The University of Alabama will offer students a new degree program in the field of cybersecurity beginning this fall.

The degree will be housed in the UA department of computer science within the College of Engineering.

“We are always looking for opportunities to expand our degree offerings in response to the needs of industry and the desires of our prospective students,” said Dr. Chuck Karr, dean of UA’s College of Engineering. “Certainly, we expect the new degree program in cybersecurity to produce graduates who will accept important jobs in Alabama, and across the nation, in this area that is becoming critical to a wide array of entities. Our faculty have worked hard to ensure the degree program will be of value to our industrial and government partners.”

UA said it will be the first institution in the state to offer an undergraduate cybersecurity degree within a computer science department, making UA’s track unique in its focus on the technical aspects of protecting digital information from cyber attacks. In addition, students in the degree will be exposed to the hardware side of the field through required computer engineering courses.

“As more and more of our daily activities are conducted online, there is an increasing demand to keep these interactions safe from attacks,” said Dr. Susan V. Vrbsky, interim head of the computer science department. “As a result, experts are predicting an unprecedented growth in demand for cybersecurity experts, with many jobs remaining unfilled because of the lack of a properly trained workforce. Our cybersecurity students will gain the knowledge and training needed to keep data, software and hardware protected.”

This program is designed to provide a rigorous, technical degree that imparts the necessary knowledge, skills and motivations to protect and defend digital information from attacks. It will share many courses with the computer science degree and include new cybersecurity courses developed for the program.

UA cybersecurity students will gain the specific knowledge needed be on the forefront of designing, identifying and proposing new security strategies.

“Given the increasing popularity of computing fields and the expected increasing number of cybersecurity jobs, we expect this to be a popular choice for students who want a rigorous degree to prepare them for the field of cybersecurity,” Vrbsky said.