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From worries about election interference to protecting health-care information and financial data, U.S. organizations and institutions of all kinds are recognizing the strategic importance of cybersecurity, and employment is growing as a result.

According to a national estimate, there are more than 313,000 job openings in the cybersecurity field, with only 715,000 workers already employed in the field. California ranks second in the nation with 37,000 job openings (behind national security-heavy Washington, D.C.). Projections of more than 1 million jobs in the field in the near future appear to be a reality soon.

Virtually all industries are seeing new cybersecurity positions, according to Cal State Fullerton Associate Professor of Information Systems and Decision Sciences (ISDS) Sinjini Mitra, a biometrics and cybersecurity expert. Perhaps surprisingly, education is a notable growth field.

Among the sectors seeing maximum growth in cybersecurity employment are law enforcement, mobile, the internet of things platforms, social media, education, health care and banking, says Mitra. “Online proctoring and authentication validation of e-assessments are also key in today’s educational world, which has seen a rapid proliferation of online courses and programs globally.”

Not Just For Computer Nerds: A Look at the Constellation of Cybersecurity Jobs

Working in cybersecurity might conjure up images of data-obsessed professionals speaking the complex language of information technology in dark tech-dominated workspaces. But in today’s diversifying cybersecurity space, the skills needed are vast and the opportunities multitude.

“Cybercrimes often target businesses, so a knowledge of the different aspects of business is important to both implement sound security measures to protect companies from being victims of cybercrimes as well as in managing and handling issues in the aftermath of such an attack,” Sinjini says. “Financial and accounting skills, for example, are of paramount importance, since cybercrimes come with huge financial and legal repercussions. There is also the issue of perception and legal, ethical and privacy issues related to biometrics, which are increasingly used in cybersecurity applications by different industries and businesses.”

For entrants seeking technical jobs, such as being a security analyst, a quantitative field of study, such as a concentration in business analytics, is necessary, for the development of major foundational skills for data mining and modeling. But additional security-related training might be needed as well, such as independent studies or online courses.  And there will always be a need for continuing education.

With the increasing necessity of studying market growth in security applications, even market research skills might be worth pursuing.

Of course, there are also other roles in cybersecurity-related entities further removed from the technical side, such as marketing, customer service and management responsibilities.

Regardless of what spot you’re aiming for, Mitra recommends being prepared for the competitive field.

“Although there are many available jobs, there are many students pursuing this area,” says Mitra. “Being as prepared as possible is always advisable.”

Cal State Fullerton Associate Professor of ISDS Sinjini Mitra, a researcher of biometrics and cybersecurity

Sinjini Mitra, associate professor of ISDS

Getting Started on Your Cybersecurity Career

Future Mihaylo College students may have the opportunity of pursuing a program specific to cybersecurity. Until then, good paths at Cal State Fullerton include concentrations in business analytics, offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, or the fully online M.S. in information technology.

“These programs will ensure that the student is able to acquire quantitative skills, such as in statistics, data mining and forecasting,” says Mitra. “This is very important for a career as a security analyst, where mathematical models are used to forecast and predict new risks and threats.”

Motivated to do your own research? There’s much to be gained from undertaking independent studies and research in conjunction with faculty members such as Mitra or others in the Department of ISDS, to gain more personal knowledge and exposure to the field and also expand the overall body of knowledge in the discipline.

“In the past, I’ve had Mihaylo College students work on biometrics-based security research as independent study and part of intramural grants,” says Mitra.

One example was a student who co-authored a chapter on the history and background of biometrics for appearance in Biometrics in a Data Driven World: Trends, Technologies, and Challenges, an industry and educational text co-edited by Mitra and Cal State Fullerton Computer Science Associate Professor Mikhail Gofman.

For a broader perspective, Mitra suggests a joint concentration or minor in computer science. Additionally, certificate programs are offered through Cal State Fullerton’s Extension and International Programs focusing on such topics as security, computer forensics, and crime and intelligence analysis.

The Center for Cybersecurity: Building a Collaboration Between Mihaylo College and the College of Engineering and Computer Science

Mitra serves as a faculty associate at the Center for Cybersecurity in Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Engineering and Computer Science, which prepares the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and advises the existing field.

Mitra and Gofman, the center director, are currently working to create a certification program through Extension and International Programs, focusing heavily on biometrics, which would cater to both business and computer science students. Development of joint cybersecurity courses for the degree programs in business and computer science, respectively, are also under consideration.

“The center has expanded considerably in recent years with support from industries,” says Mitra. “The goal currently is to develop additional partnerships and establish collaborations with other academic institutions as well to develop a cutting-edge research agenda and pursue external grant opportunities. The plan is also to organize more outreach events to raise awareness about security and cybersecurity in our community, especially among students in high school and community college.”

A future Center of Excellence certification from the National Security Agency (NSA) is expected to add additional value to the center.

Workshops, firewall side chats and industry-focused cybersecurity events on campus are among the opportunities currently available to students through the Center for Cybersecurity. There are also research projects, some involving Mitra, providing heavy student participation, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“Currently, most of the students involved in the center are studying computer science, but we also have some math students,” says Mitra. “But we are exploring opportunities to develop projects that will be less technical and involve more of our business students. I hope to expand our current work to create more professional development opportunities through workshops and competitions for our students, who might be interested in a career in cybersecurity.”

For More Information

For more on Mihaylo College’s information systems programs, visit the Department of ISDS online. Or read more of our articles on information systems and related research.

Additional information on the Center for Cybersecurity can be found online.