Degree in Cybersecurity Leads to a New Career and a Better Life

Jul 9, 2023

For Octaviana Bostina, life had always been a balancing act. She maintained a professional career while also caring for her young son. Trained in her native Romania as an accountant, she spent workdays ensuring that numbers added up. She yearned for a life that would provide ample comfort in return for her hard work and expertise.

For Octaviana Bostina, life had always been a balancing act. She maintained a professional career while also caring for her young son. Trained in her native Romania as an accountant, she spent workdays ensuring that numbers added up. She yearned for a life that would provide ample comfort in return for her hard work and expertise.

Her pursuit of a more secure and prosperous life brought her to the United States in 2015. Her plan was to continue her career in accounting. As her experience grew, she felt she could move up the ladder and command a better salary. However, life didn’t go according to plan.

It would be years before a degree program at Bellevue College (BC) empowered her to create the balanced, rewarding life she had always wanted to live.

In the meantime, Octaviana made a frustrating realization. Her Romanian accounting degree didn’t pull any weight with U.S. employers. One job application after another was met with rejection. Eventually, she landed a job in her field, but it fell short of her ideal. She could cover her monthly bills with the salary, but had no hope of anything more.

Octaviana tried switching fields. After a stint in health care administration, she spent several years counseling people with disabilities. Again, her advancement was hindered without a degree from an American college.

The writing was on the wall. Earning a degree in the U.S. would be essential if she hoped to reinvent her life. This time, instead of taking classes in a familiar subject, Octaviana decided to delve into in a new field. 

“I liked math, computers, accounting, and the like,” she said. “So, I thought, maybe information technology would be a good direction for me.”

Octaviana began work toward an associate degree in cybersecurity at Everett Community College.

Cybersecurity experts prevent hackers from stealing data or damaging computer networks. Demand for these specialists is high. The median pay for a cybersecurity expert in 2021 was $102,600. Employment in the field is projected to grow 35 percent in the next decade, making it one of the nation’s fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graduates work in system administration, network management, information security, fraud prevention, and more.

Octaviana’s ability impressed Diane Walser, an instructor and assistant professor in the college’s Information Technology Program. Walser suggested that Octaviana transfer to BC, where she could get a four-year degree in the same major.

Because Octaviana works full time, squeezing a full load of courses into her schedule is no easy task. At BC, most courses are offered online. This saves Octaviana precious time, since she doesn’t have to commute to campus. It also gives her scheduling flexibility, so she can fit both courses and work into her day.  She now balances full-time studies at BC with a full-time job.

The cybersecurity curriculum fascinates Octaviana. She is learning how to safeguard system security while navigating legal, regulatory, and internal compliance issues. Octaviana is mastering the skills needed to translate security policy into architectures for defending organizations from cyber threats.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished,” she said

Octaviana’s not done yet. Her next step is to land an internship that will help her learn more about the industry. Through its relationships with Microsoft and other technology leaders, BC routinely connects students with internship opportunities.

“I learn best in a hands-on environment,” Octaviana explained. ‘[An internship] will help me decide what I want to specialize in.”

Now three years into the academic program, Octaviana can see graduation on the horizon. Once she has her diploma in hand, she is confident that great career opportunities await.

“I’ll enter the job market a triple threat, with expertise in accounting, health care, and cybersecurity,” she said. “I expect to double my salary as a result.”

Octaviana looks forward to the rewards of her hard work: An excellent income and a new career in an exciting field. Now, she has no doubt that she will achieve a balance between career and comfort.