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Securing Careers: Fullerton College Cyber Security Professor Anna Carlin Feature Story
When Anna Carlin started her life in computers, cybersecurity was barely an issue let alone its own field of study. The year was 1984 and Carlin was on the cutting edge of computer technology when she took her first job evaluating the security of computer programs after graduating from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
That job evolved into a lifelong interest in computers and protecting their security. Today, Carlin puts her passion and expertise to work as lead instructor for the cybersecurity program at Fullerton College.
“It was really interesting to see the flow of information through systems,” Carlin says of her early work. “We saw how operating systems worked to the point where we thought, ‘If I was a bad person, how would I go about it?’ We were paid to do this so other people wouldn’t be able to get into their systems.”
Carlin was a lecturer at Cal Poly for 20 years before becoming a faculty member at Fullerton College in 2016. She yearned to work with a greater variety of students, so she jumped at the chance for a job at a community college.
“It’s given me a greater sense of the different student mix that we have at a community college,” she says. “I’ve had students as young as 13 to people in their 70s. Some want to know more about cybersecurity, or want to get into security, or to change their career. It’s not one path for all of them.”
Although her specialty is cybersecurity, Carlin says she enjoys showing students the wide range of opportunities available to them in the world of computers.
“I like to show them all the different career paths that are possible,” she says. “What do you enjoy doing? You can marry the technology with something you’re dabbling in.”
Fullerton College offers an associate degree in Cyber Security, which provides the skills students need to become cyber security professionals. Students graduate prepared for entry-level positions in a variety of IT and cyber security support roles, such as information security analysts, systems security administrators, network security administrators, and more. For students looking to upgrade their current skillset or enter the workforce fast, Fullerton’s unique program also offers short-term certificates in Cyber Security Technician, Cyber Security Analyst, and Cyber Security Master.
Carlin is also executive director of the Hornet Security Education Center at Fullerton College, which was set up to be a resource for students and the community to learn more about information security issues. Although its offerings have been limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, she is hoping to resume workshops in the fall.
This education center was part of the reason that Fullerton College was named a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The award, given every February, recognizes a college’s curriculum, activities, students, and employment in the field.
Carlin noted that the field of cybersecurity is considered one of the top three career growth areas, and at the time of this writing, one online jobs site showed nearly 26,000 cybersecurity jobs available in Orange and Los Angeles counties. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment in the field is expected to grow by 28 percent, almost 4 times as fast as all other occupations. Potential salaries are just as impressive—for example, “entry-level” Information Security Analyst positions fetch a median annual salary of over $100,000.
Carlin says that cybersecurity shouldn’t be left just to technicians – everyone needs to be vigilant to keep computer systems safe.
“A lot of our job is educating and making people more aware,” she says.