Turns out young people want to be actors, not cyber security professionals

What does your son or daughter want to be when they grow up? A doctor? A lawyer? An actor?

According to a new study by Raytheon, far too few are interested in a career in cyber security. And when you consider the exploding growth of malware, the threat of cyber warfare, and the fact that even major players like Adobe get hacked from time to time, you have to recognize that cyber security is a growing market.

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, worries about a coming shortage of skilled technicians: "Given that we need to add thousands of cyber security professionals to the workforce in the coming years, the data shows we have a long way to go in engaging young people in the idea of a career path in cyber security."

At first glance, the numbers don't sound too frightening. The survey revealed that 24 percent of millennials show interest in cyber security as a profession. But showing interest is not the same as choosing it for a career, and many young people are rightfully considering several possibilities. By comparison, 40 percent showed interest in the entertainment business. Of the 14 career choices listed on the study, only two received less interest than cyber security: Elected Official (18%) and Wall Street Analyst (17%).  That may reflect a lack of practicality among youngsters (hey, maybe they’re entitled to it for a little while), and certainly reflects the glorification of celebrity that pervades the media.

For such a plugged-in generation, millennials seem--if not totally uninterested--then at least inconsistent about protecting their digital lifestyles. Only 61 percent password-protect their mobile phone, and only 37 percent have backed up their computer hard drive in the last month. And 48 percent, nearly half, risked a virus infection by using a flash drive or other portable storage device given to them by someone else.  Stats like these shed some light on the growing interest in more security-sensitive personal storage devices, like the WD My Cloud.

The adults that young people look up to may also contribute to the problem. Eighty-two percent of the young people surveyed reported that no teacher or guidance counselor had ever mentioned cyber security as a possible career choice. If the students don't know about it, they can't consider it as a possibility.

In a difficult and uncertain economy, cyber security looks like a good career bet. As Internet-based crime and espionage continue to grow, with no reasonable expectation that they'll stop growing, the industry is not likely to be hit too hard by a future recession.

And pay levels reflect the dire need to this particular skill set. A recent study by Semper Secure states that "cyber security professionals earn on average $116,000 annually," and that most of them enjoy their job. "Just 25 percent of cyber security professionals identified the high salary and benefits as the most interesting aspect of their profession."

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (I bet you didn't know that), a good time to consider how we'll protect ourselves in the future. Our society needs experts with the skills to protect us and our institutions. Today's young people need lucrative and interesting careers. Perhaps we could put both of these problems together and find one solution.  Or perhaps we’ll all become actors.

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