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To fix the security skills gap, we need to go back to school.
October 25, 2016

Bridging the Cybersecurity Information Gap in Higher Education

Cybersecurity professionals are some of the most highly sought after candidates in the job market. With most businesses taking advantage of web applications to streamline their operations, every company is a software company - and they all need security.

Before now, the position of security professional remained a bit cryptic. More traditional roles in marketing or sales demonstrated obvious needs and measurable effects toward a successful business. However, as data breaches become more common, leaving companies and their customers vulnerable to attacks, cybersecurity candidates have rocketed to the top of the c-suite’s necessary hires.

While all of this seems positive for protecting businesses and consumers at large, there is a sizeable problem.  Despite the opportunities to be had in this burgeoning field, 200,000 cybersecurity positions are unfilled and remain unfillable. This is due to the major education gap in the skills required for security professionals, and the skills taught to computer science, information systems, and engineering students at the university level.  

Dark Reading notes a study done by CloudPassage, which found that none of the top 10 computer science or engineering programs require cybersecurity courses for students to get their degree - and that 3 of those schools offer no cybersecurity courses at all. Another study done by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that many millennials don’t seek to enter the cybersecurity industry because they simply do not know what the jobs entail  - especially women. 61% of global participants, as well as US participants, say they are unaware of the typical responsibilities of a cyber career, while 62% of global participants and 64% of US participants say that no mentor or career counselor ever mentioned cybersecurity as a possible career option. As entry level cybersecurity positions require a more robust skill set than others, the first step to fixing this problem is to close the education gap.

Given the current job market and trajectory for security professionals - high level security executives are the fastest growing jobs in the cybersecurity space - colleges and universities should be taking steps to ensure students are aware of the full breadth of their options.  Here are five basic steps that higher education institutions can take to place their students in these high-demand jobs with room for professional growth.  

  1. Require students in appropriate majors to take cybersecurity courses. Additionally, offer security electives for students in related fields.
  2. Make sure your campus career center staff is aware of what a cybersecurity position entails, and what majors and interests lend themselves well to these careers. Have them discuss cybersecurity jobs with students who are interested, or those who may not know how their course of study can fit into the security industry.
  3. Invite cybersecurity companies and professionals to campus career fairs to give students a firsthand look at the range of businesses employing these positions.
  4. Host a career event with a panel of cybersecurity professionals to talk about the typical responsibilities and career path of the profession. Have professors encourage students in majors such as computer science or engineering to attend.
  5. Offer internships or work study programs within the university’s own security team to give students hands-on experience in the field, and a better idea of how they fit.

Giving students information and experience in this field will make them more capable while pursuing a cybersecurity careers.  Even if students do not choose to enter the security field, a background in security can also make students more desirable in a host of other jobs, such as developers, as hacks in the application layer become more prolific.

Amanda is part of the content team at Veracode. In this role, Amanda creates fresh, creative content to build cybersecurity awareness. Amanda has a background in writing about technology, sales, start-ups, and popular culture.

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