Home » Murray State gets $1.5 million grant to create cybersecurity certificate

Murray State gets $1.5 million grant to create cybersecurity certificate

9-month, 12-credit hour program aims to increase employment opportunities
Murray State Cyber Center Director Dr. Michael Ramage

MURRAY, Ky. – Murray State University’s Cyber Education and Research Center recently received a $1.5 million three-year grant from the Employment and Training Administration within the Department of Labor through the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to fund a Cybersecurity Analyst Certificate program.

The nine-month, 12-credit hour program aims to increase cybersecurity employment opportunities for marginalized populations within the Kentucky Delta Region and develop a sustainable pipeline of skilled cybersecurity analysts to meet the growing demand in the cybersecurity industry.

This comprehensive certificate program is designed to equip students with essential skills and knowledge required to excel in the dynamic and critical field of cybersecurity analysis. Participants will gain hands-on experience in threat detection, networking, vulnerability assessment and risk management.

The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from network configuration and vulnerability assessment to traffic analysis. With a focus on practical, real-world scenarios, students will learn to identify and mitigate cyber threats effectively, safeguarding organizations from potential breaches and data loss. All curriculum is aligned with industry certifications, allowing students to finish with multiple industry credentials.

The program offers free tuition for 12 credit hours, paid cybersecurity industry credentials, including Comptia’s A+, Network+ and Security+, a free laptop to eligible students, paid internships, career coaching, job placement support, real world experience, and childcare support is available for class conflicts.

The program is designed for incumbent workers and new workforce entrants wishing to pursue a cyber analyst career, including individuals who are currently underemployed, seeking advancement, changing careers or wanting to earn a higher income, with an increased focus on those workers who have been historically marginalized within the field of technology.

The lack of women and minorities in cybersecurity is a persistent and concerning issue within the industry and is prioritized by the grant, according to Murray State Cyber Center Director Dr. Michael Ramage.

“Despite progress in promoting diversity and inclusion in various fields, cybersecurity still faces a significant underrepresentation of women and minority groups,” said Ramage. “The lack of diversity in cybersecurity hinders innovation, problem-solving and overall effectiveness in addressing complex cyber threats. By actively promoting inclusivity, providing mentorship and training opportunities and challenging biases, the industry can harness broader perspectives and experiences, ultimately strengthening cybersecurity defenses and fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment.”

The project will offer training opportunities to participants in Ballard, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Henderson, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken, McLean, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg, Union and Webster counties. All of these counties except McCracken are marked as distressed by the DRA. By utilizing Murray State’s main and extended campus locations in Murray, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Paducah, students can travel to the campus closest to them for in-person sessions. In addition, all course curriculums are online and via Zoom. Program eligibility is limited to those living in the Delta Region of Kentucky and willing to commit to working and living in the region following completion of the program.

“The need for cybersecurity analysts in west Kentucky has also become an issue for organizations and industries,” said Ramage. “The increasing digitization and connectivity of businesses and the rising sophistication of cyber threats have created an incessant demand for skilled analysts who can protect sensitive information and secure digital infrastructure. However, as in many other regions, the supply of qualified cybersecurity professionals in west Kentucky must catch up to the demand.”

This shortage can be attributed to various factors, including many managed service providers in west Kentucky, the rapid growth of the cybersecurity industry, the complexity of cybersecurity tasks and the need for continuous training and expertise to stay ahead of evolving threats. Addressing this shortage requires collaborative efforts between educational institutions, industry stakeholders and government entities to promote cybersecurity education, training programs and initiatives that attract and train talented individuals, according to Ramage.

“The consequences of ignoring this problem are starting to be observed across the region,” he said. “When employers cannot find an adequate workforce locally, they will find it elsewhere. The great advantage of the tech and cybersecurity sectors is also a potential disadvantage. If one region is not providing what it needs, it is easier for them to move to another region than in other sectors like a manufacturing company. Most companies have their operations in the cloud, allowing for accessibility anywhere. The most crucial factor for many providers is their workforce; this grant will address that specific item.”

In 1997, Kentucky House Bill 1 created Programs of Distinction through the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education at public postsecondary institutions, including Murray State University’s cybersecurity program. Murray State offers a bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity and Network Management, along with an accelerated master’s degree (available online) in Cybersecurity Management that can be completed in 12-18 months and certificates at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The University’s Cybersecurity and Network Management program welcomed its largest freshman class in program history this past fall.

Learn more at murraystate.edu/cyber.

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