Many people in the military may make the decision to leave that career path to enter civilian life. That transition is a big one, especially when you’re unsure of the type of career to focus on. There are countless options, of course, but for those with military experience, a move into cyber security may prove to be an excellent option for some people. Working in cyberspace may require ample education. Yet, some veterans find success here.
According to a study by ISC2, there is a global shortage of people in the cyber security industry of 3.12 million. The employment field in this industry has grown in recent years. Yet, there is a serious gap that may create opportunities for men and women in the military seeking a new career path. If you are in the U.S. military currently and looking for a path forward, it may be wise to focus on this particular area of study.
This skills gap may be a concern, especially as more people and businesses turn to the internet to manage everyday life and transactions. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to fix this. The organization announced the Veterans Cybersecurity Training and Education Guide. It is a program designed to help support military personnel who wish to work in the cyber security industry. This guide aims to promote the field to people who are younger Americans. That may include people who are active military personnel or veterans.
Other opportunities may exist as well to help support military servicemen and servicewomen interested in the field. The Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedTE) may be another option provided by the DHS. It may provide an online cybersecurity education path for students. It may be available to U.S. military veterans. FedTE typically offers courses for all levels of experience in the field. And, it also typically offers 800 hours of education mapped to the NICE Framework. It may also provides students with some certification prep courses. This could include ethical hacking, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).
Another route for those who are veterans may be the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS). This is available through the DHS as well. It aims to help provide educators in the field with the resources and tools they need to help support the development of employees for the cybersecurity workforce.
Hire Our Heroes may be another pathway. This program may offer help in a range of fields. That may include helping students develop skills in areas of Percipio and Skillsoft. These tools may help some students to get the cyber security education they need.
What Does a Degree in Cyber Operations Mean to You?
A person working in a cyber security job often helps organizations, including the Department of Defense (DOD) stop cyber attacks. A cyber attack is an instance in which a third party without permission to access information online and in protected internet access points gains access. Many organizations may need cybersecurity professionals to work to minimize their risk of having sensitive data stolen or otherwise accessed.
Numerous types of cyber crime may occur. A person who works in this field often has skills to help prevent this unauthorized access. They also may aid in detecting when it occurs and working to overcome the challenges presented should it occur. Civilian careers in the Department of Defense Information Networks, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Cyber Command are a few examples of positions a person with this education may hold to protect sensitive data.
Why a Career in Cybersecurity for Those in the U.S. Military?
For those who have spent time in the U.S. Air Force, National Guard, U.S. Navy, or U.S. Army, or any other sector of the military, this type of career could offer opportunities. Those with a military background may be a good fit for this industry. One reason this may be is because some veterans are looking for a way to support their country and other people. After working in defense for their country in the Armed Services, they may want to maintain a bit of continuity in the work they do. Transitioning from defense military positions to defense of employers’ networks may be a good fit for some.
This field often requires a significant amount of precision and accuracy. It may also require ample trust and hard work. Individuals working in cyber security often need to be able to work as a team and have discipline in doing their job. Some military professionals may have this type of background. They may want to use those skills in their field of work.
Those who wish to work in this field may need to obtain certifications to do so. They may need to complete a significant amount of education to do that. For some veterans, that may prove to be a struggle. Individuals may wish to consider the type of work they wish to do in this field and determine if technology and cyber operations is a good fit for their goals.
Another key factor to consider is security clearances. Some people providing cyber security operations services may work for the military. They may work in one of the Armed Forces providing cyber defense skills and services. Not everyone does this. Some may work in the private sector for various types of companies. Others may enjoy working for the U.S. Secretary of Defense or even the Pentagon. However, for those working for the U.S. gov’t, including the U.S. Department of Defense, security clearance could be a factor to consider.
For example, some cyber security jobs often require access to security clearances. This may include many positions related to gov’t agencies as well as federal contractors. A qualified veteran may be a good fit for this type of job. That is especially true if they had had a history of working in a high security environment before. There are steps a civilian may take to gain this type of clearance, but it may be easier for those who have worked in these positions previously.
Some military servicemembers may already have some basic skills in the area. If the work they did during their military service included tech work, that may help them in this field. This may include work with digital information networks and computer systems. It may also include digital tracking and spying or communication systems education. Some may have experience in areas of information security or information technology. A career path in cyber security may allow them to use those skills in the work they do in these new positions.
Some positions in the military that require individuals with cyber security skills include:
- Cyber network defender
- Cyber and electronics warfare officer
- Cryptologic cyberspace intelligence collector or analyst
- Cyber operations officer
- Cryptologic linguist
- Information technology specialist
- Cyber operations specialist
Those working in these positions in the military may have some background to apply towards their cyber security path as well. Likewise, those who obtain proper education and certification to do so may have the skills needed to work in these types of military positions.
Working for the Department of Defense as a Private Citizen
The private sector is may be an avenue for many people who want to work in cyber security. Some people may make the decision to use the skills they gain in the military with added skill development to work with private companies and organizations.
