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SANS survey reveals cybersecurity as popular career choice in the UAE and KSA

SANS survey reveals cybersecurity as popular career choice in the UAE and KSA

A new report from SANS has found vastly different approaches to cybersecurity as a career across different countries

A new report SANS EMEA Survey: the iGen and Cybersecurity finds that cybersecurity awareness and preference as a career choice is vastly different across a sample of European and Middle East countries.

The latest research from global IT security training company SANS Institute demonstrates that among 14 to 18-year-olds across seven countries in the Middle East and Europe, the choice of IT (including cybersecurity) as a career is highest in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UAE (47% and 46% respectively).

Of those students who are interested in a career in IT, 49% were specifically interested in cybersecurity across the EMEA sample of students, with KSA and UAE leading the pack at 63% and 58% respectively.

In late 2018, SANS Institute commissioned research agency Vanson Bourne to explore awareness of and opinions on cybersecurity among 4,000 secondary students in seven countries across Europe and the Middle East. This includes the UAE, KSA, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The SANS EMEA Survey: the iGen and Cybersecurity report, outlines these and other findings.

While the majority of students across EMEA had heard of cybersecurity (81%), the results show that those countries with higher awareness of the subject could potentially have a competitive advantage when it comes to building out talent in the longer term.

The role of parents in education of cybersecurity around mobile devices and public Wi-Fi, to a great extent, was the highest in KSA (51%) and the UAE (44%) followed by Germany (38%) among this sample of EMEA countries.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Given the prolific nature of cybersecurity and the media attention it currently attracts, it is perhaps surprising that no country achieved 100% awareness. Germany, leads the pack in cyber awareness: 92% of German students said they had heard of cybersecurity, followed by the UAE (85%) and the UK (82%).
  • There is more to IT than cyber: 32% of students across EMEA are considering IT as one of their top five career choices. In fact, it was more likely to rank in the top five than more traditional careers such as doctor/nurse (21%), teacher (19%) or working in finance (16%). On a local level, students from KSA (47%), the UAE (46%) and Germany (33%) are more likely to consider IT in their top five careers.
  • Of those interested in IT careers, creating applications and software topped the list of sub-categories overall (61%), followed by IT system design (52%), and cybersecurity in third (49%). Of those students interested in IT as a career choice, cybersecurity had the highest preference in KSA (63%) and the UAE (58%).
  • Whether or not students are aware of the career options available, 81% of students across EMEA said they would be interested in learning more on the subject, as part of their school day, an extra-curricular activity, or both. Again, KSA and the UAE led the pack with over 93% of students in KSA and 91% in the UAE wanting to get to know more about cybersecurity.

Ned Baltagi, Managing Director in the Middle East, SANS Institute, said: “We are currently on the brink of a cybersecurity crisis. By 2020, there will be approximately 24 billion Internet-connected devices installed across the world.

“However, reports show that in the next year or two, unfilled cybersecurity job openings globally will run into several millions, meaning we are severely short of professionals to secure all those devices and systems we are putting online.

“Given the enthusiasm and aptitude of the iGeneration for digital technologies, the answer to our cyber crisis could lie in enthusing and educating younger generations about cybersecurity now, to arm our future workforce.”

SANS is currently running programmes in the US and UK to develop knowledge and awareness among school-age students. In the UK, SANS is working with the UK Government to deliver Cyber Discovery, an extensive programme using gamification techniques to develop skills and identify those with natural talent.

The programme is aimed at young people aged 14 to 18 and aims to help plug the UK’s cybersecurity skills gap by tapping into young and undiscovered talent with the ambition of stimulating and nurturing interest in cybersecurity as a future career path.

“The research shows that KSA and UAE lead the EMEA pack in terms of awareness of cybersecurity and preference as a career option. The role of parents in increasing the awareness of cybersecurity around connected devices and public Wi-Fi is also indicated. With the continuing growth in both nation state and everyday cybercrime, both parents and their school-age children are becoming aware of the importance of cybersecurity skills and their role in selecting a career in this field.” Baltagi adds.

Click here to download a copy of the report.