Shortage of IT Security Pros in State Government could Mean Jobs

One area where the need for IT security expertise is particularly acute is in government. Those with Information Systems Security degrees and the appropriate experience may find increased employment opportunities there.

According to a 2010 National Association of State Chief Information Officers survey, state IT departments have had a particularly difficult time attracting and retaining security experts. In fact, 52.4 percent of them said that security was one of the greatest challenges they faced. The figure is an improvement over the previous year’s 58.7 percent, but still shows a long-term chronic issue.

Unfortunately, that does not automatically translate into massive hiring. State chief information security officers (CISOs) face stiff challenges. Most states have major budget shortfalls.

However, there is a silver lining. Although budgets are tight, the need to protect data is serious. As the Deloitte-NASCIO study noted, “People put a lot of trust in state governments to collect, maintain and protect the appropriate information necessary to execute their programs, protect individual rights, and ensure public safety.” The states regularly collect sensitive information from millions of their residents and have enormous collections of such data. Currently, more than 40 percent of the states have no privacy program in place. Should something go wrong, politicians will reap public anger, and the CISO, a pink slip.

So state CISOs must still ensure security and privacy. Many work with inter-state organizations for collaboration and resources. Although stimulus funds are virtually gone, the Department of Homeland Security has the Homeland Security Grant Program, which makes millions available for cyber security projects that affect critical infrastructure. States increasingly outsource certain aspects of security, like vulnerability monitoring, which means associated opportunities in private industry.

That still means restricted resources, and every dollar must count. So, advanced background, such as a computer science master degree or advanced job experience will make a candidate more competitive for the positions that do open.