With over 25 years of experience in business and technology, Laurel Schneider brings a wealth of experience to her role as Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity at Montreat College.
“I was a Vice President of Information Technology,” she said. “Actually, I still am a Fractional Chief Information Security Officer. I’ve been in cybersecurity before they even called it that.”
Despite her success in the corporate world, Schneider felt called to do something more to give back, so a little more than a decade ago, she returned to school to be a teacher. Since 2016, she has primarily taught full-time, while maintaining a foot in the door of businesses through consulting. She joined the Montreat College faculty in 2017 as an adjunct professor, and she is now a full-time faculty member and the Department Chair for Business and Technology for Montreat’s Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS).
“In looking back over my career, my favorite job ever was when I was a corporate trainer. I love teaching,” she said. “So, I embarked on getting my degrees and starting to teach. It’s been my goal to find a full-time faculty position at a college that I felt good about, so Montreat College is definitely where I’m supposed to be.”
Montreat College offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity through fully online courses, preparing students for one of the fastest-growing and important industries in the United States and around the world.
A Rapidly Expanding Field
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 700,000 open roles in cybersecurity in the United States. The projected percent change in employment for cybersecurity jobs through 2032 is 32%, a significantly higher growth rate than the 14% for computer occupations in general and the 3% average for all occupations. Approximately 16,800 openings for security analysts are projected each year over the next decade. In addition to the high demand, median wages in the cybersecurity field are estimated to be $112,000 per year or $53.85 per hour.
An Ethical Approach to Cybersecurity
A designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency (NSA), Montreat College provides faith-based classes on programming, penetration testing, networking, cyber defense, cyber law, cyber ethics, incident response, and contingency planning to prepare students to be successful cybersecurity analysts.
“How we integrate faith into our program is definitely a distinguishing factor from other cybersecurity programs,” Schneider said. “In my opinion, having a faith-based component helps greatly with the ethical side of what we’re teaching our students to do. We have a significant amount of discussion around what are the lines that you would not cross based on your faith and your morals.”
A Personal Connection
Compared to bigger universities, Montreat College offers students the advantages of smaller class sizes and a personal approach.
“At Montreat, you’re not a number,” Schneider said. “I know every single one of my students by name. I have other schools that I’ve worked with in the past where you get 35 students in a class and you’re just running them through like an assembly line. We’re a relatively smaller organization, so we know our students personally.”
Throughout the AGS cybersecurity program, students gain hands-on experience through lab-type assignments, as well as a cyber capstone project prior to graduation.
“Our students are not just learning the concepts,” Schneider said. “They’re actually using the tools that cyber analysts use. I want students to learn what they need to know to actually walk into a job and be able to do it.”
Like any online program, Montreat students don’t necessarily have to be online at any specific time. Students can log on and do their work throughout the week, whenever they have time.
“I’ve completed every single one of my degrees online,” said Schneider. “I’ve not only been an online instructor, but I’ve also been an online student. I know what it feels like to have kids, work, school, and other family or personal obligations. The flexibility of our program allows students to work around their busy schedules.”
The world of cybersecurity is a constant learning environment, where analysts need to constantly stay on top of their profession to thwart attacks. Montreat College is proud to fight this new-age crime by combining strong ethics and leadership with technical proficiency.
“It’s so hard to say what the future of cybersecurity is going to look like, but the good news is we are educating the future of the cybersecurity analysts,” Schneider smiled optimistically. “That’s one of the reasons I love what I do because we’re training the next generation of cybersecurity analysts who are going to keep our country safe, our organizations safe, and our personal information safe.”