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A Texas university has added a graduate degree for data center systems engineering to the curriculum, addressing what its representatives said was a field that was increasingly essential and quickly evolving.


The Southern Methodist University is offering its new Master of Science in Datacenter Systems degree through courses on its Dallas campus as well as through its Lyle School of Engineering distance education program.


Marc Christensen, dean of the Lyle School, said the society had become closely tied to digital networks. “Data center design is a fascinating challenge due to the millions of dollars lost per second of outage,” he said.


“The proper management and design of these data centers require a diverse combination of highly specialized skills, and SMU Lyle is uniquely positioned to offer a degree that will connect all the needed technical disciplines.”


The university’s announcement cited the US Department of Labor, saying that at least 4m workers were associated with data center operations in the country today. The department expects that number to increase by 800,000 in 2016 and by another 2m by 2018.


The masters program covers the industry broadly through five courses, and students can choose to focus on one of three technical areas through elective specializations. The areas are facilities, infrastructure and subsystems; data systems engineering and analytics; computer networks, virtualization, security and cloud computing.


Chris Crosby, CEO of Compass Datacenters, a Dallas-based data center developer and provider that is helping SMU market the program, said it addressed a “long unfulfilled need” in the industry. “Its comprehensive, cross-disciplinary curriculum provides the breadth of knowledge professionals need for success in this complex industry with numerous interdependencies,” he said.


If the program proves popular, it may substantially widen the pool of talent available to the robust Dallas-Ft. Worth data center industry. SMU said there were about 50 data centers within the greater Dallas area.