Dr. Geanie Umberger
Executive Director of the Purdue Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program (P-CAP)
While technology and automation are shrinking many industries, they’re expanding the need for cybersecurity professionals. We talked with Dr. Geanie Umberger, Executive Director of the Purdue Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program (P-CAP), about why people need to consider this career path.
What are the benefits of pursuing a career in cybersecurity?
It’s a fact that we all need some form of cybersecurity protection in all aspects of our lives. This need grows exponentially every day. Although technology is rapidly advancing, industry and academia are unable to keep up with the growing gap between the number of vacant jobs and the number of cybersecurity professionals needed to protect everything, from hospitals, financial institutions, manufacturers, the electric grid, and beyond.
It is important to keep in mind that cybersecurity is the career of the future, unlike a number of jobs that are dwindling and will ultimately disappear, leaving those performing these jobs unemployed unless they change careers.
Does a career in cybersecurity allow you to scale into different verticals?
Cybersecurity should be thought of as a generic term that encompasses many different types of jobs, with more created over time. A person can choose to explore many branches, all leading to a high-paying job with tremendous opportunities for advancement. Careers can range anywhere from cyber forensics and tracking criminal activity; securing systems and preventing hacking; aiding in the defense of our country; to being the chief information security officer of a company, just to name a few options.
The point is, the opportunities are endless depending upon the experience, certifications, and technical training a person gains.
What are the ideal qualities for this profession?
Most people can be trained on the “hard skills,” or technical skills, via on-the-job training and classroom-based coursework. However, there are certain essential “cyber aptitudes” that cannot be taught. These are things like active listening and communication skills, critical thinking, the ability to focus on something for long periods of time, problem solving, and being able to work on a team as well as independently are just a few characteristics a person working in this space must possess.
Where do students from Purdue University typically work after graduating?
Those enrolled in the Purdue Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program (P-CAP) will be enrolled in school at the same time they are working. This means there isn’t the traditional post-graduation process of finding a job — the apprentice is earning while learning and already has a job when they complete the program.
In fact, Department of Labor statistics (across all industry sectors) shows that upon completion of their apprenticeship, 91 percent of students continue to work for their apprenticeship employer nine months later. This is huge for job retention in high-demand and high-turnover industries.
What is the typical age of a student at your university?
Since P-CAP utilizes Purdue’s online program, the average students are adults in their 30s — much older than the typical 18- to 22-year-old who attends Purdue’s main campus. Regarding age, there is an important point to emphasize: P-CAP’s only age restriction is that a person must be at least 17 years old or older to enroll into the program.
Is there anything else we should know?
P-CAP is a paradigm shift in education, addressing the needs of employers and adult learners. Currently, there are three ways to access education and training: through a university (or community college), online, or an apprenticeship. To gain on-the-job training, students enrolled in a university get experience via summer internships or co-ops. Conversely, those in an online program generally work while enrolled, but not in the position they desire upon graduation, and often cannot afford to quit their job to do an internship.
Contrast this with a traditional apprenticeship, where students complete in-class education (earning an associate’s degree or certificate), prior to the on-the-job experience with an employer. The P-CAP program blends these three models together, creating a new way to earn-and-learn for the 21st century.
P-CAP apprentices can earn a bachelor’s degree while employed in their field of study, gaining simultaneous on-the-job training and mentorship, all while obtaining a degree and industry-recognized certifications. P-CAP offers a novel way for employers to grow their own cyber professionals while establishing a pathway for individuals to enter and advance in a high-demand profession.
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