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Cybersecurity degree program at PCC earns worldwide ABET accreditation

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Cara Tang teaches

Instructor Cara Tang leads PCC’s cybersecurity training.

The United States faces a large shortfall in the cybersecurity workforce. To help combat this trend, the Portland Community College Computer Information System (CIS) Program’s cybersecurity associate degree has received an important accreditation.

The degree has been accredited by the Accreditation Commission of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. ABET accreditation assures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies, and anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.

cybersecurity logo.
Academic Pathways: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
  • The Computer Information Systems Program and its cybersecurity offerings are part of PCC’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academic pathway. Students can earn both short-term certificates and degrees that lead directly to employment or that will transfer to a university.

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ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization. It currently accredits 4,361 programs at 850 colleges and universities in 41 countries and areas.

“This is a big deal,” said Cara Tang, cybersecurity faculty at the college. “PCC is only the third community college in the world to receive ABET accreditation for a cybersecurity associate degree program.”

Information technology is a vital component of modern life. With training in sophisticated technical tools and information security, the college’s CIS Program gives student a competitive edge in this essential and dynamic field. Dovetailing this work is the CIS cybersecurity associate degree, which has been around for three years.

PCC is a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense for its Cybersecurity Fundamentals certificate and strong cybersecurity practices. The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C), located within the National Security Agency (NSA), tapped PCC to co-lead with Towson University a $2.2 million, two-year grant for a cybersecurity task force.

The task force is partnering with other NCAE-Cs, including the United States Naval Academy, Cedarville University, Coastline Community College, Metropolitan State University and University of West Florida, to build a national curriculum.

The PCC cybersecurity degree offering has seen increasing enrollment – in 2019-20, cybersecurity had 34 students and awarded 24 degrees, but in 2021-22, it had 189 students and awarded 41 degrees.

“We have continued to improve our academic cybersecurity offerings, with new certificates, courses, and the cybersecurity degree, as well as a rigorous assessment, evaluation and continuous improvement process to keep the quality of the program high,” Tang said.

Cybersecurity is part of a robust CIS Program that prepares students for careers in computer networking and information software. It offers associate degrees in not only cybersecurity but also programming and databases, network administration, and web development and design. In total, CIS provides opportunities to earn 12 different certificates.

The Oregon Employment Department forecasts Portland area growth for computer information systems jobs ranges from 11-18% through 2027. Students with an associate degree in Oregon can make as much as $75,739 with the average wage being $45,915 ($19/hour). The cybersecurity sector has high growth and good salaries.

“We are extremely excited to receive this accreditation since it is an external validation of the high quality cybersecurity program we have at PCC,” Tang said. “ABET is considered the ‘gold standard’ in technical program accreditation, and having this status for our program makes it more attractive to students and parents, to employers looking to hire our graduates, as well as to four-year transfer partners.”

For more information about PCC’s cybersecurity associate degree program, visit pcc.edu/cybersecurity-education

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Interim Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section e... more »