America is fighting a war on an invisible front, and we need skilled and motivated professionals to protect us. Experts predict that global cybercrime damages will reach $6 trillion in 2021, nearly double the amount from 2015.
Whether perpetrated by cybercriminals, activist groups, or state-sponsored hackers, cyber-attacks have the potential to disrupt private and public organizations, including banks, healthcare systems, local governments, and vital infrastructure.
As Chancellor of WGU North Carolina, a state affiliate of Western Governors University, I’ve observed that more than 30% of students currently pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees in cybersecurity and information assurance with our College of Information Technology are affiliated with the military community.
As we approach Veterans Day, I’d like to highlight how cybersecurity is a great career choice for military veterans. Following are five reasons why.
- Cybersecurity is a growing field. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics’ Information Security Analysts Outlook expects cybersecurity jobs will grow 31% through 2029. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, military veterans are 37% more likely to be underemployed than non-veterans. According to Cyber Seek, there are currently 17,660 cybersecurity job openings in North Carolina.
- Veterans have experience working with state-of-the-art technology. The United States military employs some of the most sophisticated technologies in the world. Servicemen and women are exposed to high-tech equipment, systems, and programs on a regular basis. Further, many participate in usability testing of experimental technologies.
- It’s a mission-driven profession, and another way to serve our country. The purpose of cybersecurity is to secure data and prevent unauthorized access from bad actors seeking to inflict damage or extort money to fund even more nefarious incursions. The objectives of the job are very clear and precise, which may appeal to individuals with military experience.
- There is a clear career progression. Just like with military promotions, the cybersecurity industry typically has a defined career track, albeit with some flexibility. For instance, an entry-level cybersecurity specialist could be promoted to analyst, consultant, or penetration and vulnerability tester, and then on to a role as a cybersecurity manager, engineer, or architect.
- Veterans have many of the qualities and skills that cybersecurity employers desire: integrity, work ethic, discipline, threat analysis, and attention to detail. Combined with the right educational degrees and certifications, they are well-suited for careers that directly apply and reward those qualities.
For veterans with limited technology experience, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program that matches them with a leading training provider to help them develop high-tech skills.
There are myriad scholarship and grant programs to help veterans pay for their education. As a veteran of the United States Army, I was a beneficiary of the G.I. Bill and used it to earn a master’s degree from Western Carolina University and a doctorate from N.C. State.
For those transitioning out of the military, or for veterans who are years removed from their service but considering a career change, the cybersecurity field offers a rewarding opportunity for purpose-driven job satisfaction and the ability to counter threats from both home and abroad.
Ben Coulter, Ed.D., is Chancellor of WGU North Carolina and Southeast Regional Director for online, nonprofit Western Governors University. Prior to his career in higher education, he was a U.S. Army Officer in the field of counterintelligence.