Demand for information-security professionals is growing faster than in any other segment of the IT industry, according to new figures from industry group CompTIA that confirm the strong market value of cybersecurity skills for those who have them.
The number of information-security analysts in the US market grew by 4.8 percent compared with the previous year, topping a list that was dominated by high-level roles including web developers, software developers, systems analysts, IT support specialists, and IT managers.
This growth helped infosec analysts secure recognition as the top growth occupation in the US market during 2015, according to the group's rankings, which reported some 85,182 people in that position out of a total workforce of core IT occupations comprising 5.04 million people.
While the figures relate to the US market, the Australian market has faced similar obstacles. The industry's surging appetite for security skills reflected the increasing difficulties that organisations in all sectors are having in finding and securing skilled staff – and surfacing the need for CSOs to build strategies for finding and attracting talent.
Cisco Systems, for one, last year called out the need for better cybersecurity development programs as part of its response to the Australian Government Cyber Security Review. IT-security experts are pushing hard to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in a market where even high-level information-security research groups, such as the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS), have admitted they face challenges in expanding their core base of skilled security workers.
Failure to do so will be “problematic”, ACCS visiting professor Dr Greg Austin recently told CSO Australia, noting that the construction of a sufficient cybersecurity defence was “as big a change for most militaries as was the introduction of the air force.”
While the CompTIA figures showed a clear growth in demand for security skills, demand for more conventional, low-level careers such as computer service technicians, network architects, and computer programmers languished at the bottom of the list, where the 'other' category of computer occupations grew just 1.4 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Unemployment amongst IT workers was 2.6 percent, around half of that country's overall unemployment rate. This was reflected in the high volume of job postings for infosec analysts, which exploded by 48 percent from 17,492 in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 25,869 in Q4 2015.
The results of the CompTIA review corroborate a recent Cybrary survey of 435 senior-level technology professionals, 80 percent of whom said they always or sometimes have trouble recruiting skilled cybersecurity professionals, with recruiting often taking up to four months.
Those employers indicated that the skills they most wanted included ethical hacking, computer forensics, CISSP certifications, malware analysis, and advanced penetration testing. Fully 47 percent of respondents said they were planning to hire one to 10 IT-security workers during 2016.
“Companies and the public at large should be concerned with these results, which call attention to the continuing impact of the cyber security talent gap,” said Ryan Corey, co-founder of Cybrary, a provider of massive open online courses in areas including cybersecurity.
“Companies with pressing cyber security needs are finding that there’s a major lack of qualified professionals to fill their positions, which makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks. This underscores the need for better access to cyber security training, which can get new talent into the field quickly, help close the cyber security skills gap, and make companies more secure.”
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