In the past year, cybersecurity has become one of the hottest topic in the news. And while much focus has been placed on the gap in cyber skills, cybersecurity education still has a long way to go.

Last month, Raytheon sponsored a survey, conducted by Zogby Analytics, on the topic of millennials and cyberspace. The study focused on ‘the attitudes, behaviors and career aspirations of young American adults online.’ The focus group consisted of 1,000 young adults, between the ages of 18-26, living in the United States.

Many of the results of the survey could be considered surprising and disconcerting. For example, an overwhelming 82% of survey participants stated that they had never been advised by a high school teacher or guidance counselor to consider a career in cybersecurity.

Of those who responded to the survey, only 24% said they were interested in a career in cybersecurity- and of those, the survey showed that young men (35%) were more interested than female respondents (14%).

Additionally, it may be noteworthy that 40% of respondents indicated that they wanted to be in the entertainment field. It may be that they lack understanding of the potential and great demand for cyber security professionals, or it could be that  cybersecurity coursework may seem intellectually or academically difficult for students; especially those who lack skills required to perform analysis or concepts  related to computer systems.

Cybersecurity positions are in great demand, and can offer lucrative compensation and salary for those young people willing to put the work into the education required.

A promising and encouraging aspect to the survey showed a moderate representation of awareness of the importance of online security and insight into their social media practices, but there was still a significant, and troubling percentage who were not following proper online safety practices.

For example:

  • 66 % (two-thirds) of young adults 18-26 have connected to a no-password-required public WiFi in the past month
  • 23 % have shared an online password with a non-family member in the past year
  • 48 % have plugged in a portable storage device given to them by someone else in the past three month
  • 20 % have never changed their online bank account password

Perhaps the greatest question this survey raises is why more young people aren’t being encouraged and counselled to consider cyber security careers.

Considering the amount of people who regularly use the internet for all manner of uses, whether it be for financial, educational, social networks, business-related, or basic email; cyber security professional are needed to keep those networks secure and up and running. Maintaining proper security on the internet, and providing safeguards for users, is surely a valuable, and potentially profitable, profession.

An article on the Nextgov website stated that demand for cyber security professionals continues to climb, and the pay continues to increase. It was noted that ‘Cyber security professionals also tend to be very satisfied with their jobs, with 63 percent of respondents saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with all aspects of their jobs.’

Considering the great demand and need, educators and administrator should seriously condider expanding cyber security curriculum within schools.

With the right guidance and increased skills from an early age, a hopeful goal for those currently in high schools would be to increase the 24% of millenials currently interested in cyber security careers to at least as many as indicated in the study who wanted to be social media professionals (32%).

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.