Nearly one in five federal cybersecurity workers leave every year, a turnover rate that could be a barrier to the government’s efforts to strengthen cybersecurity, according to a new report from Burning Glass Technologies.
The new report, Securing a Nation: Improving Federal Cybersecurity Hiring in the United States, is the latest in a series of Burning Glass reports and websites exploring the job market for cybersecurity skills and talent, both in the United States and internationally.
In this latest report, Burning Glass used its database of more than 1 billion current and historical job postings, as well as more than 300 million career profiles, to examine what issues the federal government faces as it handles an unprecedented series of cyberattacks.
Key findings include:
- Turnover is a problem. The annual turnover rate for federal cybersecurity jobs is 18%, compared to 14% of all federal IT workers. Of all workers hired for cybersecurity jobs over the past five years, 27% left the federal government during their first year.
- Federal salaries can’t keep up with the private sector. On average, cybersecurity workers make 23% more in the private sector than in the federal government—although pay is comparable at the entry level.
- Federal jobs are less likely to request emerging skills, such as cloud security, than private sector employers—in fact private employers are 87% more likely to request these skills than the government. This not only makes the government less effective at countering emerging threats, it may also discourage workers from joining the government if they want to keep their skills current.
- Six in 10 private sector jobs require skills around developing security IT infrastructure, compared to only 27% of federal jobs. By contrast, federal jobs are more likely to focus on maintaining and managing current systems.
- The government is more likely to ask for a graduate degree: 14% of federal jobs request one compared to 4% in the private sector. On average, however, the federal government pays $17,000 less for the qualification, suggesting that the federal government will have difficulty competing with private sector salaries for workers with advanced degrees.
- On the other hand, the government has a significant advantage in that 46% of its cybersecurity jobs don’t require a college degree. By contrast, eight in 10 private sector jobs ask for a bachelor’s degree. That could give the government an edge in recruiting, because while graduates of cybersecurity degree programs have grown, demand for talent has grown even faster.
The report finds that the federal government has a number of options to improve its cybersecurity talent pipeline, many of which are already being deployed. For example, the report finds that if the government broadens its recruiting for core cybersecurity jobs to workers with any kind of transferrable cybersecurity experience, it can expand its recruiting pool by 267%. If the government considered all workers in computer and math occupations – many of whom would require additional, but usually not unreasonable training – it would expand the talent pool by more than 3,130%, while also making its talent pool more diverse.
The full report is available for download. You can also listen to a podcast interview with the report author, Will Markow, Burning Glass’s Managing Director for Human Capital and Emerging Technologies. For more information about the cybersecurity job market, including skills in demand and career pathways, you can also visit the Cyberseek.org website, a joint project of Burning Glass, CompTIA, and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.