Digital World Results in New Career Paths


Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD


Twenty years ago, we were skeptical about even making a purchase on a computer, but today we store payment information, passwords and a wealth of personal information on laptops, phones and “in the cloud.” Hackers make fortunes stealing this information, and cybersecurity has become essential to prevent this from happening.

October is Cybersecurity Month, so this is the perfect time to address how cybersecurity connects with STEM. In short, cybersecurity is a critical skill set for today’s STEM students to develop.

On average, a cyberattack costs a small company around $200,000 and a malware attack around $2.4 million. To get ahead of this, most companies are increasing cybersecurity efforts, adding qualified cybersecurity staff and purchasing preventative software.

Recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, chaired by Congressman Bennie Thompson, has launched an entire initiative devoted to helping today’s students prepare for these careers. They will only continue to become more and more necessary. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies provides resources for both companies and educators.

One of the cybersecurity careers that may intrigue students is white hat hacking. This highly sought after skill involves hacking systems so companies can use that knowledge to improve protection against an attack. This ties in perfectly with the curious and inventive nature of STEM students.

Cybersecurity also intersects with most emerging technologies. In the STEMcast Podcast episode with Dr. Lanier Watkins, he shares how ethical hacking students at Johns Hopkins University have delved into hacking drones. This will be another critical job of the future, as more e-commerce companies explore delivery services using drones.

Even if a student does not want to pursue a career in cybersecurity, having at least basic knowledge on the topic can be useful in many other career roles. For example, a marketing manager requires a secure environment for storing design files or photos. An accounting professional must store client records and financial information in a secure environment.  Along with other digital careers in areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity will be one of the most highly sought after job types companies are longing to fill. It is important that our schools integrate teaching about cybersecurity and related careers to prepare them for the future of work.  A cyberattack across any business sector can be far reaching within a company and very costly. 

If you are a high school level educator looking to engage your students in cybersecurity, be sure to check out the Computer Programming Curriculum for this school year’s C-STEM Challenge Day.

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