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Government Cyber Security Careers

 

In this resource page, you will find everything about cyber security jobs in the government. We have gotten rid of the excess information and have only included the very important bits like how does it really feel working for the CIA or NSA or which of the government agencies have the highest reputation amongst others. You will also find information on who demands security professionals.

Similar to the MOOCs page, this page is also split in different sections. In the first two sections, you will be provided with general advice on government positions. In the 3rd and 5th sections of this page, you’ll be given resource links to Glassdoor reviews, official and unofficial information on cyber security careers and very detailed information on every agency and military branches.

Working In The Government

The General Benefits

These benefits will convince you to join the government and become a cyber warrior in the U.S.

  • Long-term commitment – A career in government, especially in the military can last more than a decade.
  • Detailed job training – you’ll be constantly trained with new technologies and certifications which will allow you to find a position after you have retired from service into the private section.
  • The good stuff – government agencies like the military are known to take good care of their serving staff.
  • Like in the movies– as a security professional, you will be taking down rogue governments, terrorists, drug dealers and runners, mobsters and much more.
  • Public service – the feeling of serving your country for the greater good. There is a massive shortage of people like you in the military and other agencies.

The government is actively pursuing ways to attract cyber security professionals to its ranks by sponsoring scholarships. More information about these scholarships can be found in the SFS section below. They are also actively encouraging hacking competitions, giving reenlistment bonuses and working towards high school recruitment.

The Downsides

Like every other professional career, there are two sides; the good, and the bad. Here are the bad sides of working within the government.

Hardcore background check – working for the government means you will have to go through a very extensive background check that can be intrusive sometimes. Check this background investigation that must be passed for security clearance.

  • Unattractive pay – the government sector does not pay as good as the private sector. You will likely be paid less for almost any position you choose to go for in the government.
  • No freedom – Work and assignments are rotated in the government, especially in the military.
  • Very tough hiring rules – it isn’t easy to get into the government. There are tough rules to follow and only few make it through.
  • Insanely long recruitment process – getting employed for the government can take months to happen.
  • The good stuff is handled by someone else – government has contractors everywhere. This means any tough or ‘cool’ jobs that enhance your knowledge and skills are not given to you.
  • Your reputation will be poor – the U.S intelligence agencies have come under fire many times due to scandals and revelations. For example, the NSA Snowden scandal is one of the scandals that destroyed the reputation of the agency.

The biggest downside from these points is the low pay offered by government. A research by RAND found that if working for the private section, a security professional could earn as much as $250,000 – $300,000 per anum. Government intelligence agencies are far behind those numbers. This is why they are losing top end security professionals to the private sector.

More Useful Resources

USCYBERCOM

The U.S Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) is sub unified command that is under the aegis of the U.S Strategic Command. There are mainly three goals involved:

  1. Put strength in the country’s ability to face and respond to cyber attacks.
  2. Ensure Defense of the Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN)
  3. Give support to any combatant commanders under missions around the globe.

As a cyber security professional, it is important for you to know that the cyber force structure is the responsibility of USCYBERCOM. They are also responsible for training standards and training requirements for the Armed services. The service elements set by them include:

Scholarship For Service (SFS)

The Scholarship For Services was set up for one huge purpose – to significantly increase the number of experts and qualified federal information security professionals. To make this effective, the Department of Homeland Security has partnered with The National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer scholarships grants to any students who are specializing in information assurance.

You can recieve stipends that are up to:

  • $20,000 for undergraduate studies per year.
  • $25,000 for a master’s degree per year.
  • $30,000 for doctoral studies per year.

Any school that is certified as NSA CAE IA/CD can participate in the scholarship program. They can also participate if their programs are ‘equivalent’ to any of the certified schools. Here is a complete list of institutes that are participating in the program.

It is important to note that if you have completed the degree under the scholarship program, you will be expected to work at the Local, State, Tribal or Federal Government organization for the same period corresponding to that of the length of the scholarship taken. For example, if you held a scholarship for 3 years, you will be serving for 3 years.

H4cker5 Wanted

A 110 pages long report issued by RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD) is worth reading. Checkout the entire H4cker5 Wanted: An Examination of the Cybersecurity Labor Market report.

