Weekly Word on the Street: Cybersecurity Jobs Abound

by Jim Staats | Jun 01, 2012
Takeaway of the week is that it's good -- very good -- to be a cybersecurity pro. To say you're wanted is an understatement. What is also clearly wanted, more and more, is a 212-area code tech headquarters. College degree? These days, not as much.

What's a College Degree Worth?

Recent and not-so-recent circumstances point to a decline in value of the college degree -- and traditional education as a whole -- as the end-all, be-all foundation in the tech world.

At least that's the view of one Silicon Valley-based headhunter in a recent piece in ReadWriteWeb.

It's hard to ignore the IT industry is built on the shoulders of college dropouts like Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs. Their success lends credence to the idea that getting ahead in tech doesn't always require a degree.

The headhunter, whose identity was withheld for the article, said a college degree can help, but for a job seeker with the right experience and necessary training, not having one isn't a deal-breaker.

"A computer science degree from 1987 isn't worth much if they haven't stayed current," she said. "I'd rather present a self-taught developer if he has a couple of shipped products under his belt. Clients are interested in ability. If you have the chops and the experience, you're getting hired."

The exception, the headhunter noted, was a high-profile executive described as a "front-pager," charged with instilling corporate confidence in a board of directors, public and investors.

The way current tech executives are working their way up the ranks, though, signal a change in this way of thinking.

Degrees may become optional in the future, but assessments through true experience will not.

Clarion Call for Cybersecurity Pros

If you have cybersecurity chops, your government needs you. Everyone does.

Amid a job market still defined as recessionary, the cybersecurity field remains one of job vacancies aplenty, yet few qualified applicants, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.

Tom Kellermann, VP at Trend Micro and a member of President Obama's cybersecurity commission, said the government must hire at least 10,000 cybersecurity experts in the near future while the private sector seeks a talent pool four times that number.

Experts distinguish between two cyberattack targets: state-sponsored intellectual capital and digital infrastructure, such as power grids and banking systems.

The cost of such attacks could reach into the hundreds of billions. Hence, the need for combatants to jump into the fray.

The U.S. government, experts agree, is nowhere near equipped to handle a catastrophic attack, yet not enough digital experts are entering the cybersecurity field to meet the growing demand.

Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security firm, has hired 3,000 cybersecurity personnel in the past two years alone.

"Every company in (the area) is looking for the same thing," said Edwin Kanerva, VP at the firm. "There's just not enough of them. The gene pool is small."

According to a 2009 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, less than 6 percent of all graduates earned degrees in computers and mathematics and of those, only two percent earned a degree directly relating to cybersecurity.

More appealing starting salaries for software developers and computer engineers are one reason for such low figures, analysts note.

Startups Take Shine to Big Apple

As has been noted in this space recently, New York is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to Silicon Valley for tech startups.

These days, even fledgling firms born on the West Coast are packing up and heading east, according to a recent item in The New York Times.

A big reason for the shift, according to experts, is the technology industry trend toward consumer products and applications as opposed to Internet and computing framework. Big Apple startups benefit from proximity to the heart of the media, advertising and fashion industries.

A traditional lack of venture capital funding outside of Silicon Valley is in flux, as well. According to a recent report produced by a New York-based public policy organization Center for an Urban Future, almost 500 startups in New York received venture capital funding from 2007 to 2011. The number of VC deals in the city during that time has risen 32 percent, while figures in other areas, including Silicon Valley, dropped.

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