There is a substantial need in the cybersecurity workforce. According to an article written by infosecurity, the number of unfilled IT security positions now stands above 4 million, an increase from 2.9 million in 2018. This skills shortage endangers a multitude of different industries to cyber threats that cripple workflow and leave financial scars. While it’s certainly scary to think of a world with so many gaps in cybersecurity, it also provides a tremendous opportunity. The one positive note from this unfortunate trend is the opportunity to educate and train new security professionals to fill the numerous vacancies that exist in industries across the world.
Many universities in the U.S. have noticed the opportunities that exist within the cybersecurity space and have implemented new programs and new studies to equip aspiring security professionals. Prairie View A&M University, in Prairie View, Texas, pushes the standards for cybersecurity research with the SECURE ( Systems to Enhance Cybersecurity for Universal Research Environment) Center of Excellence. SECURE works closely with industry and government partners to research and enhance cybersecurity education. SECURE allows students at the historically black university to study cybersecurity solutions, motivate undergraduate students to pursue graduate degrees, and allow minority students the opportunity to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related fields. Their hard work and innovation in the field awarded them a grant from the Department of Defense worth $432,854. This grant will be put towards enhancing and expanding cybersecurity research and education.
Many schools are developing graduate programs that focus on specific aspects of cybersecurity. The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is launching an online Masters of Science in Cybersecurity Law and Homeland Security and Crisis Management Law. These programs are the first of their kind. Their purpose is to equip professionals with the skills to not only identify threats, but to also understand cybersecurity legislation, policies and regulations.
Murray State University will also be implementing a master’s degree in cybersecurity management in 2020. According to the university the course work will focus on security principles, information security and risk management, incident response, and digital forensics fundamentals. The designation of the program is specifically meant to address the shortage of cybersecurity professionals.
The University of Tulsa recently announced a competitive cybersecurity fellowship program. The program will only accept 10 students each year. The university says that the program will open new opportunities for cyber research and development to help create technology that could impact several pressing challenges of the digital world.
Along with university commitment, U.S. States are also taking action to invest in new cybersecurity education initiatives. Most notably, the state of Virginia is making large contributions to fund 11 universities within the state that are committed to cyber research and innovation. The Old Dominion State has pledged just under $1 billion in state funding to grow and develop these programs. Governor Ralph Northam announced that the state investment could potentially create 31,000 computer science graduates over the next 20 years.
Some universities are taking a less traditional approach to spark the interest of prospect cybersecurity professionals. The College of Eastern Idaho recently hosted the Cyber Career Awareness Camp. The event introduced middle and high school students to numerous jobs associated cybersecurity. They spent time playing creative games and were also given the opportunity to engage in a mock career fair.
Like many organizations, universities understand the severity of a shortage in cybersecurity professionals. A commitment to advancing education and research is the best place to begin bridging the talent gap. Many universities have made a tremendous effort to prioritize cybersecurity, and if the current trends progress, more universities will begin to engage in new research efforts and new education programs. This trend, along with the support of the DoD and state governments, will provide ample opportunities for a new generation of cybersecurity professionals. With this collective effort, the number of IT security position vacancies might begin to decrease instead of increasing year to year.