You will find more than the coverage of literature/reports over the labor market. The researchers on the team also covered hiring practices of federal agencies and different goals of programs offered by universities. Additionally, they also interviewed federal representatives to see the practical process of hiring.

This report is an excellent read if you want to know what happens behind the cyber security labor market.

More About Agencies of the Federal Government

 

DHS

What DHS Says About Themselves 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed in response to events of 9/11. They are responsible for securing the country from threats like natural disasters, terrorist attacks and man made accidents. The departments that fall under the jurisdiction of DHS include the U.S Coast Guard, TSA, The Secret Service and FEMA.

According to the official statement provided by DHS, cyber security professionals working for them have a lot to do. They’re responsibilities include investigation cyber crimes and data breaches or helping in protection of several critical infrastructures that include the electric grid, water systems, finance systems and more. The DHS is mostly looking for people who are skilled in the following areas:

  • Vulnerability Detection and Assessment
  • Networks and Systems Engineering
  • Digital forensics
  • Cyber Incident Response
  • Intelligence and Investigation
  • Cyber Risk and Strategic Analysis

What Others Say About DHS

To be honest, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t really have a good reputation for having a professional career in. This is evident in the report Best Places to Work in the Federal Government by Partnership of Public Service’s. The DHS has #19 spot in the list and has been there for quite a while. You can also see the rankings for job positions in the DHS by viewing this list.

The reason as described by experts is that DHS mostly offer the challenging stuff to contractors. The rest of the jobs that are not challenging or progressive in nature end up with the employees. Even Glassdoor review gives it a total 3.1 score and mentions that the higher positions in the management are political.

CIA

What the CIA Says About Themselves

As suggested by the name, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is responsible for gathering intelligence. It is the only agency in the U.S which is independent. The Information Operations Center (IOC) is specifically dealing with offensive cyber operations.

A RAND report published recently details that the CIA prefers candidates that at least have a master’s degree in a cyber field. Candidates are picked from hacker conventions, job fairs, and internal hires. Just like the NSA, the CIA is hoping to build more talent from within.

For you as a security professional, it is important to know that the CIA has a very tough hiring procedure. Upon providing your application, the CIA will do the following:

  • You will be asked to complete several tests online
  • They will thoroughly and mercilessly review your job resume
  • You will be invited to a face-to-face interview
  • You will also take a phone interview
  • You will go through a psychological screening and several medical tests

Because CIA has classified and sensitive positions, they will check your background thoroughly and you will be put through polygraph testing. After securing a job with the CIA, they will still keep a close eye on you. This means they will be monitoring your private life. Check the Security Clearance Resource Page for more information on this.

What Others Say About CIA

CIA has actively been targeted for scandals. One of the most popular ones include the Senate Committee’s 2014 report. This report includes how CIA uses torture.

In 2013, CIA agent Snowden leaked a report dubbed the Black Budget details how CIA is developing ”aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign networks to steal and gather information or sabotage enemy systems”.

So in simple words, if you decide to choose a career in CIA, be prepared to go through ethical dilemmas.

General complaints about CIA includes criticizing on the entry process, lack of good pay and bureaucratic involvement. Glassdoor review rate CIA at 4.0.

NSA

What The NSA Say About Themselves

The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for collecting, monitoring, translating, analyzing and decoding data for counterintelligence and foreign intelligence. The use of defensive tactics like protecting the country’s government systems against cyber attacks and offensive tactics like subversive software, bugging systems and more are key elements.

You’ll be glad to know that the NSA is U.S’s biggest and most organized employer when it comes to hiring security professionals. It has tasked 80 recruiters and 300 employees that deal only with hiring. The hiring is mostly done through high schools and universities and with CAE schools.

NSA’s Career FAQ can be read for more information.

A RAND report detailed some of the hiring process by NSA. It includes:

  • Those who are entry level, are required to go through a very extensive training program that can last up to three years.
  • 1 out of 3 people who obtain scholarships tend to work for NSA
  • As many as 80% of all hires done by NSA are entry level. They mostly have accepted people with a bachelor’s degree.

What Others Say About NSA

NSA has a pretty good reputation for hiring only the best of the best candidates. This has even made many of their employees stay put.

