Blog Post

Be Curious and Experiment: Sparking Student Interest in a Cybersecurity Career

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States promising job security, ample opportunities for career advancement, and an exciting and dynamic workplace as the good gals (wink) try to keep up with the bad guys (wink wink) in increasingly creative and mischievous ways.

IMAGE SOURCES: Survey says! These are the hottest security certifications, most in-demand skills (Cybrary);
How to become a hacker (;Why the US Needs More Cyber Security Professionals (Norwich University);
So You Want to Work in Cybersecurity (; Hacker Hunters In-Demand (Visually)

For instance, demand for information security analysts, a common entry point for cybersecurity professionals, is projected to grow by 18% by 2024 with the federal government and the healthcare industry among the top prospective employers. Compensation for such analysts is competitive and enticing with median annual earnings in excess of $90,000.1 But domestic and global demand for cybersecurity professionals currently exceeds supply. This skills shortage of over 200,000 jobs has left thousands of companies—and therefore, all of us—vulnerable to evermore virulent cyber attacks.

Should You Encourage Your Students to Consider a Career in Cybersecurity?

Encouraging cybersecurity training is a moral imperative to some educators such as this teaching team at Sylvandale Middle School in San Jose, California:

What Does it Take to Pursue a Career in Cybersecurity?

If you share the belief that computing educators should raise awareness about a cybersecurity career, communicating what your students ought to do to prepare themselves is a natural next step. One simple source of information is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. For each occupation referenced in the publication, the handbook discusses what’s needed to earn a position in the field. For example, to become an information security analyst, the handbook suggests that a job candidate minimally earn a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, gain work experience in information technology (e.g., a network or systems administrator), and obtain an information security certification to seal the deal.2

Another source is the experience of individuals thriving in the field. Professionals attending a recent hacking conference suggested curiosity and experimentation in this video. After all, although technical certifications are typically needed to thrive in the field, many cybersecurity professionals are self-taught:

Only 3% of Bachelor’s Degrees are Awarded in Computer Science

Understanding what it takes to enter the cybersecurity workforce is one matter. Inspiring interest in the field is another. It’s a considerable hurdle considering that despite the demand for computer science professionals, students are not obtaining computer science degrees in sufficiently high numbers to meet current and future government and industry needs. Of the 1,869,814 bachelor's degrees conferred in 2013–14, computer science was not among the top ten majors. The majority of degrees were awarded in business (358,079), health professions and related programs (198,770), social sciences and history (173,096), psychology (117,298), the biological and biomedical sciences (104,633), and education (98,854).3 Comparatively, institutions conferred just 55,367 bachelor’s degrees in computer science representing 3% of bachelor’s degrees awarded by US institutions.4 Did I mention that over 200,000 cybersecurity jobs have gone unfilled?

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics,
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall 2000 through Fall 2014, Completions component.

Videos to Spur Student Curiosity and Experimentation

With the challenge of encouraging the pursuit of a postsecondary degree in computer science in mind, perhaps computing educators should also heed the advice of cybersecurity professionals—to be curious and experiment…with your instructional strategies. To catalyze curiosity and encourage introspection, video discussions are one of my favorite instructional approaches when introducing a new topic to young and young-at-heart learners alike. This YouTube playlist compiles videos that you can share with your students to provoke critical and compelling conversations about our individual and collective roles and responsibilities—as citizens and potentially, as cybersecurity professionals—to enable a more secure cyberspace.

