Q

My college doesn't offer IT security classes

I am a junior at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn., majoring in IT. I am very interested in the security field and would like to gain experience in it before I graduate. However, Duquesne does not offer any classes or programs that deal with IT security. Many other schools in my area do not offer classes or programs either. What can I do to get experience or knowledge in security so that I can pursue my interests later in life?...

One of the premier computer science programs in the country is offered in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). It offers classes in information security topics at both graduate and undergraduate levels. There are also numerous institutions, including Capella University and University of Phoenix Online, that offer e-instruction on information security topics.

Here's what I suggest that you do to try to pursue this through Duquense:

  • Talk to an undergraduate advisor about your desire to pursue a course in information security.
  • Try to arrange for a "reading course" or "tutorial" on information security topics, or ask if someone can help you set up some kind of credit scheme whereby you can take such a course at CMU or online and get credit for it from Duquense.
  • Failing any solution in item No. 2, ask about what it takes to get transfer credit for taking a course at another institution.
  • One of these methods should help you get some training in and exposure to information security terms, concepts and skills. Obtaining experience, however, is another matter entirely. You might want to ask your institution about what kinds of summer internships or job placements they offer, and investigate information security opportunities that may be available in such programs. You might also consider seeking part-time employment at Duquense's computer labs or internal IT operations: Any of these should give you ample opportunities to explore security topics, operations and activities.

    Given that Pittsburgh is something of a "high-tech town," I'd also urge you to identify companies or consultancies in the area that specialize in infosec, and see about finding some work (volunteer or unpaid, if necessary) to help you get some real-world experience.

    Good luck!

    This was first published in July 2003

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