On July 12, the federal government issued a four-part workforce strategy that would allow cybersecurity professionals to perform a “tour of duty” in the public sector as part of their career plan.
The White House plans to streamline guidelines that would allow it to hire private sector security experts more quickly. It will also create a “cybersecurity cadre” within the Presidential Management Fellows program, a leadership development program for advanced degree candidates.
The Office of Personnel Management will also build cybersecurity career paths for current information security professionals working in government, including credentialing programs, rotational assignments, and efforts to make them subject matter experts in their field.
The federal government plans to hire 3,500 more IT security professionals before the year ends, in addition to the 3,000 hired in the first half of the current fiscal year. The strategy sets aside $62 million in the 2017 budget to expand cybersecurity education across the country in agencies like the IRS, which requested funding for 400 new IT professionals last year. That money would fund competitive scholarships or grants to hire or retain professors, adopt a cybersecurity core curriculum and strengthen existing education programs.
The National Science Foundation funds the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, a program designed to grow and strengthen the cadre of federal information professionals that protect the government’s information infrastructure. According to the program’s website, it provides scholarships for full-time students while attending a participating institution, including tuition and fees.
To be eligible for scholarships, applicants must be a full-time student pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a formal program focused on cyber security at an approved institution, or be a research-based doctoral student. (Florida State is the only approved university in our state.) Applicants must also be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
In return for the scholarship, students must work in cybersecurity for a local, state or federal government office for a period equal to your scholarship grant. One academic year or less would require one calendar year of employment, for example. Many of the jobs would be in Washington, D.C., but participants must be willing to relocate. If you leave your job before the end of your term of service, you’d be required to pay back some of the grant funding.
Salaries will vary according to participant qualifications, but in general, new graduates would be appointed at the GS-7 level. Master’s degree recipients may be appointed at the GS-9 level, and those with doctorate degrees may be appointed at the GS-11 level.
Information security is one of the most critical needs of any government, so if you’ve considered the idea in the past, this may be the time to investigate a government career. You can find more about the program at sfs.opm.gov.
Candace Moody is vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida. Her column appears every Wednesday in the Times-Union, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.