Russell Norris, Assistant Professor of Business
Companies of all kinds and cities of sizes must protect their people, their systems, and their data. Rivier is preparing students to tackle cyber threats as they join one of the nation’s fastest-growing fields.
Preparing Students for In-Demand Fields
Advancements in technology have spurred new industries, inspired new companies, and created new career paths. One such field is cybersecurity, which in itself is a byproduct of advanced technology—more significant, more sophisticated threats.
Russell Norris, Assistant Professor and Director of Security Programs, says things looked different 20 years ago when it came to tech and security.
“We had computer science and computer networking, high-level cryptographic mathematics, and those kinds of things,” he explains, adding that it’s been in the past 10 years that the “cyber-physical domain” has had potential to cause widespread harm in the real world.
“Just by using ones and zeros on the computer … and it could be anywhere in the world. You could be wearing flip-flops in Santa Barbara, California, and bring down a nuclear facility halfway around the world,” says Norris.
Companies of all kinds, cities of sizes, and government at all levels must protect their people, their systems, and their data.
“Cybersecurity is a burgeoning area; it’s exploding right now,” says Norris.
Data from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms his statement. The demand for information security analysts—the occupation title used to classify cybersecurity positions—is expected to grow more than 28% through 2026. The level of growth puts it in the “much faster than average” category. The average career growth is 5 to 9%.
Addressing the high demand for skilled and experienced cybersecurity professionals, many colleges and universities have embraced a new area of study. Rivier’s Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Management is one such program, and Norris says the school is in a prime location to study and work in this field.
“In New England, especially in southern New Hampshire, we have a lot of large corporations, like BAE Systems and Raytheon; we have an Air Force base 30 minutes south of us; and, we have all of the tech firms across the border in Andover and Boston, Massachusetts,” he explains.
One factor contributing to the demand for cybersecurity professionals is the vulnerability of current systems and infrastructures, often designed and built before cyber threats emerged. It’s not just about data breaches: Today, hackers can cause catastrophic events.
“These are genuine concerns, so we teach classes like Critical Infrastructure Protection,” says Norris. “When we’re talking about power grids and water treatment facilities, long-term power outages are a big concern.”
Norris’s example of an emergency management class shows the interdisciplinary nature of a program like cybersecurity management. There’s a mix of science, business, communications, law, as well as ethics.
Cybersecurity Management majors at Rivier participate in at least two internships. During their sophomore year, students spend six weeks in the traditional classroom and the rest of the semester working off campus with a local partner. As a senior, they’ll complete a 120-hour internship in the field. Norris says Rivier’s New England location offers students plenty of high-profile options.
Two recent graduates come to mind when Norris thinks of successful cybersecurity internship placements. One interned at BAE Systems, an international company headquartered in Nashua, New Hampshire. BAE provides large-scale security and intelligence solutions to the military. The other interned with a private security company that offers special operations training for the Department of Defense. Both students turned their internship into a full-time job offer.
“They’ve got steady employment in their career field and are on their way to top-secret clearance. I couldn’t be prouder,” says Norris. “I think that speaks not only to the caliber of students we get, but the network we have within the community, and that the community respects our graduates.”
Norris believes his role at Rivier is more than working through the curriculum. A retired Marine Corps officer, Norris brings with him valuable experience and insight—and an extensive network.
He’s invited FBI special agents and state and local law enforcement officers to campus to discuss intelligence gathering and sharing. He has also brought in government and private sector experts to talk about hiring practices within their organizations. And, through his relationships, students have found internships and jobs.
“I really work with the students on employment opportunities, because I owe my students better than just teaching in a classroom,” he said. “You know, I’m here to help them develop and become productive citizens in our communities.”
Learn how the B.S. in Cybersecurity Management program can prepare you for an innovative career in technology.