Employment among IT security professionals in the United States rose significantly throughout 2011, as unemployment virtually was nonexistent among those with cybersecurity skills, according to an Information Security Media Group analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Friday.
The number of information security analysts employed rose by more than one-third to 51,000 in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 37,000 in the first quarter. Averaging four quarters of data, 44,000 IT security professionals were employed in 2011. Data culled from the household surveys the BLS conducts to determine the national unemployment rate showed no joblessness in each of 2011's four quarters in the standard occupation category labeled information security analysts, which includes a wide range of IT security roles.
Our analysis reveals that private enterprises employed 82 percent of information security professionals in 2011. The field is dominated by men, 89 percent, and whites, 73 percent. (See Women, Minorities Scarce in IT Security Field.)
Information security professionals make up just over 1 percent of all IT professionals tracked by the BLS. In 2011, our analysis shows, the workforce of computer professionals reached 4,142,000, with 3,981,000 employed and 161,000 unemployed, resulting in an IT unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate for all occupations last year averaged 8.8 percent.
The sample size for each standard occupation category is too small to be statistically reliable, but past analysis of such data shows they reflect employment conditions. Even if the unemployment rate for information security analysts wasn't zero, as the statistics imply, it was likely to have been extremely low, suggesting available jobs requiring IT security know-how far outnumber individuals with the needed infosec skills who can fill them.
Occupation Categories Newly Defined
Year-to-year employment comparisons cannot precisely be made because BLS began using new occupation definitions in 2011. Until last year, the government did not have an information security analysts occupation category. Using previous years' occupation definitions, information technology employment in 2010 topped 3.9 million. Another 161,000 people who considered themselves IT professionals were unemployed. That meant the IT workforce in 2010 exceeded 4.12 million. IT unemployment in 2010 averaged 5.4 percent. Those figures suggest IT employment strengthened in the United States last year.
BLS broadly defines the information security analysts' occupation classification to include individuals who plan, implement, upgrade or monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information. The job classification also includes individuals who ensure appropriate security controls are in place that will safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure as well as those who respond to computer security breaches and viruses.
The information security analysts category excludes computer-network architects. Indeed, many professionals employed in other IT occupations such as computer programmers, software developers and network and computer systems administrators require information security know-how as secondary and tertiary skills.
Each month, BLS conducts two employment surveys. The one we use to produce our analysis, the household survey, has government survey-takers interviewing 60,000 residences.