Millennials increasingly interested in careers in cybersecurity

Gender gap in cybersecurity profession remains

More Millennials are looking into cybersecurity as a possible career path, due in part to increased awareness of cybersecurity issues, according to a new report from Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). 

The report is based on a survey of 3,779 adults between the ages of 18 and 26 in 12 countries, including the United States. Globally, the survey finds that 37% of Millennial adults are considering a career in cybersecurity, up from 28% in 2015.

According to the report, a number of factors have sparked millennials' interest in cybersecurity, including:

  • Initiatives aimed at making cybersecurity more visible;
  • School cyber competitions;
  • More cybersecurity education; and
  • Cyberattacks and related political stories in the news.

The election in particular has driven millennials' interest in cybersecurity, the report states.

"To me, these findings represent how important the internet is in young people's lives," says NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser. "They are living in an atmosphere and see in this particular campaign a lot of discussions of emails being hacked and potential election systems being hacked."

A career in cybersecurity offers job opportunities in various sectors, and the report says Millennials find that flexibility appealing. Cybersecurity also requires skills that millennials hold in high regard, such as problem-solving, communication, and analytical thinking. 

But while interest in cybersecurity professions is on the rise, the report finds a gender gap still exists. According to the report:

  • 54% of young men say they understand the role of a cybersecurity professional, compared with 36% of young women;
  • 59% of young men say they've had formal cyber safety training in school, compared to 51% of young women—up from 43% and 40%, respectively, last year; and
  • 21% of young men say they are interested in cyber competitions, compared with 15% of young women.

According to Valecia Maclin, director of cybersecurity and special missions at Raytheon, part of the gender gap can be attributed to misleading depictions of cybersecurity experts in the media.

"You see the image of the cyber professional who is a man with no social skills, and it's so counter to what the profession requires," she says. "You have to overcome that image" (Mastroianni, CBS News, 10/12; Meyer, Campus Technology, 10/12). 

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