In the span of three years, Miami Dade College (MDC) implemented a full, stackable credential pathway that students can take from industry certifications to an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative fields in the country. In 2022, the National Security Agency designated MDC as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, the first college in South Florida to receive this nationally-recognized designation. A new brief authored by CLP, Leading the Growth of Miami’s Cybersecurity Workforce, profiles MDC’s work and the factors that led to their success:
- Six key components are foundational to MDC’s cybersecurity programs: industry-driven curriculum, hands-on learning, real-world experience with cyberattacks, built-in industry certifications, job search support, and supporting students in building professional networks.
- The programs support diverse student entry points and goals. Credit programs serve both high school students and degree-seeking college students. Both credit certificates and noncredit training support mid-career professionals looking to change careers or upskill. The noncredit program can be customized for an individual student or company’s needs.
- Faculty and administrators worked closely with local cybersecurity professionals to develop curriculum incorporating the latest industry and government standards. MDC set up an industry advisory board made up of CEOs and leaders from large and small cybersecurity employers to guide them in what students need to know to be successful.
- Students are taking the lead in developing clubs and online networks. MDC’s cybersecurity club competes in national competitions with top colleges and universities. Another MDC club, Black Women in Cyber, was founded by two students and is now expanding to other colleges.
The rapid growth of the cybersecurity industry in Miami began with state-funded incentive programs and private equity firms investing in local start-ups. To meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce, the state of Florida recently committed $15.6 million to an initiative expanding cybersecurity and IT training as part of its overall workforce education plan. Among the 24 institutions that received funding through this initiative, MDC received the top award of $2 million to prepare more local students for cybersecurity careers.