October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and this year comes bearing gifts: the release of ISACA’s newest cybersecurity certificate. According to Help Net Security, the Cybersecurity Fundamentals Certificate is aimed at university students, recent graduates and those just entering the information technology (IT) industry. Ideally, this certification could go a long way toward bridging the gap between security talent and corporate need.

Tough Times

As noted by a recent Government Technology article, there is an IT skills gap emerging at both the state and federal level. Already, 300,000 cybersecurity jobs are vacant in the United States, and government agencies luring new talent face a daunting challenge thanks to salaries that run 20 percent below the average market rate. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security rolled out its National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) in an effort to streamline the path from school to the workforce. However, it’s been slow-moving so far.

Part of the problem faced by state departments and corporate IT is identifying skilled talent. With salaries skyrocketing as companies see breach after breach and bug after bug penetrate even well-defended systems, there’s a real need to find IT professionals who aren’t just interested in security but also have the skills to justify the salary.

That’s where ISACA comes in. While the training firm offers a range of certifications for more experienced professionals, the new fundamentals certificate taps into the growing market of post-grads who don’t have any real-world experience but need some kind of credibility. The new ISACA certification is entirely knowledge-based, proctored via webcam, and tests for competency in the five following areas:

  • Basic cybersecurity concepts
  • Cybersecurity architecture
  • Security of networks, applications and data
  • Incident response
  • Security of evolving technology

According to Robert E. Stroud, international president of ISACA, the certificate “helps organizations quickly identify candidates with a foundational level of cybersecurity knowledge, while helping the most qualified job seekers distinguish themselves.”

The Big Picture

ISACA isn’t the only game in town, however: NICCS has identified a number of providers that offer essential certifications for entry or promotion in the cybersecurity career field. For example, the CERT Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University lists courses in secure coding, applied cybersecurity forensics and secure software assurance, while offerings from CompTIA’s Security+ are approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. ISACA, however, is among the first to focus on graduates with high-value technical skills but limited knowledge of industry methods. Most other security training certifications recommend a minimum of two years’ work experience before attempting the exam.

The demand for IT security professionals is growing at more than double the rate of the IT sector at large. While companies are eager to hire the best and brightest, a degree doesn’t guarantee success in the fast-paced and often frenetic world of corporate network defense, threat analysis and response. The new ISACA effort looks to give companies a leg up by providing a unified starting point. If prospective employees handle the Cybersecurity Fundamentals challenge with ease, they’re likely candidates to help bridge the cybersecurity talent gap.

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