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NMSU to offer two new degrees in high-demand computer science fields

Jul 9, 2019

New Mexico State University is working to satisfy the regional and the national demand for data scientists and cyber security experts through two new degrees: a professional master’s degree in computational data analytics beginning in fall 2019 and a bachelor’s degree in cyber security beginning in 2020.

With six-figure salaries at stake according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and about a 1.5 million shortage worldwide of the data research scientists needed, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli described the NMSU master’s degree in computational data analytics as an interdisciplinary program intended to target a broader pool of students. 

“We designed it on purpose so it is accessible to anybody who has just a basic understanding of statistics,” said Pontelli, who is also a Regents Professor in computer science. “It is really designed as a professional master’s so anyone with a degree in any discipline – agriculture, journalism, marketing can enter the program. They’ll be able to use their skills in their field. We expect students to bring their own domain expertise, acquired during their undergraduate studies, and the new master’s degree will provide them with the skills to discover how data analytics can be applied to their domain specific problems.”

NMSU Computer Science Professor Jay Misra explained the new cybersecurity bachelor’s degree also will provide a multidisciplinary approach through a combination of computer science, communications, engineering, information systems and criminal justice courses.

“Driven by computer science, cyber security is such a vast field with different dimensions, such as technology, policy and psychology,” Misra said. “We want people from different dimensions going to the field. They can start companies that are diverse at the core to succeed in this multidimensional field. Our graduates have the opportunity to get hired at a national lab, by Fortune 500 companies or start a company here in Las Cruces. The opportunities are endless.”

Most people have an idea about what cybersecurity is, but what companies hire graduates trained in data analytics? According to Pontelli, big data is big business in every industry: health, travel, agriculture and education, even baseball.

“Let me give you a recent example,” Pontelli explained. “I had a phone call from someone with Major League Baseball. They are looking for data analytics experts, people who know how to deal with data for marketing, for the sport itself, for the teams. Data analysis is used everywhere. Wal-Mart collects data about every single customer. Every single transaction is recorded and they use it for marketing purposes, how to stock the shelves, how to decide which shipments to deliver to different areas of the country. Data analytics can apply to any field and applicants do not need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science to apply for this master’s program. There is so much potential.”

Misra pointed out that students who are already enrolled in a degree program at NMSU could switch their degree to cybersecurity in 2020. “Someone studying criminal justice for example might want to do it from a policy-centric point of view rather than a technology-centric approach. All students will start with basic cybersecurity foundations and can branch out to their area of interest in the latter years of the degree.”

Faculty from NMSU’s College of Business, College of Engineering and other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences created the curriculum and designed it to maximize flexibility for the students.

The visionary aspect of the new degree offerings is that the faculty across the university pulled together to design these degrees without creating new courses. The new degrees simply combine courses differently.

“We didn’t create a single new course,” Pontelli said. “It was already there. So long as there is capacity in those courses, we can take students. Data analytics is the field that deals with analyzing data and providing knowledge from that data. We are teaching people how to use data to solve problems.

“With these two degrees we are offering our students the opportunity for a broad range of careers in a high-demand field where there is a shortage of trained workers.”

Students who are interested in either of these degree programs should contact Pontelli at 575-646-3500 or Misra for cybersecurity at 575-646-6256 or Hulping Cao for computer data analytics at 575-646-4600.

Information from NMSU