I recently had the chance to sit down with administrators at a large U.S. university and talk about the need for more cybersecurity professionals. Companies are increasingly frustrated when looking for security professionals to hire. There is a limited supply of qualified persons able to work on complex cybersecurity issues. As I learned this week, in some cases, there are also limited civilian programs to help train qualified security experts. Overcoming this challenge is critical to building a secure cyber future.
During my discussions with college administrators and law enforcement I have learned that many cybersecurity experts gained their fist experience and training in the government. I am an example of this also. I gained my first experience working on cybercrime issues while I served in the U.S. Navy. Most of the security experts I meet have followed a similar pattern of gaining training in law enforcement or military jobs and then later pursuing a civilian career in cybersecurity. While this is providing solid experts, there continues to be a need for improved partnership with private technical schools and universities to provide additional qualified cybersecurity experts. Unfortunately, this is not just a matter of having the desire to create a training program.
In speaking with university managers recently, I have repeatedly heard about the difficulty in finding qualified professors to teach cybersecurity courses. Even if there is a desire to create a cybersecurity program, there is a serious lack of experienced academics able to instruct students. A cybersecurity curriculum should include not only policy but technical subjects. These subjects require specialized expertise that is especially hard to find at the PhD levels required by many schools. Even if a course is created, there is also a challenge of attracting students. One large university’s manager recently told me that they only have a single student pursuing a PhD in information security management. This is far less than the current need for this expertise.
There is frequently discussion about encouraging more students to pursue math and science to benefit American innovation. We need a similar emphasis on encouraging students to pursue technical programs like cybersecurity. Children are now surrounded in their everyday life with technology. Cybersecurity is an application of computer skills to safeguard the technology that benefits all our lives. This should be an exciting and interesting field for students to pursue.
I recently blogged about a program in Texas that includes an emphasis on teaching technical skills starting in grade school and encouraging students to pursue technical degrees in college. This is the type of comprehensive and coordinated program that is necessary for success. We cannot wait for a student to get to a college and then expect them to be excited about cybersecurity for the first time. They need to become familiar with this interesting and important field earlier in their academic lives so it becomes a realistic option when they start choosing advanced academic programs.
To ensure a secure cyber future we need to continue to encourage younger students to learn about technology, pursue math and science courses, and to understand the exciting and interesting professional opportunities that are available in cybersecurity. This is a career with a solid future. It should also be a great opportunity for many students to find rewarding careers that will assure a secure future for cyberspace.