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Discovering Careers in Cybersecurity

We were excited to celebrate National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week (NCCAW), November 11-16, 2019. Technology and cybersecurity play a vital role in many facets of our lives. Our growing dependence on the internet and the convenience of technology comes with unique challenges. Attackers are constantly trying to steal sensitive data and cripple systems, such as your online banking passwords and critical infrastructure. 

The growing interconnected dependency is increasing the demand for a highly skilled cybersecurity workforce with the proper training and experiences to succeed.  This demand is ever growing. According to CyberSeek, there are currently 313,735 cybersecurity job openings across the nation. Information security jobs are expected to increase by 28 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s four times the 7 percent average growth rate for all occupations. 

The National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week, led by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), focuses local, regional, and national interest to inspire, educate, and engage citizens to pursue careers in cybersecurity. It takes place during November’s National Career Development Month. Each day of the week-long campaign provides an opportunity to learn about the contributions and innovations of cybersecurity practitioners, and the plethora of job opportunities that can be found when exploring cybersecurity as a career choice.

Learners of all ages, educators, parents, employers, and the community participate in a national recognition of how cybersecurity plays a vital role in the lives of Americans and how building a national cybersecurity workforce enhances America’s national security and promotes economic prosperity. 

What Is Career Awareness?

When you were a child, what did you want to be? Maybe it was something exciting like an astronaut, rocket scientist, fire fighter, or veterinarian. Perhaps you were considering nursing, the teaching profession, or entering the military.

While you might have had an idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up, you were probably exposed to only a handful of options and you did not fully understand what it would take to get you there. Has your goal changed from when you were a child?

Or, perhaps you're just now exploring the different career options available to you upon graduation from high school or college and trying to get a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities that a particular job requires.  Or, you are already in a career looking for a change or you are a transitioning veteran.

Everyone has different thoughts in their mind with respect to careers.  However, rarely, if ever, does someone know about all the possible career options and pathways to pursue them.  

Career awareness is simply an understanding of the various possibilities for long-term employment and the knowledge and skills necessary to begin work in a career area and how to progress over time. Career awareness provides a means for us to open people’s minds to new roles and new paths to enter these fields.  Career awareness provides knowledge of training, entry points, and long-term opportunities to drive new entrants into the occupations such as cybersecurity or cyber-related work roles.

The great thing about a career awareness campaign is that it introduces a variety of exciting career options in various sectors of the economy that one might find of interest. It enables an exploration of possibilities and a future that might not have been imagined.

Why cybersecurity career awareness?

When you think about an astronaut or fireman, you probably have an easy time visualizing the job and workers. But when you imagine a cybersecurity practitioner, what do you think of? A common response from those not already in the field is a computer scientist or a person wearing a hoody sitting on a couch hacking into something. 

The cybersecurity workforce is far more diverse than that as it includes a variety of work roles and responsibilities.

As threats that exploit vulnerabilities in our cyberinfrastructure grow and evolve, an integrated cybersecurity workforce must be capable of designing, developing, implementing, and maintaining defensive and offensive cybersecurity strategies. An integrated cybersecurity workforce includes technical and nontechnical roles that are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced people. An integrated cybersecurity workforce can address the cybersecurity challenges inherent to preparing their organizations to successfully implement aspects of their missions and business processes connected to cyberspace. But what are these different challenges, and how do they tie to careers?

You can learn more about the different types of work roles that constitute cybersecurity careers by exploring the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, NIST Special Publication 800-181, a national focused resource that categorizes and describes cybersecurity work. The NICE Framework establishes a taxonomy and common lexicon that describes cybersecurity work and workers irrespective of where or for whom the work is performed.

The NICE Framework is comprised of the following components:

  • Categories (7) – A high-level grouping of common cybersecurity functions.
  • Specialty Areas (33) – Distinct areas of cybersecurity work.
  • Work Roles (52) – The most detailed groupings of cybersecurity work comprised of specific knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform tasks in a work role.

The cybersecurity career awareness campaign is focused on exploring these categories, specialty areas, and work roles, and partnering with industry, academia, government, and non-profits to highlight opportunities to enter the field. How do I enter the field from high school, college, or through retraining?  What internships are available? What resources can help? The cybersecurity career discovery campaign seeks to help others find the answers to these questions.

Promoting awareness and exploration of cybersecurity careers 

Whether you are a cybersecurity worker who would like to share your journey and experience or an educator or volunteer who wants to introduce youth and adults to career options in cybersecurity, there are ample opportunities to promote awareness and exploration of cybersecurity careers.  

You can host an event, participate in an event near you, or engage students with cybersecurity content. To learn more about why to consider a career in cybersecurity visit the Discovering Careers in Cybersecurity and explore additional information and resources

You can help create excitement around increasing public awareness and engagement in building a strong cybersecurity workforce by sharing through your social media during the National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week in the following ways:

  • Follow @NISTcyber and @NIST on Twitter, like NIST on Facebook and NICE LinkedIn to share National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week updates with your social media followers.
  • Create your own social media posts. Sample images can be found in the NCCAW social media resources section.
  • Use the hashtag #cybercareerweek or #mycyberjob when talking about National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week on social media.

All resources on the NICE National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week website are free and draw from information produced by federal agencies, including NIST and several partner contributors, as well non-profit organizations. These resources will be updated and expanded regularly and added to the Toolkit.

About the author

Davina Pruitt-Mentle

Dr. Davina Pruitt-Mentle serves as the Lead for Academic Engagement of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) at NIST. Prior to joining NICE, she was a senior researcher and policy...

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