Future of Work

The demand for cybersecurity professionals is outstripping the supply of skilled workers

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By David Leaser

A new Burning Glass study should serve as a wakeup call for technical training organizations: The demand for cybersecurity professionals is outstripping the supply of skilled workers. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows the number of new cybersecurity programs has increased 33%, but the demand is growing faster as cybersecurity is now considered mission critical in most organizations.


Job growth is exploding


Cybersecurity job postings have exploded. Burning Glass found the number of cybersecurity job postings has grown 94% in just six years. By comparison the number of IT jobs in general has grown about 30%. That’s a 300% increase in demand compared to the overall IT job market. Cybersecurity jobs now account for 13% of all information technology jobs.


Law of Supply and Demand: Fewer candidates means better pay


According to the study, cybersecurity jobs are taking longer to fill — 20% longer than typical IT roles. On average, IT jobs take 41 days to fill, but cybersecurity roles take 50 days. One reason is the small labor pool. For each cybersecurity opening, employers can only tap a pool of about two employers to recruit. (That number hasn’t budged in three years, despite the increase in training programs.) For comparison, there are typically about six employees in the pool for most jobs.


The lack of talent means competition among employers who have to pay more for these skills. On average, cybersecurity jobs pay more than other IT jobs. The average advertised salary for a cybersecurity job is now $93,540. That’s a full 16% more — or about $13,000 — than the average for all IT jobs.


Pure cybersecurity vs. hybrid jobs: Different pay and different skills


Job descriptions for cybersecurity are grouped into two areas: pure cybersecurity jobs and hybrid jobs. In many organizations, the task of cybersecurity is built into other jobs, like network administration. The skills are somewhat different, as is the pay. Pure cybersecurity roles pay about 10% more because of higher demand.



The demand will only increase with cloud computing and the Internet of Things


Cybersecurity will continue to grow as technology becomes digitally connected. The Internet of Things and cloud computing will have a major impact on the growth of security threats. That means the need for skills to combat these problems will grow. Burning Glass outlines a projection based on the historical data in the labor market:



Barriers to entry are high: Now what? Certificate programs?


Managing cybersecurity is critical, and employers see it that way, looking for seasoned professionals who can hit the ground running. The typical cybersecurity job today requires a college degree, creating a major barrier to entry as the school system is not producing enough graduates. In many roles, the need for a college degree is unnecessary and not the best way to prepare for a career where technology is changing rapidly. Training providers and workforce development officials must develop strategies and tactics to manage the talent shortage.



Enter certifications and certificate programs. A whopping 59% of all cybersecurity positions request at least one certification, but the IT industry average is only 20% for advertised IT jobs. That opens the door for entry-level employees who can build solid skills and earn verifiable credentials at a faster pace. Credentials like the entry level Security + or the more advanced CISSP may provide the needed credentials to verify skills. And new credential programs are emerging.


IBM’s new cybersecurity certificate program


IBM has introduced a wide range of options to help fill the skills gap. The IBM New Collar program has introduced the first specialization for a junior cybersecurity analyst certificate program, which is available through Coursera, and more modules will be published to create a full certificate this summer. “New Collar” is not blue collar and not white collar: These are careers where skills and capabilities are considered more important that college degrees or resumes. And at IBM, 15% of all hiring in the United States were New Collar candidates last year.

IBM brought its leading cybersecurity experts, certification architects and clients together to develop a program which provides the essential foundational skills for a cybersecurity professional. The program starts with a free career fit assessment to determine if the candidate has the innate skills, abilities and personality traits to be successful in the job. “First mile” training provides a fast, globally consistent way to rapidly upskill a labor pool. Online proctored exams make it easy to prove skills and verify candidates from anywhere in the world.

IBM also hosts a cybersecurity learning academy, providing free technical training for IBM Security products. Users can explore the course catalog and build a personalized curriculum by enrolling in courses.


Connecting to careers: Matching candidates to employers


IBM goes one step further with its programs by connecting to jobs. Candidates earn digital badges for their achievements in the program. Each badge is embedded with real-time labor market data showing open jobs in many parts of the world. A candidate can drill down and apply for a job right from within the badge.

Employers can find candidates by searching the IBM badge database. Many students who take IBM training have opted in to be discovered for jobs and other opportunities. Talent Match allows employees to make a connection.


IBM is democratizing IT with its skills programs

By focusing on skills over degrees and geography, IBM wants to shift mindsets in the IT industry and make tech more diverse and inclusive. We want to bring in people with non-traditional backgrounds who build skills through coding camps, community colleges or modern career education programs like our P-TECH model or apprenticeship program. We want to attract people re-entering the workforce or relaunching their careers, and we want to create more jobs for people in parts of the world where tech jobs are scarce. This is about creating tech career opportunities outside the traditional areas. The big picture: IBM has a program for anyone seeking a role in IT.

IBM has a broad strategy to rapidly build skills through multiple channels:

IBM Skills Gateway: Hosts one of the largest IT training programs in the world and a network of Global Training Providers who provide skills development programs at every level.
SkillsBuild: Provides jobseekers, including those with long-term unemployment, refugees, asylum seekers and veterans, with assessments, training, personalized coaching and the experiential learning they need to re-enter the workforce.
Coursera: Certificate Programs, like the IBM Customer Engagement Program, develop skills fast to land a good-paying job.
P-TECH: Extends the typical four-year high school to create a seamless six-year academic experience to earn an industry-recognized, two-year post-secondary degree, as well as a high school diploma.
IBM Skills Academy: Provides IT training through a network of higher education institutions.
IBM Apprenticeships: Allows candidates to develop skills and make real-world contributions – all while earning a paycheck.


David Leaser is the senior executive of strategic growth initiatives for IBM’s Training & Skills program. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based embedded learning solution and is the founder of the IBM Digital Badge program. He is a Fellow at Northeastern University and a member of the IMS Global Consortium Board advisory group for digital credentials. David has provided guidance to the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education as an employer subject matter expert. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Pepperdine University and a Master’s Degree from USC’s Annenberg School. Connect with David on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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