Laurel Ridge cybersecurity student Ben Segal’s academic career has been bookmarked by two large-scale crises, but his future is bright – it’s several months before graduation, and he already has a great job lined up.
After graduating from high school in New Orleans in 2005, Segal had barely moved into his dorm room at Tulane University when Hurricane Katrina hit. His intended program, computer science, was scrapped.
In 2010, Segal decided to move to Virginia where he had family. He worked in the hospitality industry, segueing into point of sale IT and support.
“When the pandemic hit, it was time – with all the extra time I had – to go back to school,” said Segal.
The Winchester resident enrolled in Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program in 2020. Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the NSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and is accredited by ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission.
Additionally, this past winter, the college was one of just 14 community colleges in the U.S. to be chosen to join the U.S. Cyber Command’s (CYBERCOM) Academic Engagement Network. Part of the network’s mission is to create a qualified pool of cybersecurity professionals to defend the nation’s interests from cyberattack.
“Cybersecurity is a field that I will probably never lack for work in,” said Segal. “My plan is to work for a year and then pursue a four-year degree, maybe even a graduate degree eventually.”
He has been working as a systems administrator at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Middletown, but will begin a new role as an insider threat analyst on the company’s cybersecurity team this month.
Segal, who will graduate after the fall semester, credits Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program with launching an exciting new career for him.
“The very first classes got me certified for Network Plus and Security Plus, and that’s what got me hired at Thermo Fisher,” he explained.
While he appreciates all of the professors he’s had at Laurel Ridge, Information Systems Technology Professor Mark Sunderlin is Segal’s favorite.
“His style was A., very understanding that almost all of us were professionals who were pursuing this extra-curricularly through our work, and B., his very real approach to teaching,” said Segal.
For instance, Professor Sunderlin brought in real-world professionals from the fields about which he was teaching.
The median salary for security management specialists is $89,185, it is $110,568 for information security analysts, and for computer network architects, it is $128,512, according to Career Coach powered by Lightcast.
As an in-demand field, the cybersecurity program is eligible for G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Get Ahead) funding with eligible students receiving last-dollar tuition coverage, meaning they would incur no out-of-pocket tuition expenses.
Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program at www.laurelridge.edu/cybersecurity.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.