The RAND report linked above clearly states that NSA has an extremely low turnover rate. In simple words, very few professionals inside tend to quit. One of the biggest reasons for keeping staff intact is because NSA pays very close attention to senior technical development programs that make sure employees are always engaged into something.

However, it is important to know that ethical problems are not short with the NSA. Edward Snowden, a former contractor for NSA leaked a huge number of classified documents to the public and press. This report, released in 2013, revealed that the NSA actively takes part in secret surveillance of email, cellphones, instant messages and conversations, specifically that of friendly foreign country leaders.

Glassdoor rates NSA at 3.8, noting that the pay and benefits are good enough but not great. They also praise the NSA for hiring only the best analysts and engineers. The management process is however disliked.

FBI

  • Headquartered in Washington D.C. with 56 field offices around the country and 400 resident agencies across the nation.
  •  35,000 employees (2015)
  • Find Careers
  • Read Glassdoor Reviews

What The FBI Says About Themselves

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is tasked to protect U.S. from threats and investigate federal crimes. The FBI is also the lead U.S. counterintelligence and counterterrorism agency. In 2002, the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch (CCRSB) was founded to fight back different illegal activities that include cyber crimes.

Only Bachelor’s degree holders can find a professional career within the FBI. Once you send your application, you will go through a very thorough background check. See more information on this on the Security Clearances page.

In 2014, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Charles Gilgen announced that the cyber division of FBI has planned to hire as many as 1,000 analysts in the coming years. So there should be some job openings in FBI’s cyber division.

What Others Say About FBI

FBI may be planning to hire as many as 1,000 analysts for its cyber division, but it seems not everyone is particularly interested.

This is for numerous reasons, but the big ones include FBI’s rules, bottom up culture and low pay are major turn offs.

On the positive side however, FBI is quite known for being the best crime fighting agency. It protects minors and as well as put big criminals behind bars. Another good thing about FBI is that it only focuses cyberwars that happen within the U.S unlike other agencies who focus this globally.

GAO

What The GAO Say About Themselves

The U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) is completely independent and non – partisan agency that answers directly to the congress. GAO is popularly known as the congressional watchdog because it keeps an eye on improper activities and federal spendings of the government.

The GAO is a very good place for Security Auditors. It regularly produces different reports on Information Security Weaknesses inside the government and comes up with recommendations to address them through steps.

What Others Say About GAO

The GAO has a good reputation when compared with other government agencies listed above. In the above report by Partnership for Public Service, GAO was ranked #2 to work for.

Even Glassdoor reviews are positive ranking the agency at 3.6 for having a decent work place and great colleagues. The only complaints that are popular include unfair promotions, not so decent pay and bureaucratic involvement.

Working For The Military

U.S. Army

What The U.S. Army Say About Themselves

The U.S. Army is the oldest and biggest military branch. It came up with ARCYBER in 2010 which is an operational level Army force that received the honors and lineage of the Second Army. The Army announced that it had activated the Cyber Protection Brigade in 2014.

The Cyber Protection Brigade created new opportunities for cyber warriors (CMF 17). This brought together both the military intelligence and signal skills. This also gave rise to new occupational specialties like the 17c Cyber Warfare Specialist and the 17A Cyber Warfare Officer.

In order to become a certified technician, you have to go through two six month courses and two year apprenticeship.

What Others Say About The U.S. Army

Like the other military branches of the armed forces, the U.S. Army wants to increase it’s cyber force through creative ways. The branch has spent significant investment in intensive training for their Cyber Protection Brigade. They also offer re-enlistment packages for Cyber Soldiers.

Just keep in mind that in 2014, it was found out that the Army didn’t really had a good track record when it came to cyber security because their then active duty cyber troops took a defeat from civilian reservists at a 2013 CyberGuard Exercise held at Fort Meade. So if you work for the army, don’t expect to fiddle around with cutting edge stuff that is more prominent in the private sector. A report by the U.S Department Of Defense will help you read on the details.

As with any military branch, you can expect to be paid good, have great benefits and support. As a downside, you will have to work for longer hours and have to spend a lot of time away from home.

