Jul 21 2015

Cybersecurity Career Path Booms in Higher Ed

A sudden boom in demand for cybersecurity positions has higher education institutions studying how to address the subject in the future.

Students who want a solid footing in tomorrow’s job market need look no further than information security.

Both the public and the private sector are shopping for talent to meet the demand in the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a massive shortage in the IT workforce by 2020: There will be 1.4 million openings, but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the necessary skills to fill the positions.

In March, the U.S. Cyber Command announced a hiring spree, fast-tracking the hiring of 3,000 new personnel to staff the Pentagon’s cyberdefenses.

The job growth rate for information security analysts is higher than the average for all occupations (37 percent and 11 percent, respectively), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook published in 2012. And that growth is accelerating due to the increasing threat of cyberattacks.

"Demand for information security analysts is expected to be very high as these analysts will be needed to come up with innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating havoc on computer networks," the handbook states.

Perhaps the best example of the need for well-trained cybersecurity experts is in higher education. A 2014 report by the Open Security Foundation revealed that more than 35 percent of all breaches happen in higher education.

Over the past three months, recent hacks have penetrated two large institutions. A massive cyberattack in May forced Pennsylvania State University to disconnect a large portion of its network from the Internet, according to Security Week.

Harvard University experienced a major hack in June, in which affected the networks of Central Administration and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, according to the Boston Globe. Harvard officials believe that university login credentials for computers and e-mail were exposed as a result of the breach.

This sudden boom in demand for cybersecurity education has higher education institutions studying how to address the subject in the future. In 2014, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced the distribution of $45 million in grant funding to develop a "marketplace of ideas" for the study of cybersecurity, which foundation president Larry Kramer said was among the defining challenges of our time.