About ten years into my tech career starting in 1981, and after working with most of the major tech companies in Silicon Valley, Europe, and Asia, I was asked to address high school graduates and college students about the best tech-oriented career paths. At that time technology products were focused on business and vertical markets and demand was isolated within these business disciplines.
But even in 1981, there was a demand for hardware and software engineering talent, and semiconductor majors were hot. Still, the number of tech companies in those days was small compared to over 1.5 million dedicated tech companies worldwide today. According to CompTIA, a leading technology trade association, “At the end of 2021, there were at least 585,000 technology companies in the U.S. alone.”
Add to that the millions of businesses integrating technology into all aspects of their business processes, and the demand for tech talent has expanded.
In 1997, the Internet was unleashed on the market, and personal computers had become more affordable for consumers. As a result, the demand for tech talent increased for educated students with hardware, software, and semiconductor degrees. Those with a master degree in these disciplines could command between $70K to $85K coming out of school.
Towards the end of the 1990s, as enterprises began the march towards transitioning their business processes from analog to digital, large and medium-sized companies began needing these same engineering skills. They started hiring software engineers and those with degrees in network management and security.
Over the last 20+ years, the demand for engineering talent has grown exponentially. Consequently, there are not enough engineers to meet the growing needs of hardware, software, and services around the world today.
When addressing high school and college students, whether first-time graduates or graduate-level program-bound, I pushed hard to convince them that a career in multiple engineering fields was a lucrative and rewarding path.
By the mid-2000s I began to emphasize the need for IT management and security skills. However, in the last speech I gave to college students in New Orleans in June of 2021, I added that there was another technology degree worth pursuing that would guarantee employment for the rest of their lives. That is expertise in cybersecurity.
As I am sure you are aware, cyber security threats, hacking, and the most recent ransomware trends have become a major headaches for businesses and consumers.
A recent Fortune article on education entitled, “Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity are Reporting Average Salaries of $214,000” points out that, “When it comes to job demand, it’s hard to beat the field of cybersecurity. By 2025 there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the globe, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, a researcher and publisher that covers the international cyber economy. And that follows a 350% growth in the number of open cybersecurity jobs between 2013 and 2021.”
This Fortune article quotes Lakshmi Hanspal, the global chief security officer for Amazon, who stated, “Amazon had more than 600 unfilled cybersecurity jobs.”
Given the magnitude of these cyber security threats that are getting more sophisticated every day and even being deployed by governments like North Korea and Iran, cybersecurity degrees are a golden ticket to a career specialty that will always be in demand.
While traditional degrees in software programming and technical engineering are still in high demand, the need for specialists in security and cybersecurity is through the roof. It could be one of the more sustainable career paths for those seeking technology degrees now and in the future.
There is one other educational focus that I bring up in any of my talks with students. I end all of my talks emphasizing one other discipline I believe they need as a sub-major: to get a solid grounding in English and communications skills.
I have dealt with thousands of engineers throughout my career. And while they are highly skilled in their engineering fields, many lack English writing and overall communications skills. Yet, in their jobs, even if they are primarily coders, they will need to be able to write and communicate effectively as part of their work.
A major in a technical specialty and a minor in English makes them even more marketable in tech companies and corporations where technology will always be in high demand.