Meet the Atlanta Cyber Week Influencers: Kennesaw State University’s Herbert Mattord on the Cybersecurity Industry’s Decline in Experienced Professionals

by Herbert Mattord, Ph.D.

The field of cybersecurity is facing a significant shortfall in the number of experienced professionals. Organizations are finding it useful to hire entry-level staff from academic programs that produce cybersecurity graduates. Until recently, most of these programs were producing graduates with advanced degrees above the bachelor’s level. Master’s degrees from computer science, information systems or interdisciplinary programs often command significant starting salaries. In the past decade, undergraduate programs have begun to deliver bachelor’s degree holders from a variety of disciplines including computer science, information technology and information systems. Newer programs are producing security-related graduates from fields that might be named cybersecurity, information security or information assurance.

What cybersecurity do you need?

An assessment of industry preferences for entry-level cybersecurity professionals examined industry-wide technical cybersecurity competencies found that technology skills still top the list of in-demand skills, followed by information assurance skills – those associated with security administration, such as configuration and change management and software assurance. The next set of skills ranked by the survey were those of incident detection and incident response, followed by risk management skills.

Recent research suggests that, at least for entry-level security professionals, security technology implementation and administration skills are still the most sought after. While the predominantly managerial skills were ranked lower than technical skills, the survey found the responses so tightly grouped that it appears organizations need a variety of skills, but that their most pressing need was for the addition and management of technical security controls and safeguards to defend against the threats to information assets.

How will you staff your security team?

When your organization is next faced with staffing a position in Cybersecurity, you may find that you will have to take a flexible approach, looking across the options for experienced and entry-level staff. The entry-level recruiting should consider all of the options available. Colleges and universities are implementing security-focused programs of study to deliver graduates at the bachelor and master levels from the computing disciplines, as well as specialized on security topics.

For example, Kennesaw State University now offers security-focused bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity (the B.S. in cybersecurity) and Information Security and Assurance (the BBA in ISA). In addition, KSU students at the graduate level can earn a graduate certificate in IT security or information security and assurance, minors in ISA or cybersecurity, or a B.S. in information technology with a concentration in information security. Other academic institutions also offer security related programs of study.

If your organization does not have an entry-level recruiting program in place to meet your information/cybersecurity needs, it may be time to explore internship and cooperative studies along with entry-level recruiting to help meet your information security needs.

Get involved with Atlanta Cyber Week

Representatives from several Georgia universities will be engaged in Atlanta Cyber Week sessions, exploring how current and planned academic programs can improve the cybersecurity workforce in the state and the region. We look forward to hearing from you at these events.

Want to learn more about Atlanta’s cybersecurity ecosystem? Join us October 2-6, 2017 for a Atlanta Cyber Week. For more information on the events of Atlanta Cyber Week visit