There's ongoing debate in IT certification circles as to whether it's more important for newly minted IT professionals to have a college degree or a fistful of certifications. There are strong feelings on both sides of the question, and while most people at least pay lip service to the enduring value of a four-year university degree — which can benefit the recipient in ways that go beyond sharpening his or her ability to pass tests — it's also widely asserted that college educations are losing ground. A popular statistic that originated last year in a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York discloses that an estimated 45 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed.
(Of further interest, the Fed report also reveals that while just 29 percent of graduates with "math and computers" degrees are underemployed, a whopping 55 percent of graduates with "technologies" degrees are working in jobs that do no require a college degree. How to tell which category your IT degree falls under? Maybe it depends on where you're working.)
At any rate, one of the areas in which colleges and universities may soon be seeking to make up ground is (wait for it) certification. Many, if not most, college IT programs include certifications from traditional certification entities like Cisco or CompTIA. And certification providers have even begun to partner with university IT departments. But what if universities were to begin offering their own credentials? A four-year university in Utah may have positioned itself on the leading edge of an emerging trend by creating its own cybersecurity credential. Sort of.
Utah Valley University announced in July that the State Board of Regents had approved its new graduate certificate in cybersecurity, and school officials anticipate that the one-year program will be available starting next year. Program development began in earnest two years ago, when the university was awarded a $3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Labor to create a program that would train highly skilled cybersecurity specialists. One major difference between the UVU cybersecurity certificate and a more traditional security certification is the level of commitment. The UVU certificate would have a four-year IT degree as its standard prerequisite, though the university also intends to offer a less intimidating prerequisite of taking a suite of university IT courses.
Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah, is in close proximity to the soon-to-open Utah Data Center of the National Security Agency at Camp Williams, near Bluffdale, Utah. It's anticipated that needs at the facility itself and in surrounding communities will create between 1,300 and 3,000 jobs. The UVU cybersecurity graduate certificate is expected to feed many of its graduates into that employment pool.