We are consistently told by the media that there is a demand for experienced cybersecurity professionals. However, for recent graduates and those interested in transitioning into the field, career paths can seem elusive. In my recent webinar, Cyber Jobs: Where Are They and How Do I Get One?, I discussed this topic with a trio of experts, which included two esteemed UMUC faculty members and a alumna who works in the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Similar to the business and healthcare fields, cybersecurity is a varied field comprised of numerous speciality areas and positions. So, before you can know where jobs are in cybersecurity, you have to know which kind of jobs are available. There are many useful tools such as The Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and Cyber Seek that help you understand various roles, requirements, and career paths within the cyber field.
Entry-level roles often involve help desk positions, network support, system monitoring, or software development and coding. UMUC’s Valorie King, PhD, Program Chair for the Undergraduate Cybersecurity Management and Policy program, advised that it is important to find positions that allow you to get your hands on machines, troubleshoot, and build foundational IT skills.
UMUC alumna Anjelica Dortch ‘18, now with the Office of Management and Budget’s Executive Office of the President, spoke about the growing need for technology and cyber professionals in all areas of the federal government. Some of the agencies with the greatest needs include the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury, and the State Department. USAJobs is the best known and primary federal employment portal, but Ms. Dortch also suggested visiting CyberCareers.gov, CIO.gov, individual agency LinkedIn company pages, and agency websites as possible sources for information about job opportunities. She encouraged interested candidates to carefully read job announcements, tailor their resumes to address the position requirements, and be persistent, stating that it can take many applications to land a federal position. Ms. Dortch also addressed the topic of security clearances, noting that there are many types of government organizations with cyber and tech related positions, which don’t require clearances. Agencies unrelated to intelligence and defense would be most likely to have these types of positions.
In discussing opportunities in the private sector and “beyond the beltway,” candidates were advised to consider industries managing large volumes of consumer data such as retail, finance, and healthcare. Entry-level roles include support positions such as network support, help desk, and system monitoring. “It is important to get foundational experience,” stressed UMUC’s Patrick J. O’Guinn, Sr., JD, MPA, Program Chair of Graduate Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation.
Professor O’Guinn stressed the importance of continual learning and skill development, and shared his personal story about how he continued to build a portfolio of technical skills so he would be ready to seize career opportunities as they arose. He encouraged listeners to look for websites with free and open tools, simulations, and tech industry information as sources of skill development and career/industry knowledge.
In addition to ongoing skill development, all the panelists stressed the importance of professional certifications for employment and advancement. Dr. King pointed out that certain certifications are required per Department of Defense (DoD) regulations on all DoD contracts, and that candidates without those certifications are not eligible for employment.
In their final remarks, the experts reiterated the importance of building foundational experience, warning there are few shortcuts when building experience. They reminded listeners of the marketplace’s need for their talents and encouraged them to be persistent and strategic in building their cyber careers.
As always, UMUC Career Services is here to assist in your career progression. For more information on this topic, access the presentation slides or visit CareerQuest today to explore UMUC’s career tools and resources available to you. If you have any questions, please contact your UMUC Career Services office at 240-684-2720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ann Martin is a career advising specialist with UMUC Career Services. She learned about her current position at a professional development event while a graduate student completing her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.