Cybersecurity Students’ Interest in Government Careers: Impact of Demographic Characteristics and Job Dynamics

Journal of Applied Security Research / November 2023

A critical shortage of cybersecurity talent exists in the United States. The lack of personnel has resulted in increased competition for the cybersecurity professionals. As the field of cybersecurity has evolved, a significant salary gap has surfaced between public and private employers. With private employers paying higher salaries, it has become harder for government agencies to hire cybersecurity professionals. Different policies and programs have been developed by government agencies to address this barrier. The current study examines the employment goals of a sample of cybersecurity students (n = 156). Specific attention is given to the types of employers students want to work for as well as how students rate the importance of different job dynamics. A sizeable number of the students (n = 90) expressed interest in working in public service. Job dynamics most important to students included being treated with respect, having job security, knowing expectation, safety, and opportunities for improvement. The results show significant demographic dissimilarities as well as differences in the ways that public service-oriented students (versus students seeking careers with private companies) rated job dynamics. Bivariate analyses showed that female and first-generation cybersecurity students were more likely to express interest in public service careers, as were juniors, seniors, and graduate students. In addition, students whose mother worked for the government were more likely than students whose mother worked for a private company to express interest in working in public service careers. Multivariate analyses confirmed these results. Female cybersecurity students also rated the importance of job security, mission attainment, personal empowerment, teamwork, commitment to representation, and personal empowerment higher than male cybersecurity students. Those who expressed interest in working in public service careers rated the importance of personal empowerment, collaboration, and physical conditions higher than those seeking careers in private industry.