When it comes to cyber security the biggest question isn’t who is hiring, it’s who isn’t. From government to the defense industry, the demand for cyber talent outpaces supply. While it’s tough to find any region that isn’t hiring cyber talent, a few cities have emerged as top destinations for cyber professionals.
Where To Find a Cyber Security Job
“While much of the contracting news today centers around sequestration and budget cuts, the reality is that cyber hiring is one arena where cleared professionals and businesses continue to have strong prospects,” said Evan Lesser, founder and managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. “Initiatives such as data center consolidation and cloud services will gain traction with offices and government agencies looking to stretch their IT dollar, and cleared professionals with those skills have great opportunity.”
Colorado’s robust defense industry powers cyber jobs in the region. Located just 65 miles from the state capitol of Denver, Colorado Springs is home to four military installations, including Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the United States Air Force Academy, and Schriever Air Force base. According to the city’s 2009 comprehensive financial report, those four facilities are the city’s biggest employers, with Fort Carson alone employing over 10 percent of the population. Whether it’s tracking the nuclear arsenal or managing spy satellites, space-related jobs make up a significant focus of the cyber security related positions.
More than 66,000 people work in space-related jobs in Colorado, generating $8 billion in income according to a recently released report by the Brookings Institute. Major defense contractors in Colorado Springs include Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. The region also boasts a number of smaller defense and IT companies who focus on both the military and commercial sector.
Hiring managers in the state are quick to point out that when it comes to IT hiring, every job seeker should be a cyber security professional.
“The areas of cyber and information security apply to all of our employees working on government systems. We have an on-going need for Software Engineers, Systems Engineers, Test Engineers, Network Engineers and Systems Administrators; all these professionals understand the increasing need to protect our customers’ data,” said Michelle Krecklow, Senior Technical Recruiter at the Information Technology Engineering Corporation (ITEC). She emphasized the importance of professional certifications, specifically the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
Research Triangle, North Carolina
The Research Triangle of North Carolina is a 13-county region that includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. But when it comes to cutting-edge science and technology, it’s impossible to separate one city from another. Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are just twenty to forty minutes apart, and are home to North Carolina State, Duke University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
A focus on education and a highly skilled workforce is one of the Research Triangle’s biggest advantages when it comes to growing cyber security jobs. North Carolina’s colleges and universities are home to more than 33 research and development programs.
For job seekers looking to go back to school, North Carolina universities offer a distinct advantage, especially when it comes to IT. Each year the state graduates more than 800 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer science, and more than 470 students with advanced degrees in computer science, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
North Carolina’s focus on cyber education extends beyond college. North Carolina was the first state in the nation to implement the Microsoft IT Academy statewide, which provides high school students Microsoft training and even the opportunity to earn Microsoft Office Professional or Certified Professional Certifications.
Defense contractors in the Research Triangle include IEM, Booz Allen Hamilton, Microcell and Raytheon.
Salt Lake City
What’s the best kept secret in cyber security? Utah, if you talk to some cleared professionals. Far from the intensity of the Washington metro and away from the high-cost of living of California, Salt Lake City has slowly emerged as a technology hub, as well as the home to a growing number of cleared cyber security jobs.
Big data is big business when it comes to cyber security jobs, and perhaps no data center is more famous than the Utah Data Center at Camp Williams in Bluffdale, Utah. The $1.5 billion facility, nicknamed the ‘Spy Center,’ has the unique mission of aggregating data for the National Security Agency. The location of the data center was a big win for Utah’s tech industry, and is set to be completed in September 2013.
Utah has also developed a corridor of cyber business along the Wasatch Front, located about 50 miles north and south of Salt Lake City. More affectionately referred to as the ‘Silicon Slopes,’ the area is along the Wasatch Range, midway between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
“We have a rich history in defense, IT, and in a lot of other business sectors, as well,” said Gary Harter, Executive Director of Veteran’s Affairs with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.” A number of companies tell us they like coming to Utah, and they like hiring in Utah, because they find good success with employees in Utah who can readily get security clearances.”
Those strong demographics include a large population of young people and a well-educated workforce said Harter. The state also offers a number of incentives for business, including low energy and utility costs and reasonable permitting and regulation.
Not everything is bigger in Texas – a low cost of living is one of the key reasons San Antonio and other Texas cities rise to the top of the ‘best places to live and work’ lists. In Forbes’ recently-released best cities for good jobs report, Texas was home to five of the top 10 cities for jobs, with San Antonio ranking sixth.
As home to three military installations – Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases and the Army’s Fort Sam Houston – the defense industry is strong, and the IT sector is growing. IT and cyber business had a $10 billion economic impact in San Antonio in 2010, and that number is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2015, according to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
San Antonio is home to the 24th Air Force, also known as Air Force Cyber Command, located at Lackland Air Force Base. In January the U.S. Air Force announced it was looking to hire 1,000 new cyber positions as a part of the 24th Air Force, in addition to the 6,000 it already oversees. Lackland also houses the Texas Cryptology Center, a National Security Agency data center and campus that employs more than 2,000.
Texas – and San Antonio, specifically – make a strong case for businesses in the region, offering secure telecom, low electricity costs and attractive tax incentives. San Antonio is home to approximately 80 defense technology companies.
Washington, D.C. Metro
The Washington, D.C. metro is easily the region with the greatest opportunity for cyber security jobs. Between defense leaders warning of a ‘cyber Pearl Harbor’ and the White House recently stepping in with a cyber security executive order, the challenges and opportunities are diverse. Cyber appears to be one arena that will buck budget downturns.
Recently, the Washington Post reported that U.S. Cyber Command would be growing its workforce from 90 to 4,900 over the next few years, with 70 to 80 percent of those positions being civilians. Professionals with an active federal security clearance have an advantage in the D.C. metro, where the government customer drives opportunity.
“If you are in the D.C. area, regardless of your profession, there are opportunities available to you if you are cleared,” said Dorion Baker, recruiting manager for intelligence at TASC. “If you decide to move to this area, you should first look at the job opportunities here, as the majority of them are driven by the intelligence community and the Department of Defense.”
Maryland, Virginia, and the District all have opportunity, given the saturation of both government agencies and defense contractors in the region. BRAC was a major boon to Maryland’s cyber careers, making the state home to more than 70 federal agencies. Maryland also receives more federal funding per capita for research than any other state in the nation.
Who’s hiring in Maryland? ManTech International tops the list, according to a recently released report, with SAIC, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and CSC also looking to fill positions in cyber.
Virginia has not shied from efforts to attract cyber security jobs either, with Governor Bob McDonnell launching a cyber security marketing effort in January. The state already boasts more than 300 cyber security -focused companies, according to the governor’s office, with the majority focused in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia.
There are two critical components for cyber security career success in the Washington metro: skills and a security clearance. Because the cyber industry is driven by intelligence and defense customers, cyber professionals will need a security clearance to be competitive. Hiring managers are also looking for talent with hands-on experience, so applicants for D.C.’s cyber positions should be prepared to talk through applications and offensive or defensive cyber operations in an interview