Government Cybersecurity Careers

Government Cybersecurity Careers

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Are you interested in pursuing a technology-focused career with the government? Do you see yourself working with the latest computer technologies to protect sensitive information against cyberattacks? A government cybersecurity job may be an excellent fit.

Professionals in government cybersecurity positions enjoy competitive pay, job security, and growth opportunities. Cybersecurity positions like information security analysts earn a median annual wage of $103,590. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 33% growth in information security analyst positions between 2020-2030.

This guide explores how to obtain cybersecurity jobs in government. We also cover popular cybersecurity positions at the federal, state, and local levels.

Cybersecurity and the Government Landscape

The Morris Worm of 1988, widely considered to be the first denial of service computer attack, led to the first computer emergency response team (CERT). Created by Carnegie Mellon University, CERT developed strategic defensive responses to malicious attacks that still influence cyber defense today.

Significantly increasing cyberthreats and high-profile data breaches place cybersecurity professionals in high demand. As hackers and cybercriminals develop new attack methods, government and private-sector cybersecurity professionals must adapt to the latest technologies for safeguarding information.

The need for training professionals against cyberthreats continues to grow. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) actively recruits cybersecurity professionals, ramping up both recruiting and training among rural communities and diverse populations throughout 2021. 

The Department of Homeland Security also launched a new hiring program for government cybersecurity jobs in government in November 2021.

Government Branches That Depend on Cybersecurity

As online technologies and cyberthreats become more sophisticated, the government needs cybersecurity professionals to safeguard documents and computer networks. While each role is different, entry-level government cybersecurity jobs require at least a bachelor's degree and related work experience.

Some government agencies prefer to outsource cybersecurity operations to the private sector. In other words, job-seekers may encounter positions with government entities that are actually operated by an outside organization rather than in-house.

Below are some of the federal agencies and departments that employ professionals in government cybersecurity jobs. This is not an exhaustive list.

Federal Agencies

  • Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA creates and enforces environmental laws. It also writes regulations for national standards for environmental protection that states must follow. The EPA employs cybersecurity professionals to safeguard their computer networks. These professionals also develop guides for states to follow regarding particular infrastructures, like the water sector.
  • National Security Agency: The NSA serves as an intelligence agency focused on communications security within the Department of Defense. It employs approximately 40,000 workers, many of whom specialize in digital communications and cybersecurity. NSA is the leading employer of cybersecurity workers in the U.S. These professionals monitor threats and implement defense strategies using tools like subversive software. Most workers reside in Baltimore, Maryland, or Washington, D.C.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI cybersecurity jobs continue to grow both at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and in its 56 nationwide offices with dedicated cybersecurity squads. These workers assist with federal crime investigations, safeguard FBI computer systems against threats, and assist other agencies with special projects.

The Military

  • U.S. Army: The Army labels cyberspace as a critical area of national defense. It operates a dedicated cybersecurity team, Army Cyber Command, which employs workers like cyberwarfare technicians, cyberoperations specialists, and electronic warfare technicians. Depending on the role, the Army considers candidates with applicable expert-level knowledge in offensive and defensive operations, management of personnel and online assets, and electronic warfare operations planning.
  • U.S. Air Force: With advancements in Air Force computer technology come new vulnerabilities and security issues. This branch of the military employs "Cyber Surety" specialists to secure its computer networks and related operations. Minimum qualifications for Air Force cybersecurity jobs include a high school diploma or GED certificate, basic training, and knowledge of information systems.
  • U.S. Navy: The Navy employs professionals in dozens of government cyber jobs. Its intelligence, information, and cryptology team offers positions for cryptologic technicians in maintenance, networks, and collection. There's also a high-priority search for cryptologic technician interpreters. 

