You read about it all the time – the rise of cybersecurity threats, a burgeoning industry, tens if not hundreds of thousands of jobs available at any given time, major hacks of companies like Sony and Target as well as government (OPM). And with good reason – this is a talent crisis unlike any other. The growth in cybersecurity is bigger, faster, ever changing and most importantly, the stakes are higher than other industries. None carry the national and economic implications of cyber.
Cybersecurity is essential to our homeland security, financial stability, protection of data, intellectual property and more. When we talk about stopping the “bad guys,” it’s no joke. Whether working in the private or public sector, cybersecurity professionals are the “good guys” protecting networks, responding to incidents, red teaming their organization’s own defenses, designing tools to secure software and apps, and carrying out a wide variety of other essential functions. Security teams have gone from a handful of people (or even one individual) in the “back room” of IT to dozens and hundreds of staff, with their own division often separate from general IT. Chief information security officers (CISOs) frequently report straight to the C-Suite, and not to a chief Information officer (CIO) or Director of IT. Enough about the growth of the field, though. How does one get into cyber?
There is a shortage in the workforce (estimated 238,158 job postings in 2014) in a field that boasts entry-level positions with high salaries (nationwide average of $90k for an analyst role, higher salaries in major metro areas). However, despite the talent gap, many employers require experience, even for entry-level roles, and they all expect candidates to have hands-on skills.
Some academic institutions such as the University of Texas at San Antonio and Carnegie Mellon have quality cybersecurity degree programs, and there are others out there. Internships and apprenticeships offer a chance to develop skills.
Training and certifications are also a major plus when seeking employment. The good news is that there are myriad programs aimed at those with the aptitude to succeed in the field, and they include scholarship-based, hands-on, technical training and certifications to develop talented professionals who are job ready on day one. Some of these programs are targeted specifically for military veterans. Scholarship-based programs such as the SANS VetSuccess Immersion Academy , the Cisco Global Cybersecurity Scholarship, and CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS), are great avenues.
So, what does a career in the field mean for aspiring cyber warriors? Retired USAF SMSgt and Cyber Analyst Donny Greene, an inaugural SANS VetSuccess alumni, summed it up well: “Having a career in cybersecurity ensures that I will never have a boring day at work. Technology is rapidly changing and people are finding innovative ways to use this technology. My transition from the military was eased by landing a cyber analyst position supporting the Department of Defense. This has allowed me to continue working in an environment that was familiar. My biggest stressor was trying to decide what I was going to wear to work.”
Working in cybersecurity is different than most industries. It is constantly changing with emerging technologies, processes, and new roles. Information Security teams are responsible for protecting critical assets and infrastructure, securing data and dealing with threats, attacks, and many other tasks. As retired USAF MSgt and SANS VetSuccess alumni Brian Ray put it, “Cybersecurity is at the forefront in the computer networking industry. It feels great to be a part of that mission and to watch it evolve. The work we do here makes a difference, if we weren’t here in the battle, the organization could cease to exist.”
Mission. That’s the one thing we hear over and over from established professionals from participants at SANS conferences, new students in scholarship academies, as well as subject matter experts in the public and private sector. There is a mission aspect of cyber. Whether you work for a non-profit, government agency, large company, small business, academic institution or state/local government, the information security team is essential to the survival and success of that organization. And that mission will only grow and deepen as the Internet of Things (IoT) fully comes to fruition in a world that is more and more digital every moment.
Retired US Army MSG and SANS VetSuccess alumni Adam Nielson, now a Security Researcher at Comtech Telecom, echoed a similar theme: “Cybersecurity is a growing field that plays a critical role in the defense of our nation and the safety of our data as society becomes more and more reliant on technology, and the underlying Internet back bone that ties it all together. After serving 24 years in the US Army, in various roles with ever-increasing responsibility, I was apprehensive that I could find a civilian career that could keep me engaged for long. Today I find myself as engaged, challenged and proud of what I’m doing in the cybersecurity field as I was during my time in the military. If you’re seeking a career that will keep your intellect sharp, provide for your family, and impact the nation in ways military service does, Cybersecurity may just be the field for you.”
So, what’s the promise of a career in cybersecurity? It’s not a just a high-paying job in a fast-growing field. It’s work that involves facing constantly evolving challenges and threats as well as learning new skills and technologies quickly and making a real impact protecting organizations’ networks, data, and infrastructure. It’s continuing to support our national and economic security across both the public and private sectors. It’s about mission – the mission to protect and defend.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.