October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), and we all have a part to play to help reduce our cybersecurity risks and help make the Internet – and our digital identities and devices - more secure for everyone. NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory leads the nation’s efforts to develop the standards and guidelines for cybersecurity. That’s why we are excited to “Own IT” (one of the NCSAM themes this year) and make available additional blogs, social media, and newsletters throughout the month. Our first blog is from Rickie Grigsby, a recent summer graduate fellow at NIST’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). We asked Rickie a few questions about her NICE experience and how that has helped guide her future career in cybersecurity.
What is cybersecurity? Is cybersecurity more than just protecting my personal devices? Is cybersecurity for me? Are there resources to help me pursue a career in cybersecurity?
These are questions that everyone should ask themselves, whether they’ve thought about cybersecurity as a means of protecting their data or even as a career. I jumped into cybersecurity with only a basic understanding of what it meant to have a job in this field, yet it would have been beneficial for me to pause for a moment and try to answer the questions above.
What is cybersecurity?
My answer: To me, cybersecurity is the process of protecting computers that are network-connected from intrusion, theft, and/or disruption.
How to find your answer: Obviously, my answer is very short, and cybersecurity is much more than I described above. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to learn more about cybersecurity including free online classes, written sources, and organizations that can answer your questions.
Is cybersecurity more than just protecting my personal devices?
My answer: We rely heavily on systems being available when we need it, data being accurate and untampered with, and our personal data remaining private. Since our data and the everyday systems we rely on, like banking and stoplights, are not stored on our personal devices, we need individuals and organizations who take on the task of protecting these systems. We need people who understand threats and vulnerabilities who can fill a variety of work roles (see page 15 of the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework for a list of work roles) in all sectors.
How to find your answer: Just like the previous question, my answer may not be your answer. To find more information about why a career in cybersecurity is important, sites like: CyberSeek (to see the demand and shortage of cybersecurity talent) and the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Demand one-pager are good places to start.
Is cybersecurity for me?
My answer: Cybersecurity is challenging and dynamic, which for me, is very valuable. It’s also constantly changing and there are so many different paths to choose from.
How to find your answer: The resources available in the toolkit for National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week provides materials to help you understand what a career in cybersecurity looks like.
This CyberInternAcademy article on determining if a cybersecurity career is right for you also does a great job of breaking down the different questions you may ask yourself about a career in cybersecurity. The other links in this article that describe demand, work roles, and resources will also be helpful. Knowing the what, why, and how of cybersecurity careers can help answer the question of if this is the right path for you.
Are there resources to help me pursue a career in cybersecurity?
How to find your answer: there are scholarships like the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service which, as a recipient of this scholarship myself, I have gained a lot of experience and exposure to cybersecurity education and careers. Since not everyone is pursuing a formal education to find their way to a cybersecurity career, there are funding and training opportunities for career-changers too! A good place to start looking is on the NICE Frequently Asked Questions page under the question about career and educational topics.
The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone interested in cybersecurity education and careers is that there is no “best” or “preferred” path. Everyone’s journey is going to be different and uniquely their own. However, there are helpful tools, guides, and resources to help get more out of your experiences. During my internship with NICE this summer, I spent time researching and learning about some of these resources. Listed below are only a few examples of the vast amount of resources that exist.
Cyberseek has an interactive jobs heat map and career pathway tool to help learn where cybersecurity jobs are in demand and the possible pathways to those jobs.
LearnHowToBecome.org offers helpful information about what careers in cybersecurity entail and career pathways.
There are so many helpful resources. Doing your own research and connecting with real people to learn more will go a long way in helping your become more cybersecurity-aware.