As demand for cybersecurity professionals grows, shortages are felt

and hire another 100 people — mostly civilian and military cyber security specialists — fully to staff his 200-person command. “We need to increase that talent pool that everybody is after,” McCullough said.

Measuring the size of the cyber security sector is difficult, but surveys show demand for technical expertise is skyrocketing. The number of jobs posted on by companies and recruiters looking for professionals with active federal security clearances has jumped 11 percent to 6,100 openings this year from fewer than 5,500 in the same time period last year.

Among the jobs most in demand are systems engineers, military software engineers, and software developers. The jobs are highly paid. According to the website, technology pros in the Baltimore-Washington corridor make on average $82,100, and those with an active clearance on average make a 20 percent premium, or nearly $99,800.

Sentementes writes that a broader measure of private sector employment in computer systems shows that the number of jobs in Maryland has more than doubled in the span of two decades — from 29,900 in June 1990 to 64,900 jobs in June of this year.

The demand has spurred the federal government and corporations to support new education initiatives — in Maryland and beyond — to help train workers in defending computer networks from cyber attacks that can come from thieves, hackers and terrorists.

Anne Arundel Community College and the county workforce development corporation announced $4.9 million in federal funding to train 1,000 workers for cyber security jobs over the next three years. Students will complete certifications in digital forensics and cyber security at community colleges in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Carroll counties.

UMUC’s cyber security curriculum includes a bachelor’s degree program, with students taking a mix of liberal arts and technical courses, such as network security and computer forensics. The university also offers two master’s programs designed for midcareer professionals, one with a more technical orientation and the other with a policy focus.

So far, 300 students have applied to the programs, Susan C. Aldridge, UMUC’s president said. The school expects to have a few thousand students focused on cyber security in the next few years, she said.

A report on preparing for the nation’s cyber security needs last year by Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, found that federal scholarship programs designed to fill government openings were producing only 120 graduates a year with cyber security education — while the need was closer to 1,000 a year across several federal agencies (“Today’s IT security professionals are expected to offer more than a school certificate,” 18 May 2010 HSNW).

Challenges abound in building a cyber security workforce, particularly for the federal government’s defense and intelligence agencies and private contractors that work with them,” Sentementes writes. “Part of the difficulty is not simply finding people with the right technical abilities, but making sure they can also qualify for a security clearance.”

The limited workforce means that government agencies and the private sector must compete.

In Maryland, the strategy to build a workforce for technology and cyber security appears to be twofold, part marketing effort to lure companies and workers, and part long-term educational planning, starting with encouraging math and science studies at the earliest levels of schooling from elementary to high school.

“I believe our next employees are now in the 10th grade,” said Larry Cox, vice president of SAIC Inc., an information technology-focused defense contractor. “We’ve got about six years to get them trained up and keep them honest … so we can potentially have them work in our business.”