U.S. Navy

  • Headquartered at The Pentagon; The CYBERFOR is headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA.
  • 325,143 active personnel (2015)
  • Find Careers
  • Read Glassdoor Reviews

What The U.S. Navy Say About Themselves

The U.S. Navy (USN) is responsible for maintaining freedom of the seas, fighting naval aggression and winning wars. Their Information Dominance Corps (IDC) has two cyber divisions:

  • Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR) – The NAVIDFOR is there to maximize fleet readiness. It is also responsible for conducting prompt and sustained naval both joint and combined to support the U.S National Interests.
  • Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet – The FCC leads the U.S. Navy cyber warfare programs. The division has complete operational control on Navy computer, space forces, cryptologic and information.

The U.S. Navy also formed a 100 person force known as the Task Force Cyber Awakening (TFCA). This force is set specifically for improving the cyber security measures and increasing the defense capabilities of Navy’s computer networks.

What Others Say About The U.S. Navy

Like other branches of the military, the U.S. Navy is potentially vulnerable when it comes to cyber attacks. In September 2013, it was revealed that Iranian Hackers successfully penetrated unclassified Navy Marine Corps Intranet that was mostly used for email and the internal intranet.

In order to avoid future security loops, the U.S. Navy has invested more money in IT training for already enlisted personnel so that it can improve the on-board expertise available.

Just like other branches of the military, you are secured a good pay, benefits and training. But in return, you will be expected to take on all assignments handed to you that could include working long hours or being away from home for a while.

U.S. Marine Corps

  • Headquartered at The Pentagon; MARFORCYBER positions are in Fort Meade, Quantico or MD, VA.
  • 194,000 active personnel (2015)
  • Find Careers
  • Read Glassdoor Reviews

What The U.S Marine Corps Say About Themselves

Popularly known as the toughest branch of the U.S. armed forces, the U.S. Marine Corps are there to deliver combined arms task forces to forward positions.

In October 2009, MARFORCYBER was established in response to USCYBERCOM. It also has subordinate units that include Company L, Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion (MCSB) and Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center (MCNOSC).

According to Lt. General Richard P. Mills, the active commander of MARFORCYBER, it is focused on supporting forward deployed commanders and tactical edge of cyber operations.

What Others Say About U.S. Marine Corps

Compared to other branches of the U.S. Armed forces, the USMC is the smallest. This means there aren’t many positions to begin with. Also being a marine isn’t easy; it is one of the toughest and most challenging job that is sometimes potentially very dangerous. If you’re up for the challenge, the cyber security specialists within the force may never be deployed in the front. You will also get decent training and bonuses.

The USMC is currently hiring from private sectors for short-term projects only. They are looking for experts only.

U.S. Air Force

What The U.S. Air Force Say About Themselves

The U.S Air Force (USAF) is known for actively training their officers and enlisted women and men to detect and repel any cyber attacks on the systems. 24th Air Force is the official name of the USAF’s arm of U.S. Cyber Command.

The training process for cyber related jobs is tough. Officers have to go through a 23-week undergraduate training course while enlisted men and women have to take a 17-week cyber defense operations course. Any Airmen who wants to train for cyber related jobs within the branch must hold CompTIA Security+ certification.

What Others Say About The U.S. Air Force

Working with the U.S. Air Force is generally liked because they pay good and have excellent benefits. Plus they also offer excellent training in cyber security.

The downsides, just like any other military branch is that you may have to work 24/7 or may have to stay away from home for a long time when serving.

Other Government Career Options

Federally Funded Research & Development Centers

There are tons of national laboratories like Los Alamos, Sandia etc and public private institutes like the Software Engineering Institute looking for qualified professionals. The FFRDCS is sponsored by government departments like Department of Defense, Department of Energy etc and is mostly administered by corporations and universities.

Find Careers in FFRDCS

MITRE

MITRE is a non profit organization that is responsible for supporting different government agencies like the DoD. It has a number of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) that includes the National Security Engineering Center (NSEC)

Find MITRE Careers

DISA

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is responsible for providing IT and communication support to the President of U.S, Vice President, the military, Secretary of Defense and combatant commands. DISA is mostly made up of federal civilians, contrators and military personnel.

Find DISA Careers

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the U.S. It has a very small but secretive cyber security unit that it likes to call the National Incident Response Team (NIRT). It operates from within East Rutherford, New Jersey. It is responsible for protecting Federal Financial Infrastructure that includes Fedwire Funds Service.

Find Federal Reserve Careers