Coming Soon To a Workplace Near You: Cyber Job Titles

The Office of Personnel Management this spring will release a list of job titles comprising the federal cybersecurity career path, creating for the first time much-needed consensus on the skills required of the cyber workforce, Homeland Security Department officials told Nextgov on Tuesday.

The fundamental problem contributing to a human capital crisis in the embryonic field is the inability of agencies to agree on what constitutes a cyber professional, according to federal officials. Without a standard definition, current counts on staffing levels and skills gaps are misrepresentative, the Government Accountability Office reported last month. Until agencies are comparing apples to apples in terms of cyber jobs data, the Obama administration will flounder building a workforce large enough and capable enough to respond to growing threats from nation states, hacktivists and insiders, federal officials say.

Currently, several departments, including DHS and OPM, are collaborating to standardize roles and responsibilities for job seekers -- and IT managers. OPM is linking its existing "occupational series," a list of jobs in a particular line of work at all pay grades, to 31 cybersecurity specialty areas set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, DHS officials said during a discussion sponsored by the Government Business Council, Nextgov's research arm.

"They will key to the specialty areas and that will bring consistency across the government," said Peggy Maxson, DHS director for national cybersecurity education strategy. Specialties include, for example, software engineering, information assurance compliance, legal advice and vulnerability assessment. Maxson told Nextgov the jobs data is expected to be available in the spring but she could not provide a specific release date.