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Cybersecurity Worker Shortage Intensifies as Data Breaches Increase

The hottest job in the tech industry is cybersecurity with an estimated one million unfilled positions, according to a report by Cisco. Cybersecurity professionals aren’t being trained fast enough and the competition to hire experienced workers is fierce.

Labor analytics firm Burning Glass reports that cybersecurity job postings grew 74% from 2007 to 2013, more than twice the growth rate of all tech jobs. And salaries reflect the shortage — the average job posting for cybersecurity tops $93,000 per year, versus an annual salary of $77,600 for all tech positions.

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Network World reports that Robert Stroud, international president of ISACA, a nonprofit that advocates for information security and other professionals, attributes the shortage to a realization that cybersecurity is a business problem and not just an IT issue, "When you've got everybody in the world realizing they need to do something and going to the market, it leads to a skills shortage, especially when we haven't been training people with these skill sets necessarily."

Leading colleges and universities are working to fill the void. California has the most job postings for cybersecurity. Stanford University offers a Cyber Security Certificate through its Center for Professional Development. It emphasizes the writing of secure code, the proper use of crytography and the development of secure web applications.

Virginia, with its proximity to the nation’s capital, has the second highest number of advertised cybersecurity positions. George Washington University offers a master’s degree that focuses on public safety, military and homeland security professionals.

While the effort to educate new workers ramps up, the competition for experienced professionals is cutthroat. The typical cybersecurity pro changes jobs every two and a half years as companies lure talent from competitors. Each new job comes with higher salaries, signing bonuses and added perks.

Somewhere between college student and seasoned professional lies an opportunity for creative companies and government agencies. Jon Ramsey, chief technology officer of Dell SecureWorks, is a fan of developing loyal employees. "It's all about hiring the best, and once we hire them, we use a farm league to develop the talents we need," he told TechTarget. "We can put a junior member of the team with a more senior person for training, send them to an engagement and not charge for the trainee." A general tech worker who is developed into a cybersecurity specialist may be less likely to leave the company that gave them the opportunity.

For the consumer, the takeaway is frightening. After the Anthem, Target and Home Depot data breaches exposed millions of Americans to identity theft; they’ve demanded better security and accountability from companies. And, while companies are trying to respond, the labor pool simply doesn’t exist to get the job done.

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