The ISC2’s Cyber Workforce Study is filled with interesting data and trends. If you’re not familiar with ISC2 (International Information System Security Certification Consortium), it is a non profit organization that specializes in industry security certifications. Their Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is often sought after by employers look for mid to high level security managers.

Cyber Workforce Study

The 84 page study, while sponsored by ISC2, doesn’t really have the infomercial feel to it one might expect from a certifying body. The first part of the study focuses on the supply/demand of the cybersecurity industry. Fortunately, for most of the world’s cyber job seekers, both the number of jobs and gap between demand/supply grew last year. The world average shows an 8.7% increase in new jobs and a 12.6% increase in the demand/supply gap. In the United States along. In the United States the jobs increased by 11.3% and the gap by 19.7%.  However, the gap is qualified with some bad news: many organizations have made cutbacks involving hiring freezes and layoffs meaning some of those numbers are self-inflicted. This does not mean the demand is not still there. The most cutbacks were felt by Latin American countries, which actually had negative jobs and demand, contrary to the rest of the world. Entertainment, construction, software development and the automotive industry were hit hardest with cyber workforce cutbacks, while the military, governments of all levels, education and aerospace were not severely impacted.

Feedback from Cyber Professionals

The second part of the study involves interviews and survey questions of nearly 15,000 cyber professionals across the world. As you may imagine, a prevailing theme is while there are less employees to perform the work, the threat landscape has actually became significantly more severe over the past year. Some other dominant opinions include:

  • Over 70% of respondents agree that periods of economic uncertainty increase the risk of malicious insiders. This could mean people who have lost their job, are in fear of losing their job, or see an opportunity to take advantage of short-staffed operations.
  • Surprisingly, job satisfaction did not decrease markedly over the past year despite cutbacks. Why that is may have to do with more opportunities for employees to move within the organization, perhaps fulfilling multiple roles.
  • More workers that are new are entering the field with a Bachelor’s degree and are less likely to have worked in IT positions in their previous jobs. This is a positive sign for both higher education and those who wish to make a career change, however, employers still favor experience over degrees for the most part. Of interest is that there is a greater need for communication skills amongst cyber workers.
  • Cloud computing is an in demand skill that employers are having a difficult time filling.
  • Gender gaps continue to exist at every age level. In the United States, Canada and Great Britain, females only constitute 20% of the age 30-38 cyber workforce, however that number jumps by 4% in the under 30 category.

As for the 500-pound digital gorilla in the room, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Skills are in demand, however nearly 85% of the professionals surveyed have little to moderate knowledge or experience in the field. AI is also concerning to employees in that, according to most, there is little education or regulation in the field.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.