If you had to choose a college major today, what would you choose? According to one survey, most millennials list drama or law as their top career pick. Very few actually choose the major that’s likely to give them a high level of job security, a decent salary, and plenty of opportunity for growth, in addition to the chance to put your love of computers to work.
That major? Cybersecurity. Only about a quarter of millennials surveyed show any interest in the field, but there are a number of compelling reasons they should rethink that stance.
Cybersecurity Professionals Are in Demand
It’s one of the conundrums of the economic recovery: Jobs are coming back, but many people are simply not prepared for them. Many workers laid off during the Great Recession had skills or experience that is no longer in high demand, leaving them unqualified for the jobs that are available. One area where companies can’t seem to find enough qualified workers is cybersecurity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for information security analysts — cybersecurity professionals — is expected to increase by 37 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is much higher than the average for all other professions.
For comparison’s sake, the demand for nurses is only expected to grow by 19 percent in the same period, and that shortage is often referred to as a crisis. According to some experts, there is an immediate need for as many as 50,000 cybersecurity experts, yet only about two percent of college students seeking degrees in computer science (about 35,000) opt to study cybersecurity, meaning there are a great deal of competitive opportunities out there.
High Earnings Potential
Not only is there is a good chance that you’ll easily land a job with a degree in cybersecurity, it’s most likely going to be a well-paying one. The BLS reports that the median wage for information security analysts was about $87,000 per year; experienced professionals can earn up to $150,000 per year or more, with entry-level salaries ranging from around $55,000 to $90,000. Few other fields can offer such high earnings potential right out of the gate.
One of the most common misconceptions about working in cybersecurity is that it is painfully dull, requiring hours spent just sitting in front of computer monitors in the basement of a large office building. While there is a certain level of detail-oriented — and yes, potentially tedious — work involved with protecting valuable properties from cyberattacks, cybersecurity isn’t just days spent reviewing logs and configuring firewalls.
Depending on the organization you work for, you’ll be charged with acquiring and using some high-level tools and staying one step ahead of hackers and criminals who want to wreak havoc. You’ll be the go-to person for all matters related to information security, and have the chance to share your knowledge and passion. You may not be wheeling and dealing in the boardroom, or catching the criminals out on the street, but your work will be important, and that makes it more interesting.
The Opportunity to Be Creative
Again, many people view cybersecurity as a buttoned-up, regulations-based field, but in actuality, a successful career requires a great deal of creativity. Cybersecurity experts are problem solvers. Not only do they need to protect assets, they also need to find ways to provide workers within their organizations the tools necessary to do their jobs. They need to be able to find creative solutions to security risks and ways to outsmart criminals — which often involve tapping into their skills in coding and yes, hacking.
As more jobs that were once sought-after careers (we’re looking at you, print journalism) fall by the wayside, many students are looking at the long-term potential of their chosen majors and assessing whether or not there will be jobs available in five, 10, or even 20 years in the future. Cybersecurity is one of the fields that experts predict is not going to go anywhere, and in fact, will only grow. State Department officials actually encourage young people to enter the field of cybersecurity because they believe it is one of the few fields that all but guarantees steady, well-paying employment for decades to come.
Security firms, the government, and private companies are all beefing up their cybersecurity defenses, and in order to protect against the ever growing — and always-changing — threats, there is an ongoing need for qualified individuals to manage those efforts.
While software development and computer engineering get a lot of attention for being the “sexy” computer science concentrations, cybersecurity is the field of the future. You owe it to yourself to look into cybersecurity programs, and consider a career in protecting valuable assets.