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7/8/2022 - Jackson, Miss.

Students who want to pursue careers in emerging and expanding fields now have additional academic programs to help them achieve their goals. The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved several new academic programs at their meeting held last month in Jackson. These programs will help meet workforce needs in new fields and fields that struggle with workforce shortages.

“Mississippi Public Universities play an important role in workforce development in Mississippi,” said Trustee Tom Duff, president of the Board of Trustees. “We must ensure that our academic program offerings align with the career opportunities available today and in the decades to come. These programs are designed to do just that.”

As Americans continue to conduct more business online, the field of cybersecurity continues to grow in importance and the number of jobs available to those who have the skills to keep online information and data safe continues to grow with it. According to the ISC2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2021, the global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow 65 percent to defend organizations’ critical assets effectively.

The Board approved a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity at The University of Southern Mississippi to help meet this need. The degree program allows students to transfer up to 60 hours of technical credit earned at a community college to the 4-year degree program in the growing field of cyber security. Graduates of the program will be prepared to fill positions in cybersecurity defense risk assessment and countermeasures designed to protect against cyber threats. The program provides an online option that allows those currently working in the field with a 2-year applied technology degree to pursue the bachelor's degree while continuing to work and, after completing the degree, take on leadership and advanced technical roles at their current employer. Mississippi State University also offers a BAS degree in Cybersecurity.

In addition, The University of Southern Mississippi has relationships with Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, so this program will provide a pathway to a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity for those who are serving or have served in the U.S. military who have completed vocational training in the United States Armed Services Schools and other colleges.

As the State of Mississippi prepares to meet the challenges of the new medical marijuana field created through legislation passed during the 2022 Legislative Session, the Board approved a Master of Science degree in Dietary Supplement and Medical Cannabis at the University of Mississippi. The program will be delivered in an online format and is designed to meet the needs of students who are constrained by geographic location or employment responsibilities. Graduates will be prepared to fulfill research and development, scientific and analytical, or policy roles in the field.

The projected employment in the state in 2026 in this area is 6,880, which is a 10.4 percent increase from 2016. It is projected there are 530 annual openings for natural products and pharmaceutical chemistry in Mississippi.

In January, the Board approved the establishment of a center at the University of Mississippi to support research in this emerging field. The National Center for Cannabis Research and Education is housed within the UM Research Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy and will help the state ensure patient and public safety as the state’s medical marijuana cannabis is implemented. The Center will be a leading source of expertise on medical cannabis in the nation and will provide support services and resources to help patients use medical cannabis safely and effectively and to conduct multidisciplinary research to advance the scientific knowledge of medical cannabis and its application to improve patient outcomes.

The Board also approved programs to meet the needs of areas that suffer from workforce shortages. The Board approved a Master of Science in Elementary and Special Education at Jackson State University. JSU’s College of Education and Human Development has been awarded a Mississippi Teacher Residency grant through which Jackson Public Schools, Choctaw County Schools, and the Canton Public School District will collaborate with JSU to strengthen and expand current teacher pathways to complete their graduate degree and achieve Mississippi Teacher Certification.

The program model combines coursework with job-embedded training and provides a path to teaching for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree but have not previously earned certification to teach. The graduates of the program will be diverse and effective teachers in critical shortage areas that service low-income children, racial and ethnic minorities, and children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The University of Southern Mississippi also received a Mississippi Teacher Residency Grant and offers a Master of Arts in Teaching in Inclusive Elementary Education that was approved by the Board of Trustees in April.

The Board also approved a Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program at Jackson State University. The program will prepare students to enter the workforce in several jobs that fall under the public health umbrella, including those that focus on disease prevention and the promotion and protection of the health of a community either through education or policy advocacy.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that employment of Public Health Services Managers will grow by 18 percent over the next several years and by 32 percent over the decade from 2020 to 2030. The average annual pay for some public health professional jobs in Mississippi is $63,343, according to ZipRecruiter (2021), which found the top earners in the field (90th percentile) make $104,413 annually in Mississippi.


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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