Biden Team Spotlights How Cybersecurity Education Can Help Protect Democracy

By Alyson Klein — April 11, 2023 3 min read
Hacker attack and data breach, information leak and cybersecurity concept.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Want students to have skills that could allow them to work in just about any industry, improve national security, make a difference for communities and schools, and be part of a fast-growing, high-paid workforce?

Consider offering cybersecurity classes, the Biden administration says. Better yet, make it a career pathway at your school.

That was the overall message of a roughly hour-long panel hosted April 11 by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House National Security Council that essentially served as a public service announcement for cybersecurity education.

The event included professionals who have worked on cybersecurity in a wide range of settings, including at Johnson & Johnson, a company that develops pharmaceutical and other products; Energy Impact Partners, an investment service; and those working on cybersecurity in federal agencies.

Students from schools in the District of Columbia and Baltimore County, Md., who are enrolled in cybersecurity classes sat in the audience, listening to the cybersecurity professionals talk about their work experiences and career advice.

Niloofar Howe, a senior operating partner at Energy Impact Partners, explained how her interest in national security initially drew her to the profession.

Howe was working on technology in the entertainment industry when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened and began to wonder: “What can I do to protect freedom and democracy? And that’s what started me on the path of trying to find a way to apply what I knew about technology in the media sector, to technology and national security,” she said. “And it was a new thing at the time.”

Cindy Marten, the deputy secretary of education who moderated the panel, underscored that K-12 schools—which have increasingly been targeted by cyberattacks—also need protection.

“Maybe your cybersecurity career will take you right back to the schools you used to attend. … I kind of hope so,” she said. “We know we not only need cybersecurity experts working in companies, but we also need them in government and in our schools. There are critical data to protect in these places. And I think you can lead the way,” she told the students.

What’s more, cybersecurity careers encompass a host of disciplines and rely on more than just technical skills, said Gibran Rezavi, a senior advisor for cyber and digital assets at the Department of the Treasury.

Working in cybersecurity doesn’t look “like the in movies,” he said. “It’s not someone with a hoodie in a dark room working at a prompt. It’s not the matrix. It’s a team sport. Somebody needs to write policy. Somebody needs to manage teams, somebody needs to provide support, somebody needs to buy hardware. So now there’s an entire ecosystem of jobs around cybersecurity.”

Cybersecurity courses are still relatively rare, despite a growing number of jobs

Most schools are unlikely to offer cybersecurity as a standalone course, according to a nationally representative survey of 918 district leaders, principals, and teachers conducted in the spring of 2020 by the EdWeek Research Center. About 41 percent of educators surveyed at the time said it was infused in the high school curriculum, while about 37 percent said the same of elementary and middle schools. And just 18 percent of educators said their high schools offered cybersecurity as a standalone course. Of course, it’s possible those numbers have increased over the past three years as the cybersecurity industry has expanded.

Cybersecurity occupations are poised to take off over the next decade. In fact, just one job in the sector—information security analyst, which offers a median salary of $102,600 annually—is expected to grow much faster than the average occupation through 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The panel didn’t announce new resources, but there are existing federal dollars available for cybersecurity education. School districts can use a portion of their career and technical education grants—the largest federal funding source for high schools—to develop career pathways, including for cybersecurity, a U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman said in an email.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Explainer Social Studies and Science Get Short Shrift in Elementary Schools. Why That Matters
Learn why the subjects play a key role in elementary classrooms—and how new policy debates may shift the status quo.
10 min read
Science teacher assists elementary school student in the classroom
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Curriculum Letter to the Editor Finance Education in Schools Must Be More Than Personal
Schools need to teach students to see how their spending impacts others, writes the executive director of the Institute for Humane Education.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Curriculum Q&A Why One District Hired Its Students to Review Curricula
Virginia's Hampton City school district pays a cadre of student interns to give feedback on curriculum.
3 min read
Kate Maxlow, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at Hampton City Schools, who helped give students a voice in curriculum redesign, works in her office on January 12, 2024.
Kate Maxlow is the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in Virginia's Hampton City school district. She worked with students to give them a voice in shaping curriculum.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Curriculum One School District Just Pulled 1,600 Books From Its Shelves—Including the Dictionary
And the broadening book ban attempts may drive some teachers out of the classroom.
6 min read
Books are displayed at the Banned Book Library at American Stage in St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb. 18, 2023. In Florida, some schools have covered or removed books under a new law that requires an evaluation of reading materials and for districts to publish a searchable list of books where individuals can then challenge specific titles.
Books are displayed at the Banned Book Library at American Stage in St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb. 18, 2023. In Florida, some schools have covered or removed books under a new law that requires an evaluation of reading materials and for districts to publish a searchable list of books where individuals can then challenge specific titles.
Jefferee Woo/Tampa Bay Times via AP