Research, Education, and General Support

  • National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education: NICE, which is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce, strives to advance cybersecurity education, workforce development, and training. Professionals at NICE possess specialized knowledge in cybersecurity, strategic management, policy writing, and research.
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office: The GAO serves as a congressional watchdog and an investigative body tied to Congress. It strives to hold members of Congress accountable for their actions and improve their performance to ultimately benefit the American people. GAO employs cybersecurity professionals trained in defense tactics and security auditors who test its network for weaknesses against cyberterrorists and hacker groups.
  • Pacific Northwest National Library: Government-funded research libraries such as PNNL employ cybersecurity professionals to safeguard classified information. PNNL seeks out cybersecurity engineers and researchers who possess certifications in Network+, CCNA, or Security+ and extensive experience with cyber defense strategies.

Types of Cybersecurity Jobs in the Government Sector

Cybersecurity jobs in government include many titles depending on the specific roles. Multiple branches of government require cybersecurity support. Take a quick look at the types of cybersecurity jobs in government and their responsibilities.

Position Job Duties Branches
Security Architect
  • Ensures security standards support and protect branch's missions and business processes
  • Address issues in branch's cybersecurity architecture, information security, and systems security
  • Determine safety and protection needs for systems and networks
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, State-level
  • State-level Department of Defense
Information Security Manager
  • Lead teams of system security officers to maintain information assurance support for entire branch
  • Conduct risk assessments and identify solutions for architectural issues
  • Communicate and collaborate with cybersecurity professionals in other branches to stay abreast of emerging technologies and programs
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
Program/Security Analyst
  • Compiles research on security threats to benefit other cybersecurity professionals within branch
  • Assists with defense program planning, cost estimates, and policy recommendations
  • Prepares briefings for senior branch management
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of State (DOS) 
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Source: USAJOBS, DIA

Career Outlook for Government Cybersecurity Jobs

The job outlook and median salaries for cybersecurity jobs in the government look bright. The BLS projects well above average job growth for information security analyst, computer and information systems manager, and computer and information research scientist. For example, openings for information security analysts may increase by 33% between 2020-2030

The federal government employs 31% of all computer and information research scientists in the U.S. In addition to a strong job outlook of 22% growth between 2020-2030, BLS reports that these professionals earn a median annual wage of $126,830.

The availability and type of cybersecurity positions vary among government branches. Some government cybersecurity jobs require a specific set of cybersecurity skills or specialties.

Information Security Analysts

Annual Median Pay: $103,590
Source: BLS

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Annual Median Pay: $151,150
Source: BLS

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Annual Median Pay: $126,830
Source: BLS

Pros and Cons of Government Cybersecurity Jobs

Cybersecurity jobs offer new and experienced workers competitive wages and credentials that can boost their careers. However, there are differences between government cybersecurity roles and jobs with contractors and private industries. In the pros and cons lists below, we highlight certain job duties, perks, and expectations for the public sector when compared to the private sector.

Advantages of Government Cybersecurity Jobs

  • Longevity: Professionals who obtain in-house positions with federal agencies may experience a longer tenure in a particular role than those working for outsourced security operations centers. Workers in the private sector may experience more ups and downs, including furloughs and layoffs, depending on their company's finances.
  • Benefits: In-house government cybersecurity jobs likely come with a pension that provides workers with a monthly income after they retire. Pensions may draw some professionals in, as pensions are not part of freelance or contract work. Moreover, government employees can count on paid federal holidays and health benefits.
  • College Tuition Reimbursement: Government cybersecurity employees often enjoy perks like college tuition reimbursement and student loan assistance.

Drawbacks of Government Cybersecurity Jobs

  • Schedule: Some cybersecurity jobs in government come with an unpredictable schedule and require professionals to work on nights and weekends. While challenging work schedules may exist in the private sector, cybersecurity jobs with the FBI and DHS often require weekend, evening, and holiday work.
  • Pay: According to Capitol Technology University, government cybersecurity jobs pay less than contracted positions and private companies. In some cases, contracted and privately employed cybersecurity workers can make up to 50% more than government workers.
  • Stress: Along with unpredictable schedules, government cybersecurity jobs often require employees to work in fast-paced environments with lots of responsibility. Small human errors in cybersecurity can lead to serious, long-standing security issues, causing workers and organizations great stress.

