The career field of cybersecurity has been popular and growing for the last few years, and growth projections have not abated, but only grown as the world faces the technology challenges created by a global pandemic. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 32% (much faster than average) growth between 2018 and 2028. That equates to an additional 35,500 jobs to the existing 112,300. And it pays well, also, with the 2018 median annual salary just under $100,000 – and much higher if you have an active security clearance.

Reasons for the Increase

As our dependence on digital tools increases, so does the threat of hacking into the data of company and government agencies; or even into personal computer systems which do not have the network protections that companies put in place. We saw evidence of hacking during the last election. And barely a month can go by without a major company or government agency announcing a data breach.

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting quickly, many companies moved their services and products online to not only make it easier for people to order, but to keep their company solvent. However in doing so, not all took the time or actions to ensure their online customer’s information was safe and secure.

The same thing happened with schools, too. Many schools took their courses online for the first time. Some schools will have to look at their cybersecurity more closely, particularly those looking to stay online even when the pandemic was over. According to a study by the Times Higher Education, 63% of universities will have their full courses offered online by 2030 – an indication that the online education trend will continue.

The increase in e-learning spilled over from non-education sources too. From online fitness and cooking classes, to learning a new language, writing, drama and photography, to name just a few, people are looking for ways to occupy their time during the lockdown. People who signed up for courses lasting for months will continue their learning even after the lockdown ends. The online language app Duolingo saw a 148% increase in sign-ups in the U.S. just in March. The fitness app Centr saw a 300% increase in downloads in April.

Couple this with an increase in video conferencing platforms such as Zoom (which has already dealt with cybersecurity issues), movie streaming services, and remote medical services, and you have a data disaster just waiting to happen.

Getting into the Field

What does it take to become a cybersecurity professional? Most companies or consulting firms that employ cyber specialists require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming or a related field. Some positions may also require an MBA in information systems or previous work experience in information management, such as a network engineer or computer systems administrator.

There are also several different certifications that can move you up the hiring list. One popular one is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). It is one of the oldest certifications in existence and still the gold standard among the 71 different certifications available at last count.

Once you have the cybersecurity basics down, you can branch out into more specific areas such as computer forensics, governance, risk, or compliance. One specialty that is currently popular right now is white hat hacking, where companies hire hackers to identify weaknesses in their network security and then take actions to eliminate those weaknesses. We will see more of this type of work in the future with companies going online so fast and without proper security testing first, their weaknesses will need to be resolved.

If you like the field of computer science, cybersecurity would be a good branch to get into. Not only is the demand there already, and it will continue to grow. If you are still in the military serving, use tuition assistance to get your bachelor’s degree out of the way while the military will still pay for it. Then once out, use your GI Bill to pay for your MBA and/or certification(s). If already out, enroll now and get started learning the interesting world of cybersecurity.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.