Almost every day there is something in the news about a computer hacker obtaining sensitive information. Whether these cyber-attacks are the work of lone individuals or sophisticated organizations, the end result can be devastating. In fact, it has been estimated that such intrusions cost the nation's businesses more than $114 billion every year.
It's no wonder, then, that employment and career opportunities in cybersecurity are booming. Jobs such as information security analysts are projected to grow through 2020 at a rate of 22 percent, much faster than the growth rate for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"The field of cybersecurity is much more than a cadre of technicians necessary to maintain essential core security measures. Truly effective protection of our nation's cyber networks requires an interdisciplinary team of experts, working collaboratively and forward looking, in order for us to stay ahead of the bad guys," said Dr. Jane LeClair, chief operating officer for the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College.
Government agencies and corporations across all industries need individuals with expertise in developing security policies, procedures and protocols. They need response teams that can address security breaches and people skilled in assuring legal and regulatory compliance.
In a recent survey of business leaders nationwide in the healthcare, energy, finance and insurance sectors, 95 percent report cybersecurity to be important or very important for their companies, according to Zogby Analytics. However, more than a third of respondents (34 percent) were unsure if they have enough personnel to meet their cybersecurity needs.
For those on the front lines of cybersecurity, technical skills and certifications are necessary but may not be sufficient. Of the eight occupations the BLS identifies as most closely aligned with cybersecurity, all require some college education and all but one require at least a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.
When reviewing college-level certificate and degree programs in cybersecurity, it's important that theprograms have been certified as meeting all the elements of the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS) standards in educational programs and information assurance. It's also valuable that the programs take the important interdisciplinary approach, such as those offered by Excelsior College to address a spectrum of industry needs.
When business leaders were asked about the level of knowledge they expect their employees to have regarding cybersecurity issues and practices, support for an interdisciplinary approach was reinforced. These leaders believe that their typical employee should know about basic cybersecurity technology and have a fundamental knowledge of cybercrime. Advanced techniques and measures for preventing, detecting and recovering from cyber incidents are important for their IT staff. For themselves and other executives, the business leaders said an understanding of ethical, legal and compliance issues are expected.
Those on the front lines of our cybersecurity efforts need to be as educated as possible and working in sync to be successful in preventing, deterring and repelling all attempts at disrupting our cyber networks.