How to Get a Cybersecurity Job in Government

Entry-level cybersecurity jobs in the government tend to require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, and some work experience. Prospective cybersecurity workers can become more competitive candidates with cybersecurity certifications and training programs such as cybersecurity bootcamps

Undergraduate programs with regional accreditation offer credentials that advance students toward a career in government cybersecurity. Public and private schools, independent providers, and eligible training providers (ETPs) offer cybersecurity bootcamps. When choosing a program, learners should closely examine the curricula and recent graduates' career outcomes.

Regardless of government branch, cybersecurity job applicants can expect to undergo background checks and rigorous interview processes. Aspiring cybersecurity government professionals should take advantage of job preparation services at their school or through a private company to best prepare for the application process. 

Resources for Getting a Government Cybersecurity Job

Professional Organizations

Established in 2003, APWG strives to unify cybersecurity professionals across the globe who work in government, law enforcement, and nonprofits. Entities including government agencies, university-based researchers, solution providers, law enforcement, and qualified financial institutions may apply for membership. Members gain access to its eCrime Exchange services and conferences to network and build collective knowledge about defenses against cyber threats.

This nonprofit provides ongoing development of widely used cybersecurity practices known as CIS Controls and CIS Benchmarks. Members include individuals, government entities, and businesses who benefit from CIS's online resources, networking opportunities, and compliance reviews of information security strategies.

The SANS Institute, short for SysAdmin, Audit, Network, and Security, provided training and certification for cybersecurity professionals. Specialty training offerings at SANS include cyber defense and blue team operations, digital forensics and incident response, and cloud security. Members enjoy access to open-source tools, whitepapers, cyber ranges, and informational webcasts.

Education Options

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Associate in Cybersecurity Programs

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Bachelor's in Cybersecurity Programs

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Master's in Cybersecurity Programs

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Doctorate in Cybersecurity Programs

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Cybersecurity Bootcamps

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Cybersecurity Certificates

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Scholarship Opportunities

  • CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: This program strives to provide financial support for individuals preparing for cybersecurity careers with federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments. Working professionals and college students at all levels may apply. 
  • Award recipients can receive up to three years of support, including yearly stipends of $25,000 for undergraduates and $34,000 for graduate students. The award also covers the cost of the student's tuition and related fees. Recipients must complete post-graduation government service requirements.

    Working professionals receive a $6,000 allowance to attend job fairs and conferences or pursue professional certifications in cybersecurity. 

  • Stokes Educational Scholarship Program: High school seniors who plan on pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science or electrical engineering may apply for this $30,000/year scholarship. Recipients also work for the National Security Association during the summer months. The award comes with guaranteed employment with the NSA upon graduation.
  • Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Cybersecurity and Cyber Operations: The C3O scholarship supports students who plan on pursuing FBI cybersecurity jobs or positions with the NSA or CIA. NPS covers recipients' tuition for two years. The award comes with a $34,000/year stipend and $6,000 for career development expenses.

FAQ's About Government Cybersecurity Jobs

Can you work for the government in cybersecurity?

Yes. The government relies on cybersecurity professionals to safeguard classified and unclassified information, protect its networks, and provide defensive strategies against malicious online threats and cyberterrorists. Government cybersecurity employees have skills in cyber incident response, risk assessment, digital forensics, and software assurance.

What are some examples of government cyber jobs?

Yes. Popular roles for cybersecurity professionals in government include computer and information research scientist, information security analyst, and security architect. Many branches of government also seek out threat investigators, threat analysts, and IT security administrators.

Are there cybersecurity jobs in the FBI?

Yes. The FBI employs various cybersecurity professionals as part of its cybercrime division. Competitive applicants for these positions possess at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or related area, and experience in networking, programming, or cryptography.

Are entry-level cybersecurity jobs hard to get?

Job applicants with a bachelor's degree in computer science or related field compete for positions in this growing and in-demand field. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, government bodies, businesses, and organizations listed a staggering nearly 600,000 open cybersecurity jobs throughout 2021.

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