After serving in the military, many veterans face a daunting decision – what career should you take up now that you’re a civilian? There are many choices that veterans can make, with common ones including police or security work, public service careers, and technology sector jobs. Your choice of career after leaving the military should, of course, be based upon your skills, talent, personality, experience and job preferences.
OwlGuru.com, a site that explores a myriad of careers, offers a free online career quiz to determine if becoming an Information Security Analyst might be the right choice for you. Regardless of how you score on this quiz, however, working in cybersecurity can be the perfect solution for those who are well-organized problem-solvers and enjoy critical thinking.
Currently, there are over 370,000 unemployed veterans in the United States. Over 200,000 members of the U.S. military transition from active-duty positions to civilian life each year, per the U.S. Department of Defense. This means that 1300 new veterans are returning to civilian life every day, often without a clear plan of what to do next.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, the annual mean wage for information security analysts working nationwide as of May 2019 was $104,210. This is an excellent salary for a job that you can often enter with an associate degree or certificate!
Additionally, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is overwhelming and will continue to grow. Burning Glass found that the number of cybersecurity job listings has increased by 94 percent in just six years! Cybersecurity jobs account for 13 percent of all information technology jobs, yet they have grown in demand by 300 percent, compared to the overall information technology market!
The pool of trained cybersecurity talent still is not sufficient to meet the demand of businesses hiring for cybersecurity jobs. This, of course, drives the pay rates for these jobs up. Clearly, if you have an interest in information technology, cybersecurity could be the perfect field for you!
Why Cybersecurity for Veterans?
Cybersecurity is a well-recognized field for veterans to explore. This is especially apparent through the publication of the 2017 manual, launched by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Cybersecurity Training and Education for Veterans: A User Guide for Those Who Formerly Served in the U.S. Armed Forces.” Their guide is designed to make the transition from the military to civilian life easier for veterans by providing them with cybersecurity training and education resources. It offers some free training and scholarship opportunities for veterans interested in cybersecurity as well (which we will explore further below).
If you are a veteran, you might be asking yourself, “Why might cybersecurity be the perfect field for me?” There are a few reasons why you, a veteran, could be more well-suited for a cybersecurity career than others without military experience:
- As a veteran, you have likely been exposed to security procedures in the military
- You most likely have undergone training to meet challenges in a systematic, timely manner
- You have the ability to make quick decisions in dynamic situations
- You can quickly process information to make security decisions
- You are an expert in maintaining situational awareness
- You might already have acquired a security clearance during your military service, which can be quite beneficial to you in applying for federal cybersecurity positions
- You have a passion for defending your country and can now put that passion to work in defending it from cyberspace
Cybersecurity Jobs for Veterans
Cybersecurity jobs exist in both the public and private sectors. When searching for cybersecurity jobs, you might notice that some listings note “military veterans preferred.” Many of these jobs involve working with companies that are independent defense contractors, and therefore require security clearances that you might already possess.
Government Cybersecurity Positions for Veterans
Examples of government agencies that employ cybersecurity professionals and might be more willing to hire veterans, who already have experience working for the government, include (but are not limited to):
- Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- National Security Agency (NSA)
Private Sector Cybersecurity Positions for Veterans
Many private sector cybersecurity companies prefer to hire veterans – not only because they may already have security clearance, but also because they might be run by veterans themselves. Some private sector companies waive degree requirements for cybersecurity positions for veterans, recognizing that their learned skills and experience are far more valuable than a degree. Examples of a few cybersecurity companies known to hire veterans include:
- Control Risks – this company specializes in cyber, operational, maritime and travel security and operates in more than 150 companies.
- G4S– this integrated security solutions company operates worldwide and was recently named Veteran Friendly Employer of the Year by American Veterans, as well as Patriotic Employer by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
- Proficio, Inc. – this managed security services provider says that one-quarter of its current employees are veterans. It is currently recruiting veterans for cybersecurity positions. It also waives the degree requirement for veterans.
- Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC)– this company waives degree requirements for veterans in cybersecurity positions
- IBM– a longtime proponent of veterans in cybersecurity positions, IBM also waives degree requirements for them. They even provide training for veterans in cybersecurity at a variety of locations nationwide.
Training for Veterans Switching to Cybersecurity
As of 2019, per the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of new cybersecurity programs at American colleges and universities has increased by 33 percent.
Information technology companies and vendors have begun training programs and initiatives for veterans to train for cybersecurity positions. A large amount of such programs exist now, including (but not limited to):
- IBM Veterans Employment Initiative –this unique and innovative program provides software training, certification and job placement assistance to veterans pursuing careers in cybersecurity and data analysis.
- Cisco Military and Veterans Program– Cisco offers training programs and career opportunities for those transitioning from military service to civilian life, military veterans, and their spouses.
- Fortinet FortiVet Program – providing veterans with free cybersecurity training courses, Fortinet’s FortiVet Program is a self-paced program that is free for veterans until at least the end of 2020.
- NetApp’s Learning Services – provides free training for veterans to manage NetAPP Storage Systems and become NCSA certified.
- DHS’s Federal Virtual Training Environment – provides veterans with free online training in cybersecurity
- CyberVet – this is a fully-funded, tuition-free IT training and career transition program designed for veterans without any IT or coding background
- Institute for Veterans and Military Families– this institute offers a variety of IT-related training programs to prepare vets and their families for jobs ranging from Entry-Level IT Technician to Information Systems Security Certified Professional
- Hire Heroes USA– this program provides free job search assistance for veterans and their families and helps to connect relevant companies with them
- SANS Institute VetSuccess Academy– this training program for transitioning service members not more than six months from separation and less than 10 years out of military services offers up to three SANS courses and industry certifications free of charge
Financial Assistance for Veterans Switching to Cybersecurity
Even with free or low-cost training programs in cybersecurity, many veterans find themselves in need of financial assistance to be able to make the switch from a military career to a cybersecurity career. This is especially true if you are looking to attain an undergraduate or graduate degree. The GI Bill can be a big help in this area. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a GI Bill Comparison Tool to help veterans learn about benefits and education programs offered by various schools.
Another program designed for veterans is the Information Assurance Scholarship Program, by the Department of the Navy. This scholarship allows non-Department of Defense students, as well as Department of Defense students, to pursue cybersecurity education at selected schools.
The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, a program of the National Science Foundation, gives grants to eligible students in return for them agreeing to work for the federal, state, local or tribal government.
More Support for Veterans in Cybersecurity
Veterans do not only need financial and educational support when turning to a career in cybersecurity. They often need social support, with ongoing encouragement and training opportunities. A few examples of organizations providing such support are:
- Veteran Security (VetSec)- this organization helps veterans in information technology network with other veterans in IT and cybersecurity.
- Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center – based in Colorado Springs, this organization provides social, housing, financial and emotional support for veterans
- Women in CyberSecurity Veterans Program – new program by the nonprofit organization Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS) focuses on getting women veterans into cybersecurity. Resources include career training, professional development, mentorship and a support system.
A recent report by Fortinet noted that veterans are still an under-tapped resource for cybersecurity companies, with just 57 percent of cybersecurity teams in the U.S. having hired at least one veteran. This shows that there are still many possibilities existing within cybersecurity for veterans. If you have recently left the military, or soon will, and are unsure what to do with your life, consider exploring the field of cybersecurity. There are many different reasons why a cybersecurity career could be the perfect fit for you. Expanded training opportunities have made it easier than ever for veterans to embark on an exciting career in information security!