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With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we’re witnessing a shift as the world’s organizations become more global and technological disruptors change whole industries. In many cases, the transformation is occurring at breakneck speed—faster than businesses can keep up with. The reality is that we may not be prepared to meet the challenges of what’s to come. However, if there’s one piece of advice that transcends time and is important for students looking for meaningful careers, it’s this: be relevant.

Smart devices, cybersecurity, crime intelligence, special education, nursing, logistics and engineering are fields starving for highly trained professionals with top-ranked degrees. The degrees that address these areas will hold their value as graduates help companies stay relevant. Education closes the gaps. These are the degrees you probably didn’t know we really need.


1. Bachelor of Science in the Internet of Things

The internet of things or IoT for short, is a field that includes the millions of smart devices that connect to each other through the internet. It’s disruptive technologies. It’s your smartphone, smart speaker, refrigerator, home alarm system and the way they “speak” to each other through the network in the cloud. More and more companies are on board with IoT because they’re feeling the void and the need to fill it. Microsoft recently announced that it will invest $5 billion in IoT, “to increase business possibilities with connected solutions.”

IoT technologies are already used in numerous daily life applications, which will significantly increase the quality of our lives in terms of cost, convenience and reliability. In fact, experts have predicted that by 2025, there will be over 75 billion IoT devices worldwide. Today, there are about 25 billion. The sheer volume and growth of this industry will require an enormous number of skilled undergraduates who can join the workforce with already-learned knowledge. And the list of current companies seeking IoT-trained individuals reads like a who’s who of the Fortune 500—Amazon, IBM, HP, Honeywell, Cisco Systems.

“IoT is the new frontier,” said Alexander Pons, Ph.D., Florida International University (FIU) professor within the Electrical and Computer Engineering department and faculty member for the online Bachelor of Science in IoT. “You see so much cross-discipline success and the applications for the degree are numerous as the medical, transportation and government sectors continually add new technology.”


2. Master of Science in Computer Engineering: Network Security

Along the same lines, cybercrime is a pervasive threat to every business, government and even in our homes. Consider the most recent Facebook breach—50 million users’ accounts were compromised. According to the National Security Agency, the newest threats we face, and perhaps the fastest growing, are those in cyberspace. To foil hackers, the next generation needs training to be two steps ahead with ethical hacking skills.

“Despite our best efforts across the government, the threats posed by malicious cyber activity have now combined with even greater toxicity to present unprecedented challenges across our personal, professional, and political lives in a way that’s hard to overstate. History and our own experience have taught us that we collectively tend to underestimate the gravity — and perhaps the probability — of risks, and that we as a society react only after a crisis or calamity,” explained Glenn S. Gerstell, NSA general counsel at the recent Cipher Brief Threat Conference in Sea Island, GA.

Pons, who also designed and teaches in FIU’s fully online Master of Science in Computer Engineering program that features a concentration in Network Security, couldn’t agree more with Gerstell. The solution, he said, requires advanced training, technology and cooperation across business, government and other entities that will help mitigate damage as much as possible.


3. Bachelor of Science in Crime Science

Another very needed degree results from continued concerns over terrorism and cybercrime and the high-tech advances used for sophisticated criminal activity.

“We’ve entered a new era in law enforcement that offers crime analysis techniques that could only be dreamed of five to 10 years ago,” stated Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice professor and chair Lisa Stolzenberg of FIU’s new, online B.S. in Crime Science.

The reality of being able to find a criminal based on a smart speaker log, a digital footprint or from a fingerprint is here. College-level STEM-based courses now provide crime intelligence analysts the knowledge and ability to extract viable DNA from something as small as a single strand of hair. Simple examinations of testimonies with a comparison to FitBit® data or cell-phone tower triangulation can help solve cases. The problem is not the rapid pace of discoveries in science and technology, it’s the lack of knowledgeable professionals currently in criminal intelligence agencies who can effectively keep up with the breakthroughs. The field needs professionals who can apply computer technology and forensic science to extract information, interpret data and solve crime, including cold cases, to help make our future world safer.


