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Veterans in Cybersecurity – Opportunities for Both Worlds

As United States citizens, we are afforded freedoms and liberties unique to the American experience. These freedoms do not, however, come to us without great cost — our nation’s veterans and active duty military risk their lives for our safety, security, and the values outlined for us in the U.S. Constitution. They spend valued time away from their loved ones in order to make sure that our loved ones are protected.

While Americans are often quick to acknowledge that our veterans are important and should be honored, there are some aspects of a veteran’s experience that are not discussed as frequently or as in-depth; one of which is the challenge that many of our service men and women face when returning home: trying to find a fitting career.

For Veterans: A Transition to the Workforce

The Coronavirus pandemic saw the job markets plummet and unemployment skyrocket across all industries, affecting people from all backgrounds. This phenomenon, unfortunately, did not pass over veterans; according to the 2020 Bureau of Labor Statics Employment Situation of Veterans report, the unemployment rate for veterans grew to 6.5% from just 2.9% in December of 2019.

Even in a sans-pandemic world, many veterans face obstacles when it comes to transitioning back to typical work. This can be attributed to the difficulty found in trying to translate a military resume to a corporate job ad and the fact that, though plenty of veterans have the know-how to get the job done, they may be lacking the degrees or certifications that a job ad “requires” for applicants. In addition to this, many former service members struggle with transition stress, which is different than, but often misdiagnosed as, PTSD. Transition stress is the term attributed to the period of time in which those transitioning from their lives as active military to the world of civilians can feel highly stressed by the massive changes happening in their lives. It refers to a time that can be full of anxiety and depression as they find themselves as new veterans struggling with their sense of identity and self as their world shifts from one of structure as a part of the most elite workforce in the world to what can feel like square one. Despite these obstacles, many of America’s veterans can have hope in finding a career in the cybersecurity industry.

For the Cybersecurity Industry: Talented Individuals Helping to Fill the Skills Gap

The cybersecurity skills gap is a phrase used to describe the shortage of qualified individuals who are pursuing a career in the world of cybersecurity. This lack of interested talent is nothing new — the cybersecurity skills gap has existed and widened further for many years now. A report from 2020 unveiled that 70% of cybersecurity professionals believed that their organization was negatively impacted by the cybersecurity skills gap.

This has continued into 2021, as the recent study from the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and analyst Enterprise Strategy Group ESG, “The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals 2021” showed that of the 489 cybersecurity employees surveyed, 62% believe that a heavier workload has contributed to individuals being deterred from staying in the field. In addition to this, 38% of respondents said that unfilled positions and worker burnout are also highly contributing to the ongoing skills gap. It has become a cycle of a lack of professionals leading to existing professionals feeling overwhelmed — this is why bringing on more and more qualified and capable talent is essential to making real progress on closing the cybersecurity skills gap.

The report from ISSA and ESG went on, though, to provide some encouraging words to those potentially pursuing a career in cyber. Many of the surveyed cybersecurity professionals had helpful suggestions for supporting the recruitment and retention of individuals to these roles including increased cybersecurity training, higher compensation, the introduction of additional perks, and the creation of cybersecurity internship programs to prepare early career talent for cybersecurity skills which are directly beneficial to the hiring organization. These respondents recognized that there are certainly areas where hiring organizations can make improvements to make a job in cyber more attractive to potential candidates. While their ideas are certainly beneficial suggestions for all current and future cyber professionals, there is a solution in addition to these which benefits both the employers and our nation’s service members: the hiring of veterans as cyber professionals.

The Potential Perfect Fit

Former service members are ideal candidates for jobs in cybersecurity. This industry is full of emerging threats which need to be addressed by detail-oriented, hard-working, and skilled individuals. All entities that exist are susceptible to potential cyber attack — be it a small business, large corporation, government agency, or otherwise. They are all currently hurting, in one way or another, for qualified and dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the work it takes to learn and achieve great things in the way of security.

For those who feel ready to transition, cybersecurity may be the right career move for you. According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) the average reported salary for cybersecurity professionals is $116,000/year. In addition to this nice price tag, as a veteran, you do not need to worry about venturing into this potentially new field alone as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides Cybersecurity Training and Education for Veterans: A user guide for those who formerly served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This guide includes free online training, information on cybersecurity-related degree programs, and information on scholarships to help get you started on the right foot.

There is a wide open door begging for hard-working applicants and it’s got cybersecurity written across it — if you are a veteran and this career path sounds like something you’d like to pursue, please look into it further, you may be surprised at the number of opportunities available for which you’d be an excellent candidate.

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