Changing career to cybersecurity? Here are the programmes you should know about

The cybersecurity industry faces a global shortage of 4 million workers.

The cybersecurity industry faces a global shortage of 4 million workers. Image: REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

Ina Steyn
Head, Security Education & Awareness, Absa Group
Natasa Perucica
Research and Analysis Specialist, Cybersecurity Industry Solutions, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Cybersecurity is now a critical function of nearly every organization, big or small, public or private.
  • But globally, we face a 4-million-person cybersecurity professional shortage.
  • For those who want to enter this lucrative field, there is a growing number of organizations offering training to enter the industry.

The ever-evolving nature of the cyber landscape means the demand for cybersecurity professionals has reached unprecedented heights — the industry faces a global shortage of nearly four million workers. This growing demand, driven by the need to protect sensitive information and infrastructure, is outpacing the available supply of skilled talent in the field. And it is worse in some places than others.

In South Africa, for example, 40% of companies struggle to hire and retain cybersecurity talent, and 64% agree that the shortage of cybersecurity skills creates additional cyber risks for organizations. Similar challenges are found across Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.

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Why choose a career in cybersecurity

While the shortage of cybersecurity talent presents a significant challenge for organizations across the public and private sector, it also offers an opportunity for individuals to pursue a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. According to a 2019 job satisfaction survey, 78% of respondents already working in the industry would recommend a career in cybersecurity.

The growing demand for cybersecurity experts has led to ample job opportunities and competitive salaries. In fact, compensation and financial benefits are often cited as the key reasons why cybersecurity professionals choose to join an organization.

As a discipline that impacts almost every aspect of our technology-driven world today, cybersecurity professionals can find positions in various industries, ranging from finance to healthcare to technology and beyond, and can specialize in domains such as incident response and risk management. Moreover, with 64% of organizations providing opportunities for professional development training in cybersecurity, the industry offers prospects for career growth and advancement.

Today, cybersecurity professionals play a vital role in protecting businesses and organizations from cyberattacks and other malicious activities, ensuring the continuity and security of digital operations. Those who choose to enter this field have the chance to make a meaningful impact on the digital world, protecting it from cyber threats.

That said, it can be challenging for some people to enter the field, particularly those facing barriers such as limited access to education and resources. Women are particularly underrepresented — just 24% of cybersecurity professionals aged 30-38 are women. For those aged 39-49 that figure drops to just 13%.


How is the Forum tackling global cybersecurity challenges?

Programmes to re-train as a cybersecurity professional

To create career paths and help people acquire the in-demand cybersecurity skills sought out by employers, organizations have already begun offering diverse learning opportunities. For instance, the Cybersecurity Learning Hub, led by Salesforce with support from Fortinet, the Global Cyber Alliance and the World Economic Forum, offers free and globally accessible cybersecurity training. Having trained more than 1.16 million individuals spread across all continents, the platform aims to democratize access to cybersecurity careers and open avenues to those who may not be able to afford costly training or certifications often required for a career in cybersecurity.

To empower underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, a number of other educational programmes equip individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the field, including hands-on training and practical experience. For example, in 2021, the International Telecommunications Union established the Women in Cyber Mentorship (WiC) Programme, intended to “tackle the cultural and systemic barriers that prevent broader inclusion of women in cybersecurity, while working to equip them with the necessary skillset to enter and thrive in the field”.

Other initiatives include the US 120-day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint, established to meet industry’s need for talent and to connect underserved communities to good jobs in cybersecurity.

However, teaching technical skills alone will not help prepare individuals, particularly those from underrepresented or disadvantaged communities, for the corporate world in which cybersecurity sits.

Organizations should, therefore, focus on the development of whole human beings equipped with essential life skills such as problem-solving, time management and critical thinking skills.

A case study from Absa Group

To bridge the scarce cyber skills gap while empowering marginalized South African youth to become cyber professionals, Absa Group, in partnership with the Maharishi Invincibility Institute, established the Cybersecurity Academy in 2019. Beyond tackling the skills shortage, the Academy also aims to bolster employment in the country — a key challenge, given that in the second quarter of 2023, unemployment in South Africa stood at 32.6%, with youth unemployment in 2022 over 50%.

The Academy’s three-year training programme focuses on various cybersecurity skills needed, locally and globally, and covers a total of 17 critical roles in cybersecurity.

The programme fosters consciousness-based education that not only encompasses technical awareness and education, but also creates social awareness of cyberthreats that exist in the formal and public sectors, as well as the informal and private sectors.

Beyond cybersecurity, through internship and job placement opportunities, the programme helps people build up the intangible skills and knowledge to prepare them for the professional world.

By acquiring the hard skills and intangible knowledge needed to thrive in the world of work, individuals can not only secure our digital world, but also secure their own financial future.

As the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow, those who choose a path in cyber can look forward to rewarding careers, competitive salaries and the chance to make a meaningful impact on our interconnected world.

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