Why is the Lucrative Cybersecurity Field still Struggling to Hook Prospective Practitioners?

The belief that the field of cybersecurity offers individuals job security and above average pay has become generally accepted in today’s interconnected world.
These beliefs are bolstered by hard facts, such as those presented in ISACA’s annual State of Cybersecurity research, which reveals, year after year, there simply are not enough individuals available to meet the demand of the cybersecurity market. 

Recent discussion with local graduate students studying cybersecurity reveals that these realizations are taking hold with a certain demographic. When asked, the majority of students in an incoming cybersecurity graduate class indicated that their primary motives for pursuing the advanced degree were to raise pay or obtain job security, and they had identified cybersecurity as one of the best fields to pursue those ends.

However, despite the facts that the cybersecurity field offers higher pay and presents many open positions, recent studies, such as that from ProtectWise and Enterprise Strategy Group, indicate that only nine percent of millennials state they are interested in pursuing cybersecurity as a career at some point in their lives. 

Compounding the problem, the majority of respondents indicate they do not know enough about the field. If the trend of disinterest and lack of awareness surrounding cybersecurity continues, the need for trained professionals will only increase, resulting in larger and lasting vulnerabilities that could lead to devastating consequences for enterprises. However, through raising awareness, opportunity, and accessibility this trend could be reversed.

One of the hurdles that the field of cybersecurity faces is that younger generations don’t know very many cybersecurity professionals. Of those surveyed, only 17% said that someone in their family has worked in the field of cybersecurity. This statistic, while not initially shocking, can, after contemplation, become more worrisome when coupled with the additional revelation that only four individuals surveyed identified their current job field as cybersecurity – all of them men.  

As noted in ISACA’s 2018 State of Cybersecurity research, cyber-attacks are accelerating at a concerning rate, with more occurring every day. If young people are going to take the reins and combat this growing threat, the field should contain engaging examples to which future generations relate.

However, with so few people available to set that example, and with concerningly few women in the field, the low level of interest becomes more understandable and worrisome.

Another factor contributing to the low level of interest in the cybersecurity field comes from the lack of educational resources available to the younger generations. Most individuals, when asked, responded that they had never taken a class in school that focused on cybersecurity, with over 90% of those respondents indicating that there were no cyber-specific offerings.

Lack of awareness for the uninformed and lack of resources for the initiated will only make the future cybersecurity skill shortage worse.

While many of these statistics are grim, there is some hope that things are slowly, but surely, getting better. For example, although the pace may not be the swiftest, cyber awareness and the number of cybersecurity courses are on the rise.

Every year new academic programs are welcomed to the National Security Agency’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program. Additionally, programs such as the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu, championed by remarkable female role models such as Marcelle Lee, and the SheLeadsTech program, led by cyber titans such as Jo Stewart-Rattray, Theresa Grafenstine and Dr. Shannon Donahue, provide greater access and relatability to the field for all potential participants.

If the cybersecurity world can act quickly, the concerning trends of low interest in the field may be corrected. Through actively participating in and promoting programs that increase opportunity, visibility, relatability, and awareness, more members of the younger generation may consider cybersecurity as a possible career field.

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