A new agreement between Virginia Tech and Germanna Community College will help increase access to world-class cybersecurity education in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area.
The initiative will provide a guided transfer path for Germanna students toward a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity management and analytics from the Business Information Technology Department (BIT-Cyber) within Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.
Aimed at reducing barriers for students from diverse, nontraditional backgrounds, the program is delivered by in a hybrid format in Northern Virginia. The program is open to Germanna students pursuing an associate’s degree in business administration. Students in their second year of studies can apply to transfer to BIT-Cyber.
BIT-Cyber students are immediately integrated into the dynamic cybersecurity ecosystem in the Washington, D.C., area through coursework taught by industry professionals, a comprehensive network of professional development opportunities and resources, and a 300-hour work-based learning requisite.
The curriculum emphasizes data analytics and business processes and their applications in all facets of cybersecurity management. Students gain proficiency in cybersecurity policy, conducting risk assessments, coordinating incident response, leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence to understand attacks on business assets, and overall management of the cybersecurity function within a business. Graduates enter the workforce with the skills to serve as cybersecurity analysts, auditors, planners, and more.
“Virginia Tech is thrilled to partner with Germanna Community College to offer this new cybersecurity transfer pathway,” said Roberta "Robin" Russell, interim dean of the Pamplin College of Business. “BIT-Cyber graduates gain the skills and exposure needed to jump-start their careers in one of the most in-demand fields in the D.C. region and beyond. This agreement will play a key role in engaging a broader and more diverse student population in the cybersecurity talent pipeline.”
Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna, said the college is eager to join Virginia Tech in this effort to expand educational opportunities to underserved students in its service region. She said the agreement reduces administrative hurdles, streamlining the guided transfer path to a four-year degree.
“We're excited to join Virginia Tech in ramping up training for a diverse group of students to meet the demand for the cybersecurity professionals so vital to our national security," Gullickson said. "This opportunity for students to get experience in the field as they learn complements our Germanna Works experiential learning initiative."
Gullickson said Germanna has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
The agreement with Virginia Tech, Gullickson said, will help Germanna build on the momentum its cybersecurity program has been growing in recent months.
In October, Germanna announced a $15 million Stafford County public-private expansion deal that will triple its training space there, meaning many more critically needed cybersecurity professionals will be graduating. In November, the Stafford County Economic Development Authority announced a commitment of $750,000 toward developing the cybersecurity and nursing programs at the new center. In December, Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner secured $870,000 for Germanna’s James R. Clapper Center for Innovation in Cybersecurity.
Gullickson said that beyond federal agency needs, there is great demand for cyber professionals from businesses in Stafford, the rest of Germanna’s service area, and in the adjacent Quantico area.
A partnership is underway between BIT-Cyber leaders and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Commonwealth of Virginia Registered Apprenticeships program to create a diversity-focused degree and career transfer pathway through employer-sponsored cybersecurity apprenticeship programs.
Upon completion of the BIT-Cyber program, students meet the requirements for the Cybersecurity Specialist Credential from the Greater Washington Partnership Capital CoLAB, a digital badge recognized by employers in the region that sets candidates apart in the hiring process.
“The BIT-Cyber program in Northern Virginia is a force multiplier for collaboration and innovation among higher education institutions, industry, and government. This cooperative approach, rooted in a problem-solving mentality, is essential in addressing the cybersecurity talent shortage over the long-term,” said Todd Rowley, BIT-Cyber Industry Advisory Committee co-chair and director of business development at Old Dominion National Bank.
For current BIT-Cyber student and Germanna graduate Katelynn Bourg, the ability to complement her business education with a new cybersecurity skill set while maintaining a full-time role as a cybersecurity recruiter drove her to pursue a BIT-Cyber degree.
“I graduated from Germanna with an associate’s degree in accounting in 2019 and joined SWIFT, an international cybersecurity firm that deals with financial transactions, as an intern. I moved into a full-time role in recruiting there and heard from BIT-Cyber Program Director Svetlana Filiatreau. In learning about the program, I realized that a bachelor’s in cybersecurity and analytics was an attainable pathway that could really amplify my technical expertise and career goals in a field with tremendous opportunity,” said Bourg.
Bourg is set to complete her BIT-Cyber coursework this summer.