Here are seven reasons why a degree in cybersecurity is worth considering:

1. The U.S. is under Attack

The first six months of 2017 experienced an inordinate number of cybersecurity meltdowns. Moreover, they weren’t just the standard corporate breaches. The mysterious hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers first surfaced in August 2016, claiming to have breached the spy tools of the elite (National Security Agency) NSA-linked operation known as the Equation Group. On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a data trove containing 8,761 documents allegedly stolen from the CIA. These purportedly contained extensive documentation of alleged spying operations and hacking tools. Revelations included iOS and Android vulnerabilities, bugs in Windows, and the ability to turn some smart TVs into listening devices. These are just two examples of many.

 2. Accelerating Demand

As these data breaches occurred, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article in May 2017, stating that there is a shortage of global workforce talent in cybersecurity. HBR reported that there would be more than 1.5 million unfilled positions by 2020. This is a fast-growing market, with projections of becoming a $101 billion industry by 2020. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.3%, more than twice the rate of overall IT spending growth, over the five-year forecast period. For 2016, the largest segment, managed security services, was forecast to generate revenues of $13 billion, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

Today, over half a million open technology jobs exist in America, but businesses cannot find qualified workers with the education and skills to fill them. At IBM, they are looking for people with a number of in-demand skills, particularly as they grow and expand innovative career opportunities in cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cybersecurity. Education at the high school, community college, and university level are not keeping up with the demand.

3. Problem is Pervasive

Ideally, you want to earn a degree that can place you in an in-demand industry. You want a decent compensation package and job security. In addition, have your choice of top companies from which to choose. The profession of cybersecurity should provide all of these on your wish list. Because hackers are ubiquitous.

Hackers plundered big retailers like Neiman Marcus and Home Depot for credit card and customer information. They accessed banks like JPMorgan Chase. Even tech companies can’t seem to protect themselves. Yahoo’s ineptitude in repelling (or even being aware of) hackers forced it to reduce its sale price to Verizon.

Accenture estimates that companies worldwide spent $84 billion in 2015 to protect against attacks. That spending is an acknowledgment that every company needs to safeguard its digital assets.

4. Need to Fix the Problem

IBM addressed the talent shortage by creating “new collar” jobs, particularly in cybersecurity. These roles prioritize skills, knowledge, and willingness to learn over degrees and the career fields that gave people their initial work experience. The characteristics of a successful cybersecurity professional require unbridled curiosity, passion for problem-solving, strong ethics, and willingness for risks.

IBM is also investing $1 billion in skills training and development programs for their U.S. workforce for the years 2017-2021. They are expanding partnerships with the nation’s community colleges to create more new collar skills training opportunities. However, the research indicates that there is much work needed in terms of training and development. A survey reported that sixty-three percent of IT professionals said their company does not have adequate IT security staff.

5. Opportunity Awaits

In addition to your degree, it is imperative to continue your education. Research conducted by (ISC)² suggested that recruitment managers looking for new staff should view communication skills (62 percent) and analytical skills (52 percent) as the IT skills most in demand. That focus is in sharp contrast to the interests of in-house technology workers. They believe new candidates with cloud computing and security (64 percent) are the most welcome additions, followed by applicants skilled in risk assessment and management (40 percent). By combing the results of these two surveys, it seems that cloud computing/security professionals with excellent communication skills would be the best hires.

(ISC)2 is the world’s leading Cybersecurity and IT Security Professional Organization. They offer several cybersecurity certifications, as well as classroom-based and online training.

6. Start in High School

By early, this means in high school. The P-TECH 9-14 model addresses postsecondary degree completion and career readiness by smoothing the transitions between high school, college, and the professional world. Currently, an additional 14 million jobs requiring middle skills, those requiring an associate degree or similar technical training, are needed. The highest paid of those jobs will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

P-TECH 9-14 schools are public schools, governed and supported by the local school district. The content of the high school and college courses is carefully sequenced so that students move seamlessly through the program. College deans and faculty participate in the school’s curriculum planning and development, and through co-teaching, mentoring, and tutoring activities.

7. Scholarships Available

What better way to launch your education than with scholarship funds, compliments of the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. Aspiring information security professionals have the opportunity to ease some of their educational financial burden with the (ISC)² Information Security Undergraduate Scholarship. They offer undergraduate students studying information security up to $5,000 per recipient. Applicants must be pursuing, or plan to pursue, a degree with a focus on cybersecurity or information assurance. In addition, high school seniors and undergraduate students who are currently in their junior, freshman or sophomore year are eligible.