Those looking for much valued cyber security experience may have new opportunity through cyber security internships with the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) kicks off 2014 with expansion in mind for its cyber security college internship program. In 2013, the program provided volunteer assignments at 36 sites. Additional sites have been added to the program. The honors program now has 100 volunteer positions in 60 locations across the country. DHS built the program in response to the October 2012 task force created to strengthen DHS’ outreach to colleges and veterans.

Critics argue educators are not helping with the cyber security shortage. Students today aren’t encouraged to pursue cyber degrees; those who do are quickly picked up by the private sector. DHS is trying to provide encouragement for future cyber security professionals. Getting the next cyber security professionals ready to take on real world challenges is a boon to DHS and the overall cyber security field. The graduates may not return to public service, but the program could prepare them for other cyber security positions that still benefit the general public. And for the growing number of veterans pursuing cyber security degrees, the internships provide coveted experience for their resumes.

For students in a two or four year program in a field related to cyber security, the 2014 Secretary’s Honor Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative provides the opportunity to gain valuable cyber security experience. Required skills and expertise are dependent on the assignment and location. Some positions could require the ability to acquire a clearance, and all positions are subject to a background check.

This DHS initiative could help spark the next generation’s interest in a growing field. The ability to grab a job upon graduation is a hot topic lately with many graduates either unemployed or working jobs that only require a high school diploma. For some students, a DHS internship on the resume or online profile could be the difference between making lattes and getting a cyber security job. The cyber security jobs are out there, but the challenge is getting skilled professionals ready to fill the positions. DHS seems prepared to meet that challenge.

Applications are due January 3, 2014.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.