Understanding Cyber-Security Career Pathways

While we often talk to kids about cyber security and the need to protect their personal online information, are we properly educating them about the possibilities of cyber-security careers and the skills and knowledge to obtain such jobs?

As we recognize National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the answer to that question is that there is a shortfall.  With so much discussion of STEM in the classroom, the focus is largely on science and math. The lucky students will get some form of technology instruction, while many will miss the opportunity.

Yet not a week goes by when we don’t see cyber security in the news and understand the need for student interest in the field. According to recent statistics, cyber-security jobs are expected to increase 18 percent by the year 2024, with median job pay of $90,000 per year. Yes, it is a growth industry, but it is not one that parents are discussing with their children.

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The Importance of Career Knowledge

We hear more often that students are beginning to consider career pathways at earlier and earlier ages. But as today’s students dream about their futures, it is essential that they have access to research-based knowledge of those career pathways.

Last year, educators from across the country worked with their students to gather valuable information on what today’s learners believe is most important when it comes to career knowledge. While the results may be surprising to some, they provide valuable insights on career aspirations of our students and how educators can help them achieve those goals.

The below info graphic, developed by the Student Research Foundation, provides just one piece of the information gained from the student perceptions data gathered by ERCA and its partners. In the coming weeks, we will share additional data points, information that can help all teachers better guide their students toward meaningful college and career paths.

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Building Pathway & Skills for the Future

To many the United States is still enjoying the Industrial Age, a time that began as we entered the 19th century. As the country shifted from the agrarian age, we say the introduction of the steam engine, the iron industry, and other such developments that signaled the shift in our economy and our American workforce.

Some see the current age, as we shift from an industrial economy to a digital, information society as a move from that Industrial Age. But as Klaus Schwaub, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum has written, we are actually entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR. It is a time identified with robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other advances that were considered part of the science fiction of the first through third Industrial Revolutions.

As we enter 4IR, one thing is clear. We need to prepare the students of both today and tomorrow in ways that were different from the past as we ready learners for the possibilities and the jobs of the future. When we moved from an agrarian to an industrial economy, we saw a major shift in education. In the U.S., the industrial age meant a free public education available to all students. It meant more and more individuals pursuing postsecondary education.   And it meant shifting from the skills needed for the farm to the skills needed for a factory.

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What Influences Student Career Choices?

We may think that a student’s college and career choices are largely decided based on the high school experience. But recent data from the Student Research Foundation tells a more complicated story.

As this infographic depicts, high school experiences rank sixth, from a longer list of items, when it comes to influences of career path decisions for today’s high school students.

What Influences Student Career Choices - Student Research Foundation

As we help our students and our own kids make important decisions regarding their futures, it is important we consider all of the influences impacting choices.  High school experiences are in the mix, along with other influences.

Jobs & College Degrees

Yes, some form of postsecondary education is important in today’s world and today’s economy. But as many continue to question the value of earning a four-year degree, it is equally important to understand the jobs that may be available to today’s – and tomorrow’s – high school graduates.

Over at Marketwatch, reporter Jillian Berman recently explored the 30 million or so jobs that are available without a four-year college degree. Berman found these jobs pay on average of $55,000 a year. And some of them may be surprising. Researchers are finding growth in areas such as:

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Spotlighting Students’ Readiness for #STEM

With more and more high schools emphasizing the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education for all of their students, an important issue has been raised. How does one effectively recognize those students who are excelling in STEM?

In Colorado and elsewhere, that question has been answered with an effort to add a STEM designation to high school diplomas. There, teachers came together to help better recognize those students who were meeting state benchmarks when it came to workforce readiness in technology and computing. So STEM seals were born.

But the idea comes with some controversy. As Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week recently reported:

STEM endorsements are still so new overall that there are few insights on how they will play out on the ground for students—and whether the new credentials will come to signify anything of value to employers or colleges.

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Is the College Degree Outdated?

Many in the education community speak of the importance of a postsecondary education for all of today’s learners, and rightfully so. As young people make the transition from school to career, there are many important lessons, skills, and experiences that postsecondary education provides.

It is important, though, to recognize that postsecondary education is not synonymous with a liberal arts college degree. As learners explore their interests and aptitudes and begin understanding the career pathways before them, a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts discipline isn’t necessarily the key to future success.

The Hechinger Report recently explored this topic, as reporter Laura Pappano asked the question, “Is the college degree outdated?” In her piece, Pappano explored how many of today’s young people are recognizing that microcredentials, career certificates, and other forms of measureable educational attainment can make all the difference when moving from the student body to the workforce.

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