The University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity hosted five industry experts on Tuesday, Oct. 17 2017, to answer questions on how to get into the cybersecurity sector. Joseph Baucum/[email protected]
For anyone searching for a new career in an industry always in need of more talent, high-paying jobs are there for the taking in cybersecurity, now and well into the future.
That message was at the heart of the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity’s Tuesday panel, where cybersecurity experts outlined the steps needed for an individual to enter a career in cybersecurity.
“The information from this panel is extremely valuable,” said Eman El-Sheikh, director of the Center for Cybersecurity. “The students and others interested got to hear directly from experts with diverse backgrounds on how to get into the field and succeed. The audience got to see the experts’ ladder, progression, the important things to their organizations and the diversity of organizations that have cyber career opportunities.”
As business, health care, national security and personal activities grow increasingly reliant on online tools, the threat of cyberattacks only grows. That trend has created a robust job market for those qualified for the industry.
For example, ISACA, an international nonprofit focused on information technology governance, has predicted a global shortage of 2 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019. According to cybersecurity data tool CyberSeek, 40,000 information security analyst jobs annually go unfilled in the United States. But for those who attain a position in the field, the payoff is great. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2016 median annual pay for information security analysts was $92,600.
Tuesday’s panel included officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Navy Federal Credit Union, AppRiver, Northrup Grumman and Metova CyberCENTS. Each laid out the types of requirements their organization or company demands from applicants interested in employment.
The panel members all agreed aptitude and skills play a key role in attaining a job in cybersecurity. To that end, the university’s Center for Cybersecurity offers several undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various cybersecurity specialties. It also provides certificates in cybersecurity, intelligence analysis and information security management.
Other educational outlets in the region include the Pensacola State College Cybersecurity Center, which offers associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees in the field. Outside of traditional postsecondary education, technical schools such as Global Business Solutions Inc. and New Horizons Computer Learning Centers offer training.
Another option could include Invictus Knowledge Institute, a nascent nonprofit organization with plans to hold courses on IT fundamentals and a more intensive boot camp to train students in platforms such as .NET, Java, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Python. It intends to also plug participants into local internships.
Beyond education, the panel also urged those interested in cybersecurity careers to attend events such as the recent ITEN Wired tech conference at Pensacola Beach or the annual CyberThon, an annual cybersecurity competition for high school and university students. The events serve as networking opportunities with industry officials as well as the chance to form connections with peers also interested in the industry.
At the regional level, FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance launched its cybersecurity strategic plan on Friday. The organization intends for the plan to provide a road map for officials to adhere to while developing the region’s cybersecurity industry.
“This is something that affects not only our businesses, but obviously our national security,” said FBI Special Agent Angela Neu before the UWF Center for Cybersecurity panel started. “This is a threat that is not going away. Traditional crimes have now become enabled by means of a computer. We need to make sure we have individuals that can assist us in investigating and protecting our critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.”
Those in attendance for the panel included Michael Mitchell, a 19-year-old sophomore at UWF majoring in cybersecurity. Prior to moving to Pensacola to enroll in the university, Mitchell attended the Jacksonville magnet high school Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.
He had no experience in cybersecurity through his high school, but Mitchell took part in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot national youth educational program. Through the program, he learned various cyber strategies, which ultimately sparked his interest in the field and directed him toward studying at UWF.
“I really loved what was happening and took a year of community college,” Mitchell said. “Then I came out here and figured cybersecurity was the route for me, because I enjoyed it a lot.”