Cybersecurity: A Rapidly Growing Career Sector


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Career Cybersecurity | © Photo Courtesy of Let’s Talk Science

If you did not participate in the digital economy before 2020, you probably do now. The global pandemic changed how we lived our digital lives, from the amount of time we spent online to purchasing things to how we worked and learned. With this increase in online activity, the number of Canadian businesses that experienced a cyberattack rose from 78 percent in 2020 to 85.7 percent in 2021—and it’s clear that the need to protect our cyber assets has never been greater!

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems (hardware, networks, and data) from cyberattacks. Cybersecurity has been around since we started networking computers and connecting them to the

Internet. However, cybersecurity is much more than “network administration.” Network administrators keep a computer network up and running; cybersecurity keeps criminals out. The emergence and expansion of e-commerce platforms, the Internet of Things, Blockchain and other disruptive technologies have made cybersecurity a fast-growing career sector. 

Going beyond the skills needed to manage a network, cybersecurity requires technical skills that allow for the development of protective software, proper network design, analysis and future design, data security and cryptology, policy and procedure setting, and more. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global cybersecurity market will reach USD 366 billion by 2028. The Government of Canada’s Job Bank estimates that between now and 2028, there will be 113,000 positions available, with the outlook in all provinces being excellent.

This growth is happening because all industries that rely on technology to function or connect to the internet have cybersecurity needs. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (2021) reports a worldwide vacancy of 3.5 million positions in this sector. This is up from one million positions in 2014. Recent reports indicate there are currently 25,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Canada.

Vacancies in Cybersecurity Jobs

This begs the question: Why don’t more young people get into this field? With their propensity towards all things digital, one would think it would be a natural fit. Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer; certainly not succinctly. One part of the answer is that there are many misconceptions associated with careers in cybersecurity, which may range from the notion that you have to be a math or computer genius to do this work to the idea that the hours and pay are poor (the average annual salary in Canada is $97,000). 

Other misconceptions include the view that this is a narrow career path with little room for growth and that you need lots of experience to land your first job (there are entry positions and on-the-job training available).

When it comes to why young women don’t go into this field, the fact that this is a male-dominated industry is undoubtedly part of the answer. A shortage of role models for young women to follow is certainly an issue. If young women don’t see other women working in this industry, few will take the risk. 

A male-dominated industry also means that there is an established “culture.” All the issues related to other male-dominated career areas apply to careers in cybersecurity. This may also make this sector less desirable for many new female entrants. To be clear, no one feels there are too many men in cybersecurity careers. It’s just that we need to find ways to attract more women to this career path.

Closing the Cybersecurity Gender Gap

Many initiatives aim to close the gender gap in computer technology and cybersecurity. However, the solution is not straightforward. We must understand that stereotypes and biases about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers form early in life. 

STEM stereotypes are either gender-based (e.g., “STEM is for men”) or trait-based (e.g., “STEM is for geniuses”). To address trait-based stereotypes, boys and girls need opportunities to explore and develop their interests. Engaging in STEM activities will help them develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. 

Such activities will help them learn how to break problems down into manageable parts and identify which parts to tackle first. Challenging activities help youth develop resilience so that, when they do experience a challenging situation, they won’t assume they are not “smart enough” and give up. Young people need to see STEM as something they can do and something worth doing now and as a future career.

However, since gender stereotypes can form as early as age five, there must be role models, and programs must start early. Teachers at all grade levels are implementing digital literacy across subjects. Let’s Talk Science offers free Professional Learning programs to help teachers improve their digital literacy and coding abilities. 

A variety of “virtual role models,” including careers in Information Technology and cybersecurity, are available through the Let’s Talk Science STEM careers resource collection. Parents can support and help develop their child’s interest in STEM through books or by encouraging hands-on play using puzzles and building toys. Celebrate a growth mindset when it comes to learning. 

Celebrate persistence when working on a problem. Rather than saying, “you’re smart,” instead ask, “what did you learn?” to help your child recognize that we’re not born knowing how to do things; we learn how to do it. Using instructional websites and videos, explore technology with your child. Solve problems and learn to code together. Remember, after you spark an interest, follow through by staying involved.

Many factors affect your child’s career perceptions and, ultimately, their career choices. These include their interests and ability, knowledge about careers, as well as a host of social factors. However, it’s clear that parents can influence their child’s career choices by supporting their interests and introducing them to the different jobs that people do. If they can see it, they can be it!

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