Valley Works: Computer jobs

FRESNO, California

Why are these professionals among the most wanted?

Number one, there aren't enough students choosing careers in science or engineering and another reason has to do with the growing field of cyber security. Almost any movie today dealing with national security includes a dramatic computer hacking scene

It is high drama, but in the real world cyber security is a huge concern. That's because we put so much information, so much data on computers and other electronic devices.

"It's grown in importance because we now we have multiple devices, right? That exist, we carry those in our pockets, we connect to the network, we have data on those mobile devices they all need to be protected," said Dr. Rafeal Villegas with Fresno State Information Security.

It is Villegas' job to help protect the sensitive information that flows through and is stored on computers at Fresno State. The security measures go beyond installing firewalls and anti virus systems. "A lot of our confidential data we encrypt it so if someone does gain access they wouldn't be able to un-encrypt it, they wouldn't be able to read it."

What Villegas does -- protecting our information from hackers, cyber criminals, and even terrorists -- has become one of the hottest careers today. So much so that there aren't enough skilled professionals to meet the demand.

"I think right now, I think many schools don't have the curriculum to train our students," said Fresno State Computer Science Professor Dr. Ming Li.

In 2009 Dr. Ming Li created the first information security class at Fresno State. Graduate student John Sainna was one of the first to sign up. "The world we are in today is the world of just sending data back and forth, anything you do with a catalyst. Even the layman person who types the email need to have some kind of security."

Dr. Li believes students who graduate Fresno State's computer science program are well prepared to enter careers in information security but depending on their specialty, additional training may be required. "They need to get hands on experience they need to get training, get certificates to develop their expertise."

The demand is so great that many large companies and government agencies will pay for the additional training -- and those who go into the cyber security field can command top salaries.

Just ask Villegas who recently earned his doctorate degree. "Graduates in computer science and have a higher technology background usually get higher job offers, that's true."

Despite these incentives, Dr. Li says to few American students are pursuing careers in science and engineering. But there is a huge effort to change that trend.

In an effort to meet the growing demand for science, technology, engineering and math professionals, many high schools are applying for STEM Grants to help them come up with innovative ways to teach science and get more students interested in those fields.

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