecurity skills and excited to see those opportunities grow for future students.

“Our cybersecurity concentration itself is new,” Kurien said. “I think I will be in the first graduating class to graduate with a cybersecurity concentration, so just to see how that’s expanded to a major itself, I’m just happy to see how much more recognition cybersecurity is getting.”

And this recognition has paid off. Last summer, Kurien interned with a defense company, and she is preparing for a cyber analyst internship this summer. She said her experience at Baylor has been instrumental in securing these competitive positions.

“Being able to talk about the club and the concentrations really gives me a leg up in interviews,” Kurien said.

As the major is finalized, remember that all dates and course offerings are subject to change. The new major has been supported with grant funding. The costs associated with planning and developing the new major have been paid for by grants from the U.S. Department of Education (Grant Awards: P116Z220034 and P116Z230151).