Report finds D.C. area a hotbed for cybersecurity jobs

For evidence of the boom in cybersecurity jobs in the Washington region, one could simply take a drive up Interstate 95 toward Fort Meade, Md. The crop of upscale apartments and restaurants make clear that white-collar professionals are moving into the area as it is being remade into the federal government’s hub for cybersecurity work.

And an analysis from Burning Glass Technologies shows how much appetite there is in the region for workers with this skill set.

Burning Glass conducts daily reviews of job postings across 32,000 online sites. In a report released last week, the company said that the Washington metropolitan area had more than 23,000 job postings for cybersecurity positions in 2013, a figure that far surpasses the number of such postings in any other region. New York had the second-highest number with just over 15,000. The San Francisco-San Jose metro area, which includes Silicon Valley, had more than 12,000.

Burning Glass also crunched the data on a state-by-state basis. Virginia ranks second and Maryland ranks sixth. But perhaps even more notable is how those states fare when it comes to their ratio of these jobs to residents. With 25.1 postings per 10,000 residents, Virginia’s ratio is dramatically higher than any other state’s. Maryland’s ratio, 18.1 postings per 10,000 residents, is the second highest.

Matt Sigelman, chief executive of Burning Glass, said that the abundance of openings in the Washington region may in part be a result of the unique requirements for cybersecurity positions in the federal government and contracting industry. Sigelman said that 56 percent of those jobs in the contracting industry require a
CISSP, a certification for information security professionals. Outside the contracting industry, Sigelman said, most companies think of that as “nice to have” rather than a requisite. Only 34 percent of companies outside the contracting world sought a CISSP.


The growth in Fort Meade and the arrival of Cyber Command is rapidly reshaping the surrounding area. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

And because CISSP certification requires four years of full-time security work, Sigelman said, companies and universities can’t fast-track anyone.

“The professional services firms that are so core to the D.C. economy, this means really starting to take a long view of sourcing” talent, Sigelman said.

Hiring for cybersecurity jobs in the federal government or contracting sectors can come with another unique hurdle: Many of the positions require a security clearance. Jenessa Hoffman, president of Arlington-based Potomac Recruiting, said this narrows the pool of candidates.

“It’s always challenging to source candidates that have specific types of clearances and specific types of experiences, but it did get more difficult in the last half of 2013,” she said.

To compete for these candidates, local recruiter Kathy Lavinder said she’s finding that employers are willing to be more flexible to accommodate employees. Lavinder, who specializes in information security recruiting and is executive director of Bethesda-based SI Placement, said her clients have been more willing to offer alternative work schedules or the chance to work from a different office location in order to land a qualified employee.

“It’s going to be a while before the demand for this talent is in a better state of equilibrium, and we’re not there yet and we’re not close to being there yet,” Lavinder said.

Burning Glass found that the largest share of cyber-job postings nationwide came from companies in the professional services sector. The next largest share came from the manufacturing and defense sector, followed by the finance and insurance sector.

Some of Burning Glass’s other findings illustrate how competitive it is for companies to find workers who have the right skills. The researchers found that cybersecurity jobs took 36 percent longer to fill, and cybersecurity workers are more highly compensated. The average salary for all IT job postings was $77,642, while the average salary for a cybersecurity posting was $93,028.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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