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It’s no secret that cybersecurity has become a critical national security issue for the United States. The past 12 months have seen a number of serious, successful cyberattacks against high-level government targets. Notably, State Department officials recently revealed that hackers, likely Russians, gained access to the agency’s email system, making this arguably the most alarming intrusion of a federal department’s network. And in October, the White House itself saw its own system experience outages for more than two weeks as the result of a sustained cyberattack.
Clearly, U.S. computer security is lacking. The only real question is, what’s to blame? The single most important issue is quite possibly a dearth of cybersecurity talent, as industry expert Gary Beach recently argued.
A serious shortage
Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Beach pointed to a wide array of evidence demonstrating the U.S.’s cybersecurity talent shortage. He noted that in the 2012 Programme International Student Assessment, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the U.S. came in 27th in science and 36th in math out of a field of 65 nations. Only 8.8 percent of U.S. students finished in the top two performance levels.
It’s not solely a matter of grade school education, either. Beach noted that a recent Accenture white paper found that the U.S. only produces approximately 234,000 college graduates with science, technology, engineering or math degrees each year – a total that accounts for about 13 percent of all U.S. undergraduate degrees.
“The U.S. needs more cybersecurity professionals than are currently available.”
This suggests that younger American students are not learning nearly enough about science and technology and, perhaps because of this, they are not choosing to study these subjects once they reach college. The end result is that the U.S. government needs far more cybersecurity professionals than are currently available.
This has serious national security implications – a fact not lost on U.S. leaders. Breach cited a report from Condoleeza Rice and Joel Klein of the Council on Foreign Relations that addressed the issue.
“The United States must produce enough citizens with critical skills to fill the ranks of Foreign Service, the intelligence community and the armed services,” Rice and Klein wrote. “The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital. The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”
There is, however, a positive side to this state of affairs. The high and growing demand for cybersecurity professionals throughout the U.S. government has created tremendous career opportunities for those eager and willing to focus on this field and serve their country. Not only are more and more positions available for these professionals, but the potential for career advancement is tremendous.
All of this makes National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College a powerful resource. With a dedicated focus on cybersecurity education as it relates to government, military, industry and beyond, the NCI is ideally positioned to help students alleviate the nation’s cybersecurity talent gap.
Please visit Excelsior College to learn more about our cybersecurity education opportunities.