The Complete Cybersecurity Career Guide for Veterans

Veterans truly understand the value our society places on security. We rely on their dedication and sacrifice to safeguard our civilian lives. Yet, for the approximately 200,000 veterans who leave the U.S. military every year, transitioning to civilian life can be challenging. What jobs are available for veterans? How will their skills translate? How can they continue to safeguard society? One path leads to the world of digital security.

Cybersecurity represents the world’s fastest-growing field of defense. The United States was the most-targeted country for cybercrime in 2021, with attacks happening daily. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the U.S. government didn’t learn of a 2020 attack until a cybersecurity firm alerted it months later — after being hacked itself. Meanwhile, the FBI reports that cybercrime complaints nearly tripled (PDF, 1310 KB) in the last five years, totaling $6.9 billion in losses in 2021 alone.

To manage these threats, the world needs an infusion of cybersecurity professionals. (ISC)², a professional information security association, projects that the global cybersecurity workforce must increase by 65 percent (PDF, 676 KB) to fight internet attacks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the need for information security professionals to grow by 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. The Department of Homeland Security has even partnered with the Girl Scouts to develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

These are integral, high-paying jobs (often with salaries above $100,000 per year, according to the BLS) for which veterans can be exceptionally qualified. So, where to start? This guide will explore the many cybersecurity resources available to veterans regarding skills and education, interview preparation, and job searches in the public and private sectors.

Why Cybersecurity Is a Great Career for Veterans

First, what is cybersecurity? The term refers to maintaining the security, integrity, and authenticity of information stored on electronic systems. Essentially, cybersecurity professionals stop malicious actors from causing harm.

In that context, cybersecurity offers veterans a natural career progression. Veterans already possess many traits valued in cybersecurity: a strong work ethic, discipline, problem-solving skills, threat analysis, and a desire to serve. Further, many veterans have also learned the technical skills (and, in some cases, achieved the security clearances) necessary to work in cybersecurity.

According to the World Economic Forum, closing the cybersecurity skills gap requires a diverse recruiting approach. Veterans form a natural talent pool that often is “well versed in the leadership, teamwork, and strategic thinking skills integral to a successful cybersecurity career,” the World Economic Forum concludes.

Apply Your Military Experience to Cybersecurity

Consider this: a Veteran status can enhance the transition to a career in cybersecurity. Veterans often have experience fulfilling missions in stressful environments, and they have worked successfully on teams to collaborate on solving problems. They’re also leaders who are loyal and self-motivated. Those are appealing skills on any resume.

Companies and government organizations recognize that veterans bring the proper ethos to their work. Some might bring another important commodity to the civilian workforce: a security clearance. According to Recruit Military, which connects employers and military job candidates, most military security clearances can last up to 24 months after discharge. Employers that require cybersecurity professionals to maintain security clearances often actively recruit qualified veterans.

Learn More

Cybersecurity Education: What You Need to Know

This role requires training and expertise, and veterans have access to a host of educational services in cybersecurity. Information security specialists typically have a degree in computer science, information technology, or related fields, according to the BLS.

Cybersecurity requires a strong programming foundation, knowledge of information systems and networks, and expertise with the latest security trends and threats. The role also blends risk assessment, cryptography, digital forensics, and much more into its technical mix.

How can veterans begin their cybersecurity education? Here are a few resources:

  • The Federal Virtual Training Environment provides free online cybersecurity courses to veterans and others. The Department of Homeland Security manages FedVTE, which houses more than 800 hours of online content on topics such as ethical hacking, surveillance risk management, and malware threats. It also provides prep courses for certification exams.
  • The Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program is a great resource, particularly for veterans who became unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program covers education and training through various colleges in high-demand technical jobs, including cybersecurity.
  • Hire Our Heroes partners with DHS to provide veterans with free cybersecurity education, training, and certification prep courses in conjunction with FedVTE.
  • Boots to Books is a nonprofit founded by veterans that delivers free training through accredited colleges in a variety of technical pathways. It also hosts virtual hiring fairs with companies such as Accenture and Oracle.
  • Second Watch, developed by Palo Alto Networks, supports veterans through a series of cybersecurity training courses.
  • Cybersecurity boot camps afford a quick, concentrated entry into the field. Georgia Tech Cyber and Network Security Boot Camp is an intensive, 24-week program that combines online classes with real-world projects. Though programming experience is helpful, it’s not required to enroll in the boot camp.

Paying the Bills

Though it can be expensive, a cybersecurity education also can be a worthwhile investment. In addition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, veterans have access to other cost-cutting resources.

  • CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service follows a paradigm familiar to veterans who have used the GI Bill. Learners receive stipends (up to $24,000 per year for undergraduates) to become cybersecurity professionals in exchange for serving with the U.S. government.
  • The Yellow Ribbon Program assists with costs that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover, such as tuition and fees for private schools, foreign schools, and graduate programs.
  • Cisco’s Veterans Cyber Scholarship Program provides free online cybersecurity training in partnership with CyberVetsUSA. Veterans and their spouses can participate in free educational programs to prepare for careers in security analysis, digital forensics, and more.
  • The Navy’s Information Assurance Scholarship Program seeks to expand the cybersecurity talent pool among Department of Defense (DoD) and non-DoD personnel. One aspect of the program provides grants to learners and to participating educational institutions for research purposes.
  • Learners at CyberVET won’t need scholarships because its educational programs are tuition-free and supporter-funded. Accepted participants enroll in a comprehensive tech curriculum that begins with the basics of programming and networks.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Cybersecurity professionals can further career opportunities by earning certifications demonstrating their expertise and proficiency in an array of topics and subfields. Veterans often can take advantage of free prep courses before taking certification exams.

NICCS has compiled a guide to the many cybersecurity certifications available, and veterans should explore those that best meet their needs. Here are a few to consider:

Support for Veterans Entering the Cybersecurity Workforce

Beginning the job search can be daunting. Fortunately, career-assistance services connect veterans with tips on resume writing, job training, and employment searches. These are available in the public and private sectors, where employers are actively recruiting veterans for roles in cybersecurity and other technical fields.

More Cybersecurity Resources

Where else can veterans look to begin their cybersecurity careers? Here are some other resources to consult.

  • The NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework is among the most comprehensive sites for information on cybersecurity education, careers, and terminology. The Department of Homeland Security partnered with universities, government agencies, and companies to build the NICE Framework, which it calls the “foundation” for expanding the U.S. cybersecurity workforce.
  • Cyberseek.org, whose motto is “Hack the gap,” maintains a heat map of trending job markets. For example, Georgia is among the states with the highest number of cybersecurity openings.
  • At Apprenticeship.gov, the federal government connects companies with talent interested in apprenticeships. High-demand roles include cybersecurity analyst and cybersecurity support technician.
  • The Military Times has compiled an exhaustive collection of articles concerning veteran education and transition. It calls DoD Skillbridge “the best military transition program you didn’t know existed.
  • Want to become a threat hunter or a Red Teamer? The SANS Institute, an information security cooperative, has compiled the 20 coolest careers in cybersecurity.

Reserve your spot in an
upcoming boot camp.

It only takes a minute to request information and receive a full curriculum overview. You will also be put in touch with an admissions representative who can answer questions and get your application started.

Review previously provided information.
* indicates required field.

Not ****@domain.com ?
Share some information to gain exclusive access to our articles.