Jun 212014

That’s the conclusion one draws from a RAND Corporation report “H4CKERS WANTED” as related in the linked article.

There is of course rising demand, but judging from this report the demand is easily being met at most levels, especially the entry level. If the NSA has no issues filling cyber security slots, then those who believe in the law of supply and demand will look skeptically on claims that the commercial sector (where salaries and benefits are much greater) is having a problem.

If there is an area where cyber security opportunities are not being as easily filled then it is at the more senior levels, where other skill sets – broader technical skills, business experience and managerial preparation – become key. Those are all things not found in the burgeoning cyber security preparation tracks on campuses, and while that fact might give pause to someone considering such a college focus, another should scream at them: the report considers effective hackers as “born, not made.” Recruiters thus focus on identifying prospects based on talent, not credentials, and at least at the NSA these hires will then be sent to the fed’s own training programs.

Do you have a Bachelor degree in CS with lots of classes in cyber security? After graduation you could end up side-by-side with an 18-year-old in the same training class for potentially several years more training by the feds. Any differential in career advancement potential might take many more years to manifest itself and even then will rely on content not typically taught in cyber security tech tracks on campus.

Some might thus say that the best long-term strategy for a successful career in cyber security would involve excelling in more traditional computer science and business tracks – the ‘liberal arts’ sort of message that recruiters don’t want parroted lest it impact their ability to land hires inexpensively in support of short-term contracts.

 Posted by at 10:18 am on June 21, 2014