Young adults clueless on cybersecurity profession

The cybersecurity profession and its role in keeping the Internet safe is lost among young adults, who are therefore less likely to pursue a career in the field, a survey shows.

Millennials aged 18 to 26 understand the importance of protecting themselves online and the majority take steps to do so, the poll of 1,000 young adults, found. But while this awareness has sparked an interest in Internet security, more than six in 10 of the respondents were unaware of the cybersecurity profession and what the job entailed.

"There's an information gap," Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), said.

The NCSA commissioned the study, released Wednesday, with defense contractor Raytheon.

That disconnect between interest and possible career is not being corrected in schools. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said their high school computer classes did not provide the skills needed to pursue a career in cybersecurity or a related degree in college.

"We have to develop programs and we have to develop curriculum and we have to have a mature conversation around career opportunities," Jeff Jacoby, program engineering director of cybersecurity at Raytheon, said.

Jobs certainly exist in Internet security. Demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing 3.5 times faster than the overall IT job market and 12 times faster than the total labor market, according to Burning Glass Technologies, which provides software for managing recruitment and hiring.

Nevertheless, cybersecurity jobs are unlikely to get filled, unless the U.S. as a whole becomes more aware of the importance of the profession in protecting not just people's credit-card data and personal information, but also the nation's critical infrastructure.

"We have to have an evolving culture of cybersecurity and that includes schools," Kaiser said.

High schools are getting better at introducing cybersecurity as a career to students. More than four in 10 survey respondents said at least one teacher, guidance or career counselor or an adult in an after-school or extra-curricular activity mentioned or discussed cybersecurity as a job.

In a similar survey conducted last year, the percentage was only 18 percent.

To increase their interest in a cybersecurity job, almost half of the respondents in the latest survey said they needed more information about what the job might entail.

Four in 10 said they would want more relevant classes and training to see if they were good at cybersecurity.

As to who was responsible for keeping them safe online, 87 percent of the Millennials said it was their own responsibility, while 74 percent and 66 percent said it was the duty of the commercial sites they visit and government, respectively.

The survey was conducted Aug. 27-28 by Zogby Analytics and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The poll was done in support of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is October.

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