While the government needs thousands of cybersecurity professionals, the newness of the field has made it difficult to ascertain what cybersecurity job titles should be and exact hiring projections.
Because no identifiable cybersecurity skills benchmark has been established, counting security employees and creating hiring figures is challenging, said Ernest McDuffie, the lead manager for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. For instance, a former CIA official estimates only about 1,000 cybersecurity experts in the U.S. have the skills necessary to safeguard the nation’s IT infrastructure, but the country needs 30,000.
"What does it mean to be a cybersecurity professional?" he said. "And what is your career path? Because the field is so new and keeps changing, it’s hard to answer those questions in any definitive way."
One way of identifying cybersecurity professionals is to look for university graduates with cybersecurity skills. McDuffie lauds the National Science Foundation’s scholarship for service program. Through the program, students focused on information assurance degrees will have their school paid for—including books, tuition and lodging—in exchange for working for the federal government for two years.
Another certification program is produced by CompTIA in association with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). CompTIA estimates there are more than 60,000 information security professaionals—excluding contractors—certified through its program.
McDuffie is also tasked with tracking federal agencies’ progress in coordinating a public awareness campaign for cybersecurity, formal cybersecurity education programs, federal workforce training and a new Internet ID system.
“The measure is going to be, how is behavior changing across the country for the better," he told Government Executive. "We’re in the process right now of developing a comprehensive strategic plan that will lay out the beginnings of those types of metrics." This strategy will be presented to the White House sometime in March.