There's a cybersecurity expert shortage. Colleges can help.

Hands-on experience is a must

America has a massive shortage in cybersecurity experts, and demand for training programs are growing, according to a new report from Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies .

The findings align with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' forecast that demand for cybersecurity jobs will jump 53% over the next two years.

For the study, researchers examined open-source data, targeted expert interviews, and a survey of 775 IT leaders—all from public and private sector organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Israel, Germany, France, Japan, and Australia.

Eighty-two percent of study participants reported a shortage of cybersecurity experts at their organization—and 25% said they'd had proprietary data stolen due to lack of qualified workers.

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Just over half of participants said the shortage is as bad as or worse than that of other IT professions, such as data scientists. 

What colleges, universities can do

Right now, cybersecurity professionals aren't learning what they need to in higher education programs, according to the report.

Just 23% of respondents agreed that education programs fully prepare students for the industry, and 70% report they'd prefer an employee with a bachelor's degree in some other, related discipline.

Hands-on experience is what's really missing, respondents said. A majority identified hands-on experience as the best preparation for real-world tasks. More than 60% of respondents said national hacking competitions are the best way to learn and polish skills.

Strategies to prepare for a security breach

More than 75% of respondents identified professional certifications as a good way to prove skills.

Right now, the United States and United Kingdom are investing the most in cybersecurity education programs—and in America, that includes hands-on training.

For example, Norwich University now offers certificate and graduate programs in cybersecurity (Dishman, Fast Company, 7/27). 

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