TACOMA, Wash. -- From the recent Target cyber security breach to everyday online hackers, cyber attacks are a growing threat to consumers and businesses.
With the military increasingly interested in cyber defenses, the University of Washington Tacoma has a new master's degree to teach students to protect our digital networks.
After nearly a decade in the service, Army Captain Celestine Merisor knows war isn't just fought with guns, and battles aren't just taking place on land.
"Communications is really important; without communications you can’t control your force," said Merisor.
It's why she wanted to get a different kind of weapon, which is a Master's degree in Cyber Security and Leadership at the University of Washington Tacoma.
"I would say there are a lot of things going on in cyber space," said Merisor. "The better we understand it, the better we can be prepared."
The university boasts there are few programs of its kind.
"It is one of two cyber security and leadership programs in the United States; the other is from National Defense University," said Rob Friedman, University of Washington Program Director.
Tacoma-based cyber security company IID is already looking to recruit some of the program's 26 students graduating this week, as recruiters find the demand for cyber security experts far exceeds supply.
"There’s a need to train more people," Lars Harvey, the CEO of IID. "The government has done various studies that we’re 20,000 short cyber security people short today, and it doesn’t look like we’ll catch up for 20 years."
With more people and companies relying on the internet, experts say expect more cyber attacks.
"They have to attack people online these days and that’s why you have to be able to defend yourself online," Harvey.
For this new kind of war, the program hopes to ready recruits for the cyber battlefield.
Program leaders say 60 percent of the graduating class are in the military. The hooding ceremony for the inaugural class took place Monday. Commencement will be Friday.