In addition, some people with a military background may wish to work in a gov’t agency as a private citizen. You may not want to work for the government directly, such as serving in the Marines or Navy. Yet, you may find a path in working as a private citizen in the Department of Defense or another field.
There are many organizations that may utilize cyber security skills in their work. Each organization may be a bit different. Skillsets and jobs available could change often. However, some of the following organizations may have people working in them with a cyber security degree or information security education.
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- Homeland Security
- Secret Service
- National Security Agency (NSA)
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
They often have a need for personnel with high security clearances and certifications in cyber security. Again, these change very often. There may be other gov’t agencies that also need help with cyber security. Many government agencies may have security policies in place. Those policies relate to all areas of internet connectivity and sharing of data. Any of these types of organizations may have network security needs and risks. They, too, may hire previous military personnel with these skills to fill those positions.
How to Make the Transition to Cyber Warfare
Whether active duty or retired veteran, cyber warfare education may be an option for you. It is important to know this is often a tech heavy field. Certain skills are often necessary. Educational programs aim to help prepare you for this. You may not need experience in the field to start your education in it. Still, it may be important to have some interest in learning about cyberspace operations.
It may be challenging for military professionals to make the move back to school. Some people have some college or higher education course completion from before they entered military service. Others went from high school to bootcamp. In all cases, going from military service to school may be a challenge. Various organizations and programs may help make this a bit easier. It may be wise to seek out these programs to determine how to make the educational plan work for you.
One tool that may help some may be the Boots to Books program. This type of program may help people heading back to college from active duty to have the proper and necessary skills. This may help with other tasks too. That may include helping student veterans transfer the skills they developed in combat to skills that may support their career goals. Other tools may be available to veteran students as well. The Online Academic Skills Course (OASC) may help with improving math, science, reading, and vocab skills. This may help students refresh valuable skills. The College Placement Skills Training (CPST) is another tool. It could help with college level English, writing skills, science, and math.
How do I transfer cyber security military training for college credit?
First step – request your military transcript
Next, assess your status:
1) check your MOC – Military Occupation Code
2) review ACE recommendations for courses and occupations
Seek a degree to match your MOC. That means choose a program aligned to your military work experience, in this case your cyber security military training. A good place to start is our Online Degrees page.
Next step – find a military friendly school
Now look at military friendly schools with strong programs in your field of study that apply to your cyber security military training. Determine their military school credit policies to guide you. Admissions counselors and school websites share this info.
Speak to many schools. Schools interpret cyber security military training credits as they like. This can mean inconsistent policies for the same degree program and military experience. The decisions may vary case by case. Keep in mind that not all military experience is equal.
If you apply and get a disappointing result that did not accept your cyber security military training, appeal. Decisions on military transfer credits can change. Successful appeals occur. Don’t enroll before school notification of your final military transfer credits. You could luck out. Or you might want to try at a different college. Leave your options open until it’s clear.
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Supportive Services for Veterans Are Often Available
Various types of supportive services may be available to help military professionals go from working in the service to getting an education. The American Council on Education (ACE) may offer a range of tools to help students. It may help you with determining the proper transfer rate for your military experience. In some cases, this experience may help you with your cyber security military education for college credit.
This is often done in conjunction with the Department of Defense (DoD). Together, they may review your cyber security military education and experiences. The ACE data base then shares this info to help schools and soldiers. This data gives schools a guide for appropriate course credit. Soldiers use the data base for insight, and to set goals. ACE works with schools and soldiers to help translate your cyber security military training and learning experience into credits.
How many college credits is basic training worth?
We used the ACE course search for Basic Training to get a specific example. In this case, the ACE search function result was Basic Officer Training in the Air Force. It took 12 weeks to complete training at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
The ACE recommendation for transfer credits amounts to 9 total semester hours. That’s 3 hours PE, 3 in Military Science, and 3 in Personnel Supervision. This may translate in a variety of ways. The application of credits depends on the school and program.
College Registrars often decide how to use the ACE credit recommendations at their own discretion. That means credits may not transfer exactly as a soldier expects. Credits may also apply in various ways. Examples of ways credits that may apply include:
- to replace a required course
- as an optional course within the major
- as a general elective
- to meet basic degree requirements
- to waive a prerequisite
That means soldiers must check with schools to see how each handles transfers. Some colleges and even programs within schools are more military friendly than others. This means basic training could possibly be rolled in to your cyber security military training for credits. It helps to find an experienced advocate. Try to find an admissions advisor or fellow soldier/student to assist with the fine details.
In fact, find support from someone also in Cyber Sec. That way, their experience with cyber security military training parallels your goals. This makes a big difference to help you choose a school and program for you.
Campus Support May Also Help Veteran Students
Various schools may offer a range of programs to support veterans in their educational process. Military friendly may mean many things, including access to supportive programs, resources, counseling, and other tools to minimize the difficulties of going back to school whenever possible. Various organizations aim to help veterans to adjust well to civilian life. That may include providing support on the college campus.
