From 2008 to 2014, Thomas Macphee made his living chasing down bad guys.
"Anytime we were on deployment, we would have to understand the hot areas, where they were located, what they were doing," he said.
Today his job isn't so different.
"When you're talking about computer access, when you're talking about security management, it's the same idea. You're gaining the overall picture: Not just what I am doing internally, but who is trying to get into my system. It's the same mindset," said Macphee. A former Marine captain and present reservist, he's a senior cyber consultant in Ernst & Young's greater Washington, D.C., region.
So it's no coincidence that this veteran got into cybersecurity, just as it is no coincidence that he has gone to work in a professional services firm. His is one of the hottest industries for cyber job-seekers, along with fields such as health care and government contracting.
Looking for cybersecurity work? Practically every sector is hiring, but some are especially active. Health care, manufacturing and defense, and professional services all rank in the top 10 fast-growth industries for cyber hiring in the Burning Glass report "Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs, 2015."
Cyber-job postings in both professional services and manufacturing, and defense grew 57 percent from 2010 to 2014, while health-care jobs swelled 118 percent.
Health care, government contracting, professional services: What puts these three industries among the leaders in the realm of cyber hiring? And why go to work in one versus the other? The distinctions do matter.
"Each industry has its own unique needs, so if you want to be in that industry, you have to be interested in what that entails," said Charles E. Grindle, director of second-year studies at the United States Army War College.
Health care seems so hands-on: Blood pressure cuffs, hospital beds, sophisticated diagnostic machines. But there's a lot of sensitive data going on behind the scenes.
"Health care is the only industry that actually combines so much protected information in a single database. They have protected health data, personally identifiable information and financial information, and they have it all in one place," said Mac McMillan, co-founder and CEO of CynergisTek, a Texas-based firm providing IT security, compliance, audit and other services to the medical community. He previously served as director of security for two separate defense agencies and sat on numerous interagency intelligence and security countermeasures committees.
The health care industry has a need for cybersecurity that goes beyond merely safeguarding people's Social Security numbers and credit card accounts. Unlike retail or finance institutions, health care enterprises literally deal with life and death. Many of today's sophisticated medical devices are plugged directly into a hospital's central IT systems.
For those seeking cyber careers in this industry, a range of opportunities exist. Hospital systems and many individual hospitals typically will have a security pro on the IT team. Insurance companies need cyber skills and even mid- and large-sized physicians' groups may seek out special security expertise.
It takes no great leap of imagination to understand why government contractors, especially those engaged in military projects, would be among the leaders in hiring skilled cybersecurity professionals.
High-profile attacks on government agencies such as the Office of Personal Management, along with suspected hacks including China's copying of plans for the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter, make it clear that government is a target for cyberattacks. This puts pressure on contractors to safeguard their own systems and to ensure military data is safe.
"Threat intelligence is what our people do, producing assured capabilities and assured communications," said Alex Cochran, director of programs for BAE Systems' Intelligence & Security sector. The company employs some 33,000 people. A Web page dedicated to careers for veterans listed some 70 cyber-related job openings in January. Company employees can draw a bonus up to $20,000 for referring someone into one of these jobs.
BAE Systems provides a range of cyber services, from email security to threat analytics to security-related R&D programs. Other contractors may hire cyber specialists not just to advise clients but also to ensure their own operations are digitally sound.
Businesses that serve the military, or do business with government agencies, have a special place in the cyber landscape. Unlike much of the commercial world, government is obliged to be transparent: When breaches occur, everyone will know. Moreover, cybersecurity — especially among military contractors — may be a matter of putting people's lives on the line. It's no wonder, then, that this vertical stands out among those pressing hardest to bolster its cyber ranks.
The industry designation "professional services" can cover a lot of ground, encompassing lawyers, accountants, organizational consultants and business strategists. It's a big field, with 760,000 firms employing 7.8 million Americans, according to the latest numbers from the national economic development program SelectUSA.
It's also an industry in need of cyber help.
"A firm like ours works every single day with important and complex business issues for our clients around the world. We have a responsibility to defend ourselves and not just in the United States but all around the world," said PricewaterhouseCoopers Global and U.S. Cybersecurity Leader David Burg.
It takes a team of some 2,400 cyber experts to safeguard the interests of the company and its 200,000 employees working in 167 countries. They beef up cybersecurity for banks, safeguard supply chain analytics and ensure sophisticated computer systems in automobiles are hack-proof.
Working in the realm of professional services may be especially attractive to former service members who have gotten a taste for living abroad. "We have seen that companies in different geographies around the world may have different levels of maturity. A lot of the clients we see outside of the United States want us to bring our [more sophisticated] solution sets to solve their security problems," Burg said.
Burg said he also appreciates the specific expertise that comes with a military background.
"You have people who have worked with extraordinary technology, advanced infrastructure, so you get that technological experience," he said. "The other piece is the leadership, the ability to solve things that have never been solved before. Our clients have a deep respect for those kinds of credentials."
CYBER JOB FACTS
- The hardest-to-fill cybersecurity jobs call for financial skills, such as accounting, or knowledge of regulations associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, alongside traditional networking and IT security skills.
- More than 10 percent of cybersecurity job postings advertise a security clearance requirement.
- Some 84 percent of cybersecurity postings specify at least a bachelor’s degree, and 83 percent require at least three years of experience.
- On a per-capita basis, the leading states for cyber hiring are Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and Colorado; all have high concentrations of jobs in the federal government and with related contractors.
Source: Burning Glass Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs, 2015