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As the number of available cybersecurity jobs continues to grow, colleges strive to offer to their cybersecurity students an environment which will make them sufficiently prepared to enter the workforce after graduation. This paper explores the academic and professional needs of STEM-students in various higher education institutions across Virginia and how cybersecurity programs can cater to these needs. It also seeks to propose an evidence-based approach for improving the existing cybersecurity programs so that they can become more inclusive and student-ready. A survey of 251 college students in four higher-education institutions in Virginia showed that while there are common patterns observed across gender and race, there are still areas in which more should be done regarding some of these groups. In particular, some discrepancies are observed across gender when it comes to students’ preparation with business fundamentals, the overall satisfaction of the received STEM education, and across race and ethnicity, when it comes to college advising, peer-mentoring, tutoring and faculty mentoring. The results from this study inform specific recommendations that will bring higher-education institutions and their cybersecurity program to a more student-ready level.

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This research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grant DGE1914613 and the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.