Supported by a federal grant, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) streamlined the Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security (BSCS) and Master of Science in Informatics (MSIN) whereby each degree is broken down into embedded stackable credentials, with a fast-track 4+1 option for students to complete both degrees in 5 years. This paper provides a blueprint of the bridged undergraduate and graduate curriculum integrated to provide embedded stackable credentials with fast-track 4+1 option bridging the two degrees. Most of the major-core of BSCS is divided into three embedded stackable credentials, namely, Cyber Security Basics Certificate, Cyber Security Systems Certificate, and Cyber Security Advanced Certificate. After completing the three credentials, a student needs only 9 hours to complete the major-core for the BSCS degree. Similarly, most of the MSIN is divided into two embedded stackable credentials, namely, Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security and Graduate Certificate in Informatics. After completing the two graduate credentials, a student needs only 6 hours of thesis for the thesis route, or 6 hours of designated electives for the coursework option to earn an MSIN degree. A BSCS student with an overall 3.5 GPA or higher and having a GPA of 3.25 or higher in cyber security benchmark courses, is allowed to opt for the fast-track 4+1 option which allows a student to be simultaneously admitted into the Graduate School to take 12 hours of graduate courses from MSIN degree applicable towards completing BSCS, leaving one year's worth of graduate work to earn an MSIN degree. As part of the grant, the curriculum of BSCS degree is aligned with the national standard of National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education - Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE-WFC) for the students to have an edge in the job market. The three undergraduate certificates and the two graduate certificates are referred to as embedded stackable credentials since each credential is embedded in its respective degree and serves as a stack towards earning the degree. This approach is advantageous for students since one or more credentials may be earned without completing the respective degree which allows a student to have a few credentials targeted for the job market in case the student needs to take hiatus from education and work for a while. Furthermore, a professional already working in the cyber security or informatics field can earn one or more credentials without committing to complete a degree.
Khan, F., & Qubbaj, A., & Saenz, L., & Zhang, L. (2023, June), A Bridged Cybersecurity Curriculum with Embedded Stackable Credentials Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. https://peer.asee.org/42351