The Parent Trap: Lack of Knowledge Holds Children Back from Cybersecurity Careers

Parents can play an influential role in their children’s choice of careers but when it comes to cybersecurity, most parents have no advice to give. That’s because they really don’t know much, if anything, about the subject.

A survey by cybersecurity training provider SANS Institute revealed that 63% of parents in the U.K. can’t answer questions about how to find a job in the cybersecurity field. Almost as many parents (61%) said they have little or no knowledge of any career opportunities in the industry, even though 91% said they have heard of cybersecurity.

And despite the high earning potential of cybersecurity careers, 72% of parents said they’ve never considered a career in the field for their children. This lack of knowledge among parents is troubling considering the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region currently has a 142,000 shortage of cybersecurity workers, based on (ISC)² research. If children aren’t receiving advice to consider a cybersecurity career, this lowers the prospect of closing the gap any time soon.

“These findings should be seen as a wakeup call to the cybersecurity industry that it needs to do more to promote itself,” said James Lyne, CTO, SANS Institute. “The only people who can really spread that message are those working in the industry already – it’s another way to help close the skills gap we are currently suffering.”

Cyber Misconceptions

While parental knowledge of cyber careers is seriously lacking, there seems to be more awareness of IT careers. More than a quarter of survey participants (27%) said IT is one of the top five career choices for their eldest child, an indication that parents understand the career potential in the overall IT field.

Interestingly, 69% of parents indicated they thought cybersecurity is taught in school, and 87% said they would like their children to learn about cybersecurity as part of the curriculum and in extracurricular activities.

These findings are evidence that if parents aren’t advising their children to pursue cybersecurity career opportunities, it isn’t out of prejudice against the field. Rather, it’s because they really don’t know enough about it and, given the choice, they want their children to learn more about the subject.

Signs of Hope

On a positive note, the SANS Institute also polled U.K. students and found 46% of them have heard of cybersecurity from their parents. With a little more knowledge among parents, it is likely that interest in cyber careers would get a boost.

To achieve that, as Lyne suggested, the industry has some work to do. Collaboration with schools in raising cybersecurity awareness and education among students and parents would be a step in the right direction. Such efforts may take time, but are definitely worth considering. The alternative is the continuation of the cybersecurity skills gap well into the future.

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