For many IT and security professionals, the view of the “security threat landscape” must look downright frightening. For starters, the prevalence of unprotected endpoints, phishing emails, and connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices is growing. Workers can share critical data using off-the-shelf collaboration apps, unsecured mobile devices, and public wi-fi networks. Complicating matters even further is the growing variety, volume, and complexity of cyber threats.

But while there are many approaches to mitigating security risks, there’s a shortage of professionals with the right skills to undertake the effort. Cybersecurity Ventures estimates there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021, up from 1 million openings last year.

For organizations, this scarcity of security expertise could represent an invitation for serious breaches and potential liabilities. But for IT and security leaders, managers, and young professionals, today’s evolving threat landscape also creates a prime opportunity for career advancement.


According to an ESG study, 53% of survey respondents reported a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills at their organization, and it’s only getting worse each year. Retaining and hiring enough skilled workers has become such a concern that it’s taking away from more strategic priorities, according to 18% of respondents in IDG’s 2019 Security Priorities Study.

One explanation for this talent shortage is that the rise, sophistication, and variety of security threats today require a new breed of professional. Forget about simply monitoring traffic and responding to attacks. Today’s IT and business leaders must possess a unique blend of technical expertise and an understanding of how to manage cybersecurity operations, align cybersecurity programs with business priorities, and develop risk mitigation strategies that consider current laws and policies.

It’s a tall order for talent. But security specialization can open doors to a wide array of career opportunities, not to mention highly competitive salaries, signing bonuses, and even enticing vacation packages.



The ever-evolving threat landscape and changes in user behavior and IT infrastructure require IT professionals to keep their knowledge up to date and stay on top of the latest trends and developments. Earning an online Master of Information Technology with a specialization in cybersecurity from Virginia Tech can help individuals meet these heightened demands in a number of ways:

Ranked the #1 online master’s degree for cybersecurity by, and one of the top 3 online graduate IT programs by U.S. News and World Report, Virginia Tech’s VT-MIT program takes a unique approach to specialized education.

Core courses in areas such as information systems design, electronic commerce, software engineering, and computer programming help students master technical expertise in a business context. After completing these core courses, degree students can choose to specialize in cybersecurity. Areas of focus range from cybersecurity management – for those interested in running their own in-house cybersecurity practice – to cybersecurity policy, which explores the legal and ethical concerns triggered by data breaches. This breadth of content allows students to tailor their education around their career ambitions.

Part of Virginia Tech’s core strength is its world-class cybersecurity research, supported by $15 million in research grants and contracts. Students can access six cybersecurity research centers, including the Hume Center for National Security and Technology. Another invaluable resource: Virginia Tech’s highly experienced faculty, the majority of which are tenured or on the tenure-track, and who are known for their research in information, hardware, and software security.

Although the VT-MIT program is online, there are plenty of advantages to earning a degree from a program based in the Washington, D.C., area, a region with high demand for cybersecurity expertise. Access to capital, a highly educated workforce, strong economic growth, and a stable business climate define the state of Virginia, and neighboring Maryland and Washington, D.C. For Virginia Tech students, this translates into a vast network of industry professionals, students, alumni, and mentors, many of whom can connect students with opportunities for career advancement. Adding to Virginia Tech’s cyber portfolio is its designation as a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Many of Virginia Tech’s successful applicants have an average GPA of 3.3 and graduate with job offers from top companies. The VT-MIT program’s online delivery module allows students to pursue higher education at their own pace – a flexibility that allows for a longer timeline. Further enriching the student environment is the program’s openness to students with diverse backgrounds and interests, including business line leaders looking to improve their technology capabilities while leveraging their domain expertise.


Combating today’s cyber threats has never been more difficult, nor more critical to business continuity. A Master of Information Technology degree with a specialization in cybersecurity from Virginia Tech can help leaders better understand the systemic nature of these threats, and teach them strategies for dealing with an increasingly complex security landscape. Indeed, as demand for security expertise grow, so too do the job opportunities for Virginia Tech graduates.

Learn more about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology with cybersecurity specializations.

Written by IDG