The U.S. government is currently trying to deal with increasingly sophisticated and persistent cybersecurity threats. Attacks are coming from all angles: Individuals, criminal gangs, hacktivists, and nation-state sponsored hackers are all targeting government agencies. In order to deal with the growing number of threats the U.S. government needs to bring in new talent.
A recent memo sent to the heads of executive departments and agencies explained the need to expand job recruitment campaigns to try to bring in some of the best and most talented individuals to help with the fight against cybercrime.
While seasoned cybersecurity professionals are the number one choice, there is stiff competition from the private sector for these key personnel. The U.S. government is also looking to recruit recent college graduates to fill many of the 3,500 remaining positions from the 6,500 that were created in October 2015.
Attracting top talent is a problem. The U.S. government does not pay as much as private firms which makes it difficult to compete for the very best cybersecurity professionals. However, efforts are being made to improve the packages being offered in an effort to bring in the right people.
Typically, government cybersecurity positions have a salary range of between $55,000 and $100,000, whereas the industry average salary for an individual with three years’ experience is at the very top end of that scale. Individuals with five years’ experience can expect salaries of at least $120,000 per year: Well outside what the government is able to offer.
There a glut of available positions in the private sector and too few individuals to fill them. The lower wages offered by the government make recruitment difficult, although more competitive packages are being developed and the government is defining clear career paths for new recruits. Efforts are also being made to retain workers once they have taken positions with government agencies.
While there is an attraction to work for the government and contribute to the defense of the nation, many employees only ever intend to stay in jobs for a limited period of time. The government is now trying to create an environment that will provide a more rewarding work environment, provide hand-on training experiences, and establishing support and mentoring networks.
The aim is to keep new recruits for longer and to provide the opportunities and career paths to ensure that mid-career professionals and seasoned IT security pros do not seek employment elsewhere in the private sector after they have been recruited.
Investment in the existing Federal workforce will be increased through training and new initiatives will be developed to retain existing talent. According to the memo, “the Government will adjust the way it recruits talented students and potential employees in the cybersecurity workforce outside Federal service.” The aim is to provide “the resources necessary to establish, strengthen, and grow a pipeline of cybersecurity talent well into the future.”