Zucker Family Graduate Education Center (copy)

Clemson University opened its Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in old the old Navy base in North Charleston about three years ago. File/Thad Moore/Staff

Two Clemson technology experts are relocating to the Lowcountry from the Upstate public research university to help develop more cybersecurity talent in the Charleston area.

As the local tech scene matures and evolves, some have pointed to cybersecurity as a niche the industry would be wise to try to cultivate and help along. Across the country a shortage of a workforce in the specialty has been well-documented.

The research firm CyberSeek, for one, identified about 314,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S., and about 3,400 in South Carolina.

So for a year, two Clemson PhDs will live and work in Charleston at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, which opened in 2016 on the old Navy base to help train more engineers for the tech and advanced manufacturing industries. Eleven programs are now offered at the North Charleston site, and about 50 students study there. 

Randy Collins, interim associate vice president for the Clemson campus, said the two researchers, Harlan Russell and Kelly Caine, will begin networking with Charleston-area tech leaders to develop Clemson-led cybersecurity initiatives. 

“We’re moving quickly to help fill a growing demand for cybersecurity professionals,” Collins said in a statement. “The Charleston area, with its fast-growing tech sector, is fertile ground to expand our cybersecurity offerings in collaboration with faculty on the main campus.”

Clemson won't be creating new degree programs, but bring to the coast curriculum already in place at its main campus in the Upstate. Four degree paths will now be available to Charleston students who want to study cybersecurity, including a master of science and master of engineering, each with an emphasis in the specialty. 

Russell said the program is geared toward students who already have a bachelor's degree in a related field. Many of the students at the center are already working professionals who want to advance their careers.

Students will be able to specialize in coursework that teaches them how to prevent certain kinds of attacks, Russell said.

Some of Charleston's tech firms have expressed a need for cybersecurity talent, especially experts with a graduate-level degree, Russell said.

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"Cybersecurity looked like a great niche to add," he said. "Charleston just has a fabulous technical industry. It seemed like a very natural opportunity to expand."

Caine, Russell's colleague, said there is a "demonstrated need" for advanced cybersecurity talent in the area. She will be coordinating workshops that will offer training in cybersecurity to the area's tech companies. 

Cybersecurity coursework is available at a handful of other schools in the area, though Clemson's offering would offer the most advanced training. The College of Charleston has a graduate certificate, The Citadel offers computer science coursework and a graduate certificate in cybersecurity, and Trident Technical College offers a cybersecurity certificate in applied science. Charleston Southern University has a Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity, which graduated its first three students this year.

One of the top locally based cybersecurity firms is PhishLabs. It raised $20.5 million in 2018, the largest for a Charleston tech firm last year. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.