Have You Ever Considered Teaching?

Cybersecurity Boom Creates New Opportunities for Adjunct Faculty Shrikant Raman is an adjunct faculty member at the College of Lake County -- a two-year community college in N.E. Illinois. He teaches courses called 'Hardening the Infrastructure' and 'Digital Evidence Recovery'.

He is also a senior information security professional with Discover Financial Services, based in Chicago. Raman is passionate about his profession, and for him the draw to teaching is to be a mentor -- to help people better understand security.

"I teach for the sheer joy of helping professionals choose information security as their career and help them further their knowledge," Raman says. "The easiest way we can have better widespread information security is through user education. Anyone truly passionate about security preaches and evangelizes all the time -- why not practice it en masse at a community college?"

Called to Teach

Raman is one of many information security pros nationwide now pulling double duty as adjunct faculty at community colleges.

To help address the ongoing need for cybersecurity training in the public and private sectors, community colleges across the US have stepped up to develop academic programs in information assurance. To teach these new programs, schools are looking to hire skilled information security practitioners -- people such as Shrikant Raman -- as adjunct faculty who can contribute their industry expertise with students who need this first-hand education.

"We are looking for adjunct faculty that can wear several different hats within information assurance and are subject matter experts who can help cultivate an active learning environment," says Erich Spengler, an information security professor at Moraine Valley Community College located in Chicago. "The key is engagement, and adjunct faculty need to see this as a partnership with the institution -- not simply as a side job."

Instructor requirements are typically information security expertise with a bachelor's or master's degree and professional security certifications including the CISSP and CISM. "They really don't look for specific industry experience," says Raman

Mutual Benefits

The benefits of adjunct faculty go both ways: Colleges get professors who are hands-on security practitioners that bring their expertise and industry experience to produce security-adept professionals who can earn a credential and become a valuable asset in the current workforce. And the instructors get the opportunity to embrace teaching as an alternate career path, keeping their options open for consulting opportunities, as well as engaging in continuous learning to enhance their current experience and skill set.

Steve Hailey, President of CyberSecurity Institute and an information security and digital forensics instructor at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA., cites four benefits he derives from his teaching role:

  1. Contribution to the profession: By teaching, he is in a position to spread knowledge and prepare students to effectively fulfill the role of an information security professional in real life.

  2. Knowledge transfer: "Being able to gain actual work experience is something that I craved when I was going to school, and I know how valuable this is," Hailey says. "Being able to offer this to my students is a real 'feel good' type of thing for me."

  3. Keeps skill set current:Being an instructor forces him to keep his skills current. "My students expect the best training available, and many of them are information technology professionals that need to apply the information that they are learning to their jobs right now."

  4. Adds credibility: "Being an instructor makes me incredibly valuable in situations where I need to give testimony as an expert." Also, the stature of a professor helps in networking and building relations with industry leaders.

The Right Stuff

Adjunct faculty could earn anywhere from $30 to $60 per hour, depending on the school, for an average of three hours per week, per semester, per course, says Raman. The time commitment however, is much higher - at least twice the hours for preparation including six-to-eight hours per course, as instructors must create the teaching material and be involved with grading assignments etc.

The best adjunct faculty candidates are hands-on professionals who have mastery of the technical details of networking and security, are knowledgeable in the legal, regulatory, and ethical aspects of information security and have project management and business skills.

The main challenge, however, is that candidate's also need to understand what it takes to be a teacher.

Many security professionals do well teaching students that are already technical, but do little to help those that are new to the field. "The art and science of teaching - pedagogy is not a gift that automatically comes with information security knowledge; it is a craft that needs to be learned," says Hailey.

Hailey advises security professionals to take a course of instruction in learner-centered teaching that focuses attention on what the student is learning, how the student is learning, the conditions under which the student is learning.

He also suggests security professionals to sit in on classes taught by instructors whom the students respect, to see how these teachers instruct, communicate and meet the needs of their students.

It also helps to maintain close ties with the industry. The very best candidates for these teaching positions are also active in the industry and/or have heir own information security related business. "Being an effective information security teacher demands staying current -- the students demand it," Hailey says.

About the Author

Upasana Gupta

Upasana Gupta

Contributing Editor, CareersInfoSecurity

Upasana Gupta oversees CareersInfoSecurity and shepherds career and leadership coverage for all Information Security Media Group's media properties. She regularly writes on career topics and speaks to senior executives on a wide-range of subjects, including security leadership, privacy, risk management, application security and fraud. She also helps produce podcasts and is instrumental in the global expansion of ISMG websites by recruiting international information security and risk experts to contribute content, including blogs. Upasana previously served as a resource manager focusing on hiring, recruiting and human resources at Icons Inc., an IT security advisory firm affiliated with ISMG. She holds an MBA in human resources from Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa.

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