Despite the many challenges they face, veterans looking for civilian work after discharge have some key advantages over their non-military peers. Not only has their time in the service helped them develop valuable soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and the ability to think and act under pressure, but many have acquired technical skills that are now in high demand—particularly when it comes to cybersecurity.

Results from a 2018 Cybersecurity Workforce Study conducted by information security leader (ISC)² put the worldwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals at somewhere around 3 million workers. In other words, the need is there and the jobs are waiting, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fill them. In North America alone, nearly 500,000 positions are available—from software engineering and security infrastructure jobs to operations and technical support staff.

Out of more than 1,400 cybersecurity and IT professionals surveyed, 59 percent of respondents admitted their organizations were at extreme or moderate risk due to a cybersecurity staff shortage, and over half of the companies that participated in the survey plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in the coming year.

What do the survey results mean for transitioning veterans?

The growing cybersecurity workforce gap represents an enormous opportunity for veterans looking for civilian employment. They already know how to gather intelligence, analyze risk and assess vulnerability in the military arena, so making a leap to the virtual arena seems like a natural next step. According to Warrior to Cyber Warrior, one of the organizations working to place veterans in cybersecurity jobs, it’s just a matter of transitioning their skills “from one battlefield to another.”

Indeed, cybersecurity impacts nearly every company in every industry nationwide, and the more sophisticated our technology becomes, the greater the need for professionals who can defend against hackers and other online security threats. At Lockheed Martin, for example, where one in every five employees has served in the military, veterans are especially valued because many of them are already familiar with the company’s tools and systems from their time in the armed forces.

Are there training programs available for veterans interested in cybersecurity?

Yes. As more companies link the need for qualified cybersecurity professionals with the unique skill set possessed by veterans, a growing number of free or discounted training and certification programs are available to help veterans strengthen their technical skills and develop a working knowledge of basic and advanced cybersecurity concepts.

SecureSet, which calls itself an “immersive, accelerated cybersecurity academy,” believes veterans are critical to solving the problem of the cybersecurity workforce shortage and is working with military bases like Fort Carson in Colorado Springs to train and prepare individuals for a career in cybersecurity. The program can be paid for with the help of GI Bill benefits.

CyberVetsUSA offers free training and certification for transitioning veterans considering a career in cybersecurity. Once individuals complete the self-paced online training and receive their certification, they are paired with available cybersecurity jobs. The program is currently offered in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, with additional states to be added through 2020.

The tech company Synack, which offers crowdsourced vulnerability intelligence, created their Synack Veterans Cyber Program with the dual aim of bolstering the cybersecurity workforce and helping transitioning veterans find civilian work. The program recruits and trains veterans to join Synack’s mission of protecting public and private sector companies from virtual security threats.

Oh, and the salary is pretty good, too.

According to the (ISC)² study, certified cybersecurity professionals make about $88,000 annually, while individuals that do not hold certifications average about $67,000 a year. In addition, the majority of security and IT professionals tend to stay longer in their positions and have a high rate of job satisfaction, which adds to the appeal of a career in cybersecurity.

Regardless of where you are in your civilian job search, it is worth giving some thought to the field of cybersecurity; as a veteran, your military-honed skills and experience have no doubt already given you an edge over your competitors. Just be sure to have a copy of your DD214 on hand before you start looking into available training and certification benefits.

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