There are few greater tasks than creating pathways to cybersecurity careers. By 2021, the world faces a shortage of 3.5 million professionals in the field. This shortage leaves business and government agencies vulnerable to data breaches and cyberthreats, and we need to work together to address it.

One of the best ways to create career pathways is to build and follow comprehensive cybersecurity education programs. How? We have to start at the beginning. Cybersecurity curriculum should be part of education from elementary through high school, and a learning bridge must connect and coordinate how people develop those skills at every level.

This requires constant coordination between schools. Decisions on how to build these bridges must be based on data and designed to evolve over time. It’s important to understand that these bridges cannot be static — they must be adaptable and able to change as needed. Building paths to different cybersecurity careers is a dynamic process, and it’s a process that allows us to build a large pool of skilled people who will pursue continuing education in cybersecurity.

Laying the Groundwork, Building the Pathways

Schools will only be able to create comprehensive cybersecurity education if they have access to certain resources from the education infrastructure and surrounding communities.

Cybersecurity companies, colleges, government institutions, and other partners will have to come together to tackle the skills shortage. School districts alone don’t have the resources to make a substantial difference. For this reason, public-private partnerships are the catalyst necessary to drive change.

These partnerships can take many forms. Internships, summer camps, educational games, and competitions can all be used to engage students with cybersecurity and encourage them to pursue careers in the field.

What education is needed for cybersecurity professionals? There are more options than most people assume. High school graduates with solid cybersecurity foundations can attend college to complete their degrees in cybersecurity or computer science — a route that gives them a good chance of entering the workforce as cybersecurity professionals.

But this isn’t the only way. It’s also possible to go to a two-year college and earn an associate degree along with cybersecurity certifications. There are also a number of boot camps and certifications available to anyone, providing excellent sources of continuing education in cybersecurity.

Upon entering the workforce, people can pursue countless different careers in cybersecurity. While certain skills are necessary for most of those paths — communication, knowledge of the current cybersecurity landscape, and an understanding of the tools and technologies needed to combat cyberthreats — there are numerous avenues in which people can use those skills professionally. People can become:

  • Security architects and engineers.
  • Source code auditors.
  • Vulnerability assessors.
  • Cryptographers.
  • Chief information security officers.

Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand. As cyberthreats continue to present themselves and the landscape becomes more complex and sophisticated, both the public and private sectors have a serious need for trained professionals to help them mitigate risks. It’s time we all do our part to address the shortage and create a more secure future.