It is worth turning to the school you select to find out if there are any available military supportive services like this. Some people may wish to seek out a college that offers these types of programs. That may make your transition back a bit easier. Look at all forms of help available, including:
- Military training credit access (as noted earlier)
- Textbook and supply access at a discounted or free rate
- Veteran specific advisors and contacts, including supportive services to help you choose the path for you
- Aid with college life including adapting to living on a campus, if you desire, or completing education through an online portal
- Veteran housing opportunities, this could include study body accommodations designed to support military veterans
- Support groups, including those specifically for veterans or others
Each school is a bit different. Be sure to ask about the programs where you enroll. Seek out a school that specifically offers this help, too.
Financial Assistance May Be Available to Veteran Students
Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. There is no doubt that many people leaving military service may benefit from some type of financial support. There may be many opportunities that may be available to individuals who qualify. Keep in mind programs, and terms change often. This information is up to date as of this writing.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tends to offer one of the most commonly used tools for supporting veteran education. That is the GI Bill. The benefits a person may qualify for through this program are dependent on various factors. That may include the amount of time they spent in service. It also may be dependent on the amount of time served after 9/11. Access to GI Bill benefits may also depend on the educational institution selected. Some schools are on the list of approved schools by the VA. Others are not.
The GI Bill Comparison Tool is provided by the VA. It aims to provide insight to help students learn about their specific eligibility under the program. It helps veterans determine if they qualify and what they may qualify for under the bill.
If you qualify for the GI Bill, that may mean you qualify for a reduction in the costs for your education. This may include a percentage off your tuition and housing costs. This may be as much as 50%. And, this may even be much more depending on when you served.
More so, you may have to meet the specific rules for serving to receive your full benefit. The local VA office may offer some clarification in your situation. Generally, there are some key guidelines. Those who were active duty and disabled may see a maximum benefit of 100 percent in some situations. There may be some requirements. This often includes at least 90 days of active duty. That must have fallen after September 10, 2001.
Anything not covered by the GI Bill in tuition costs may be costs you have to pay out of pocket. You may be able to obtain financial support from other resources as well.
Veterans may qualify for other types of financial aid as well. As noted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there may be various ways to pay for college that may fit your specific needs. This may include some help through student loans. Also be sure to reach out to the school you selected. They may offer special programs for veterans. They may be able to help you obtain financial support depending on your situation.
Some high tech companies could also help. There are some companies that may provide scholarships and grants to those in the cyber security field. Be sure to check some of those opportunities out, including:
- Unigo Cybersecurity Scholarship
- AfterCollege Engineering and Technology Student Scholarship
- Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship Program
- Snort Scholarship
- Stokes Educational Scholarship Program
- ISC Undergraduate Scholarship
- Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship
You may wish to reach out to various scholarship opportunities from the gov’t itself. This may include:
- Information Assurance Student Opportunities opportunity
- DoD Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP)
- Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program (SFS)
- IA Summer Intern Program (SIP/IA)
- Information Assurance Development Programs
Educational Opportunities Available to Veterans in Cybersecurity
Making the decision to enter this field might be a big one. Students may wish to start by ensuring this educational opportunity may be a good fit for them. Then, seek out resources to help support veteran education. Here are some suggestions to support your educational path.
Military Times, a publication aimed at veterans, publishes a list of the Best Colleges for Vets most years. Consider using this for more insight into schools that offer supportive educational paths that may fit your goals and needs. This often includes both online and in person programs. It may include both 2- and 4-year educational tracks.
Look to your state, too. Some states may offer supportive programs for veterans aiming to go back to school or work. For example, the Virginia Veterans Cyber Training Pilot offers an opportunity for those who served to gain cyber security education. Other states may do the same. To find out, turn to your local VA for more information. Some local programs may be available, too.
CyberVetsUSA may be another tool to consider. It is often led by private and public organizations. It may offer a range of certification and employment opportunities. Its goal is to help vets transition into the field to have a smooth process. It often offers some courses in cybersecurity. That may include cyber security operations and network security. The benefit of this program is that it typically does not involve a cost to qualified vets. Yet, it may help to fast track people into the field. It is often available to those in Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. People outside of this area may still apply for the program.
Look into Cybrary. It often offers free cyber security education and career development advice and tools. You may need additional education. However, it may offer a catalog of supportive tools and resources to help a person enter this field. This resource often provides access to open source information and tools for collaboration. There are a range of subjects covered, and they are often changing.
Another resource is the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy. It typically offers a curriculum of cyber security education. It is aimed at veterans interested in the industry. And, it aims to help students prepare for the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) certification test.
FortiVet Program may be an opportunity for vets as well. This company typically provides cyber security products and services to other organizations. This program is its way to help support veterans who may wish to transition into the field. It typically offers mentoring, education, and networking opportunities.
Veterans interested in the field may find other resources to help them as well. Learning about critical infrastructure and protecting company networks could be interesting and an opportunity to help others in a new way. Whether you worked as an Airman or in the Marine Corps – or any other field of the U.S. Armed Forces, there are resources to support the transition into this position.
More so, both in person and online education tracks may be available. This includes options through community, state, and private schools. It may include concentrated programs from companies in the industry, too. For those interested in protecting against cyber threats, this type of educational path may be worth taking a closer look at before moving forward.