IMAGE SOURCE: Cybersecurity Lab

  • Cybersecurity 101 (NOVA PBS Official). The Internet is fundamentally insecure. However, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself and your information. Learn what they are in NOVA’s Cybersecurity Lab.
  • Cyber Codes (NOVA PBS Official). Do you trust the security of your email, text messages, and browser history? Learn how trustworthy online communication actually is and how encryption can protect your privacy. Sometimes.
  • The Secret Lives of Hackers (NOVA PBS Official). Hackers may not be who we think they are. In fact, you might be a hacker and not even know it. Learn the true meaning of hacking and some of the many reasons that hackers hack.
  • A Cyber Privacy Parable (NOVA PBS Official). Follow the trials and tribulations of Tim as a seemingly innocent piece of digital information threatens to ruin his life when it falls into the wrong hands.
  • Training Future Cybersecurity Warriors (CBS Sunday Morning). The first line of defense in the "terrifyingly normal" business of hacker attacks may come from Alabama high school students trained in the increasingly vital field of cybersecurity. David Pogue of Yahoo Tech reports on how the nation is dealing with the dangers from cyber threats.
  • The Internet: Cybersecurity & Crime ( Google Security Princess Parisa Tabriz and Jenny Martin from Symantec introduce the most common types of cybercrime including viruses, malware, DDOS attacks and phishing scams. 
  • Edward Snowden on Cyber Attacks (NOVA). The former NSA contractor sat down with NOVA to discuss the future of cyber warfare. 
  • Hackers: The Internet's Immune System (TedX). The beauty of hackers, says cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari, is that they force us to evolve and improve. Yes, some hackers are bad guys, but many are working to fight government corruption and advocate for our rights. Elazari argues that by exposing vulnerabilities, hackers push the Internet to become stronger and healthier, wielding their power to create a better world.
  • The Cyber Crimes You Never Hear About (Smithsonian Channel). Financial institutions go to great lengths to protect themselves against cyber attacks, but as in Live Free or Die Hard, very little stops these elite hackers.
  • Watch Hackers Break into the US Power Grid (Tech Insider). A power company in the Midwest hired a group of white hat hackers known as RedTeam Security to test its defenses. This video follows shadows them for 3 days as they attempted to break into buildings and hack into its network with the goal of gaining full access.
  • How It Works: Mobile Security (IBM Think Academy). As mobile technology becomes more advanced, so do the security attacks of those who want to exploit mobile technology, creating a multitude of troubling scenarios.
  • How it Works: Cloud Security (IBM Think Academy). Data is shifting rapidly to the cloud and hackers are constantly looking to breach these valuable data sources. Take a look at one scenario that illustrates the importance of security on the cloud. 
  • How Hackers Steal Your ID (BBC Panorama). Hackers have stolen the personal details of millions of customers from companies like Talk Talk. So how do cybercriminals get hold of our data? Reporter Daniel Foggo meets the hackers who can break into any website and finds out how criminals profit from our information.
  • IBM Films Presents: Hacked (IBM Security). When it comes to identifying and remediating breaches, time is of the essence. Organizations need to fix problems in minutes before they become major business disruptions.
  • Unlocking L.A.’s Traffic Grid: Phreaked Out (Episode 1) (Motherboard). A retrospective look at one day in August of 2006, when two Los Angeles traffic engineers, Kartik Patel and Gabriel Murillo, remotely accessed the city's traffic control system and tampered with the light sequences at four main intersections of the city, as part of a labor union protest. 
  • How to Hack a Car: Phreaked Out (Episode 2) (Motherboard). In this episode of "Phreaked Out," top security researchers at the center of the car hacking world highlight security holes in order to highlight flaws in car technology, intended to pressure auto manufacturers to be a few steps ahead of their friendly foes. 
  • All the Ways to Hack Your Phone: Phreaked Out (Episode 3) (Motherboard). This episode explores real-time phone hacks to tackle the question of mobile phone security.
  • Hacking Passports and Credit Cards with Major Malfunction (Motherboard). Anything with a chip in it is vulnerable to attack. Your contactless credit card, your office key card, your passport—as more processes become automated, more opportunities open up to hackers.
  • How Hackers Could Wirelessly Bug Your Office (Motherboard). You think about securing your laptop, but what about your desk phone, monitor, or printer? White Hat hacker, Ang Cui, shows us how he can turn an office phone or printer into a bugging device—without the hacker ever having to go near the device.
  • Top Hacker Shows Us How It’s Done (TedxMidwest). You think your wireless and other technology is safe? From Blue Tooth to automobile remotes, PCs, and "secure" credit cards, Hacker extraordinaire, Pablos Holman, shows how nearly every secure system is vulnerable. 
  • Watch This Hacker Break Into a Company (CNNMoney). Social engineers, or people hackers, specialize in getting you to share information you shouldn't -- like personal details that could lead to a password being stolen.


Dr. Lauren Amos is Associate Director for Research and Evaluation at the Manhattan Strategy Group where she specializes in the study of teaching, learning and interventions designed to increase access to STEM education and other academic opportunities for underrepresented minority, economically disadvantaged, and incarcerated students across the K‐ 16 continuum. Her teaching background includes middle school computer science and humanities, K-8 computer literacy, and postsecondary web and database development. She has conducted professional development workshops on computer-supported project-based learning environments and has authored various humanities and social studies curricula that integrate the use of technology such as agent-based modeling environments to support inquiry-based teaching at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels.






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Submitted by Richard Hudnut on Fri, 03/10/2017 - 10:32

My AFJROTC program instructor came to me and asked me to be a coach for the CyperPatriot program.  It is free to all ROTC programs through the Air Force Association.  It is really worth the time to see students learning how to secure and harden a sample computer image against intrusion.  We need more of this type of activity.