Helping governments and organizations defend themselves from online threats has become a popular topic in the past decade.
"There are quite a few cyber-security programs, but they are highly technically orientated," says J.P. Auffert, who leads a similar program at George Mason University, also brand-new this year. "There are hardly any that are focused on cybersecurity leadership."
Three programs focusing on just that have emerged in the D.C. area recently. In addition to the GW and GMU programs, University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business will launch a graduate certificate program in cyber management next semester.
By studying cyber network defense, attacks and exploitation, as well as the law and ethics of the new field, cybersecurity leadership students learn to use technology as a way to reduce costs and help their organizations stay safe.
"We're not getting so in depth into the engineering," says Nick Kaywork, 32, a member of GMU's first group to study management of secure information systems. "But we're able to be in that sphere comfortably."
For Kaywork, the program marks a significant career shift. He trained as a linguist while in the Marine Corps before moving on to work for the government.
"I've always been a tinkerer with computers," he says. "It's been a hobby of mine. But professionally, I'm not in that lane at all.
"I saw language being that growth sector just after 9/11, when I became a Marine and a linguist," Kaywork says. "I see cyber being that next kind of front."
That's why he's is spending three Saturdays a month earning his master's at GMU. Both the GWU and GMU offerings are executive programs, meaning most classes are held on weekends and most students have full-time jobs in a related field.
While the George Washington program offers an executive MBA degree, George Mason's program is run among the university's management, engineering and public policy schools. Students will graduate in May with Master of Science degrees.
Kaywork said he believes his program and others like it are preparing a new generation to create a safer cyber world.