4. Master of Science in Special Education

The shortage of highly trained special education teachers is a national problem with some states reporting dire needs. This is especially true in urban communities where needs can be disproportionately greater—especially in light of the 15 percent rise in statistics of children diagnosed with autism.

“Teachers are frustrated. Those in special education know that there’s something wrong within our ‘standardized’ education system,” lamented Elizabeth Cramer, Ph.D., an FIU professor and online graduate program director of Special Education in the FIU College of Education, Department of Teaching and Learning.

Cramer said that we know so much more about how to customize education for differently abled students. This knowledge comes from constant research in local urban communities to dissect in-classroom needs, a task that she and co-faculty members do on an ongoing basis to pass on to students.

“The time is now. There will never be a good time to get your education. The sooner you get it the sooner you can help those who need assistance the most,” offered Cramer to students thinking about getting their master’s degree.


5. Bachelor of Science in Nursing

The nursing field is also experiencing shortages of professionals with advanced education, and this shortage is predicted to grow. What’s clear is that registered nurses have the highest employment in healthcare occupations because they are needed to assist with growing numbers of aging baby boomers who are experiencing new health issues. Aside from this, many hospitals today require nurses to have BSNs so hospitals can apply for prestigious Magnet Recognition. The recognition acknowledges the healthcare institutions for high standards and dedication to improving patient outcomes. But most pressing for the industry is the 80/20 initiative that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) advanced in 2010.

The IOM recommendation insists that 80 percent of nurses in hospitals must have BSN degrees by 2020. This recommendation is based on several studies that indicate a noticeable, positive increase in patient outcomes with BSN nurses on staff. As a result, the Campaign for Action, an organization backed by the AARP Foundation, is helping mobilize action coalitions in all 50 states to implement the IOM’s 80/20 suggested framework. This is a new reality in New York as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a BSN in 10 law in 2017 that requires nurses to get a BSN within 10 years of their initial licensure.

“I completed my BSN to become a nursing instructor and also because I am moving north where many hospitals require the degree,” said Nola Holness, Ph.D., Holness is also the Clinical Assistant Professor at the FIU Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, which offers an online BSN program.

“In order to have success in life, you need to have higher education. Here in America, certifications are not enough, but degrees are,” she affirmed.


6. Master of Science in Logistics Engineering

As with all industries, technological advances have created profound changes in the way organizations operate. The logistics field is ever-more sophisticated, sustainable and forward-thinking to help companies stay competitive and under budget in the global economy. Some organizations have even incorporated artificial intelligence to support massive networks that help transport goods across the world, and experts agree this will become standard practice with time. The need for contemporary thinkers (engineers) who understand modern logistics and can orchestrate the ebb and flow from supply chain to consumer is great for multinational organizations that want success in our competitive, modern world. What’s more, logistics engineering is a field that affects every business.

“The whole world is a network, an infrastructure, from A to B,” said enterprise and logistics engineering professor and online program director Chin-Sheng Chen, Ph.D., of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing. “This is how things start—the movement of goods from raw materials to the consumer.”

Logistics engineers are needed to integrate all of the steps for smooth movement and processes around the world. Going forward, Chen envisions new technology that will merge drones and autonomous vehicles with logistics engineering. He sees a future where UPS trucks will have drones and “runways” on the roof to help deliver packages to consumers.

“Logistics engineers are the conduit. They manage the network. Without logistics engineers, the whole world stops,” summed up Chen.


7. Master of Science in Engineering Management

When you think of engineers, images of complex plans and machines may come to mind, but that only describes a small area of engineering. Engineering management professionals are big-picture planners who can solve complex issues from within systems to improve a company’s performance. These are the engineers who become bosses—they’re individuals with one foot in engineering and the other in management, explained Chen, who also designed FIU’s online engineering management curriculum. They’re the visionaries who know the secret to an organization’s success and the path to get there.

“All of the systems need to be integrated. Engineering management graduates are important because they solve problems and design the systems of the future,” explained Chen.

The only thing that’s certain for the future is change. While every decade presents challenges, through higher education, our next generation can study and gain tools today that will help address the complex problems of tomorrow—and with hope, we’ll be prepared to meet the challenges head on.