The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Feds Hold Own in Hiring Infosec Pros

Private Employment Healthy; Not So Among States, Cities

Eight of 10 Americans employed as information security professionals in the United States work in the private sector, according to an Information Security Media Group analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Fourteen percent of IT security professionals work in the federal government with 4 percent and 3 percent employed by state and local governments, respectively (the numbers don't add up to 100 percent because of rounding).

The difference between the private sector and government IT security employment isn't as unbalanced as it first appears. While 20 percent of infosec pros work for governments, only 16 percent of the total workforce gets their salaries and wages from governments. That means there's a greater proportion of IT security workers in government when compared with entire government workforce.

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Many institutions - in and out of government - would hire more IT security professionals if they could be found. 

Where an imbalance does exist is between IT security pros working for the federal government versus those employed by state and local governments. The federal government employs about two-thirds of all government IT security pros whereas the federal government employs only 17 percent of all government workers.

In fact, the proportion of those working on government IT security projects is likely greater, considering a number of private-sector information security specialists work for government contractors.

These numbers make sense. Despite an expanding budget deficit, the federal government is hiring as many IT security specialists as it can, as employees or contractors, especially because many work for intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Department, which with its recently deployed Cyber Command is bolstering its IT security payroll. Also, the Department of Homeland Security is boosting IT security staffing.

Most state and local governments are in financial crisis mode, and finding additional money to hire IT security specialists is a luxury many of them can't afford.

Many institutions - in and out of government - would hire more IT security professionals if they could be found. According to our analysis of BLS data, there's virtually no unemployment among IT security pros, creating a dearth of IT security specialists (see Women, Minorities Scarce in IT Security Field).

A word of caution: The numbers we analyze come from BLS quarterly reports that estimate the employment in each occupation category, and because the sample size for each category is so small, they're not statistically reliable. That said, in the decade-plus I've been analyzing government IT employment data, I've found them to be indicative of the job market. The government has only been tracking information security analysts since the beginning of the year, so to increase the reliability of the data, we aggregated the first three quarters of data to reach my conclusions.

Also, the name of the BLS occupation category we analyzed is information security analyst, but the roles defined in that category encompass much of the IT security profession.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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