Local students and employers will soon have access to training in some of the latest security techniques to defeat hackers and other threats to both security and privacy. It's all part of a new associate degree program that American National University and National College are working together to launch at the end of April.
It's a career field that's projected to grow by 22 percent through the end of the decade.
"If there is a hole to get in, somebody will find a way to get in and that's the problem," said Christopher Fielder, who has worked in IT for the Air Force, CIA, and a local company that was attacked by hackers, costing the company more than $100,000.
"They walked away with social security numbers, they walked away with bank account information. They walked away with way more than they should have. And unfortunately, that's happening on a daily basis," Fielder said.
Many companies already have IT professionals on staff, but Fielder says that's just not cutting it anymore. Companies need to hire cyber security experts.
"It's not so much that people are going after these high targets, they're going after anything they can get," he said.
"There are never going to be enough police officers to prevent all crime, there's never going to be enough security professionals to prevent all cyber crime," Fielder said. "But we can hope to get enough out there to drastically reduce the problem."
He is teaching part of a new cyber security degree program offered at local campuses in Salem, Danville and Lynchburg. Classes for the associate degree start at the end of April and plans are in the works for bachelor's and doctorate degrees, too.
The program will prepare students for entry-level careers as computer infrastructure and network security administrators and will offer several related professional certifications.