Fighting to Prevent the Next Big Internet Hack
Heather McPherson is one of the first students to receive a master’s in cybersecurity from DU
It’s a stealthy specter capable of throwing a person’s life into disarray, even as one is simply going about one’s business.
But a new program at the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science — a master’s in cybersecurity — aims to help thwart such threats, and program graduate Heather McPherson is looking forward to the challenge.
With ever-growing concern across the globe about web security — from health-care firms to financial institutions and even to governments (hello, 2016 U.S. election!) — projections anticipate that 1.5 million cybersecurity jobs will open in just the next couple of years.
“It’s so important for not only the private sector but our government as well,” says McPherson. “As you see these events popping up, it’s kind of a sense of pride to be able to impact this field as it grows. It’s very rewarding.”
McPherson has the distinction of being one of the first women to graduate from the DU program. “Women are historically pushed toward other fields, and I don’t know why. Even at work, I’m one of the few women there,” she says. She interns at Colorado Springs-based root9B, a cybersecurity company with private- and public-sector clients.
And while both the company’s workforce and her classes at DU are mostly male, McPherson says she doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable: “I’m treated equally at work and at school. I’m not treated any differently because I’m a woman.”
Students who earn cybersecurity degrees from DU have bright futures ahead. Not only will jobs be plentiful, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average salary for cybersecurity professionals at $117,000.
“Obviously women are just as capable as men in this field, and I definitely advocate for women to go out there and do it, if that’s what they have a passion for,” McPherson says. “I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to be part of this program, in its infancy, and I can’t wait to see it grow more. And hopefully more women want to join in the future.”