Cybersecurity Workers Shouldn’t Need College Degrees, DeVos Says

July 15, 2019, 8:07 PM

Cybersecurity jobs should be open to people with nontraditional educations, including those without a four-year college degree, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said at a government cybersecurity training program graduation.

“Every student in the United States needs the freedom to pursue their own education in ways and in places that work for them,” DeVos said July 15 in prepared remarks for a ceremony at the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy, which trains federal employees in data security skills.

DeVos’ comments come as the cybersecurity industry struggles to fill positions and Democratic and Republican lawmakers advocate for more apprenticeship programs—which don’t require a college degree—to train workers to fill that gap.

There are nearly 315,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions in the U.S., according to CyberSeek jobs data from 2017 and 2018. About 40% of those jobs could be filled by people without a bachelor’s degree, New America, a public-policy think tank, said in a November 2018 report.

Large companies such as IBM Corp. already are offering cybersecurity work to applicants without college degrees or a background in security, according to company recruiting pages.

“On a broad spectrum, our experience has been that companies are more receptive to people without college degrees if they have high competency and can get through the rigor of learning the work,” Jennifer Carlson, executive director of Apprenti, said. Apprenti is a nonprofit apprenticeship program that partners with tech companies and government entities such as the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Apprenticeship Measure

Lawmakers are also trying to pass legislation to help fill the cybersecurity gap.

The Cyber Ready Workforce Act, which proposes greater investment in cybersecurity apprenticeship programs, has bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The act would increase and expand the grants that the Department of Labor can give to create apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) introduced the bill May 14 in the Senate and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is a co-sponsor, while Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced a parallel bill in the House, which has three Republicans and 10 Democrats as co-sponsors. Neither bill has advanced.

“I’m hopeful to work with the administration to get this legislation signed into law, and I’m glad to see there’s a bipartisan consensus to expand a path to the middle class beyond a traditional four-year degree,” Lee said in an email.

Another co-sponsor, Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), said practice and experience, not necessarily a classroom education, can lead to expertise.

“College is not the only path towards a successful career,” he said in an email, adding that “each student should strive towards that goal in the way that best suits their career development.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Kramer in Washington at akramer2@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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