December 2, 2023

Eman El-Sheikh talks with University of West Florida students Justin Fruitticher and Caroline Krouse in the Computer Science Data Center.
Michael Mitchell

University of West Florida senior Michael Mitchell will not graduate until December but already has landed a job with IBM's Austin-based cyber-security division.


In Florida and nationwide, cyber-security jobs are waiting to be filled

Carlton Proctor | 6/25/2020

Unemployment Rate: 0%

There is a shortage of cyber-security professionals in Florida, with more than 25,000 unfilled cyber-security jobs in the state. Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 jobs available. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity in Penascola, talked with FLORIDA TREND about cybersecurity trends:

  • Need: “A recent survey by the cyber-crimes magazine Cyber Security Ventures estimates that globally there will be 3.5 million unfilled cyber-security related jobs in 2021. And I think those numbers actually are low.”
  • Pay: “The average starting salary for a cyber-security graduate is between $70,000 and $80,000. Our students can leave our program knowing there is a job waiting for them. The unemployment rate for cyber-security graduates is zero.”
  • Areas of Need: “We are now seeing huge concerns with the security of our critical infrastructure like our power grids, so I think the job demand is only going to get higher.”
  • Vulnerability: “What makes this field so challenging is cyber-security is a very evolving threat landscape. For example, the average number of internet-connected devices in our homes is 15, from your smart TV to your laptop to your smart refrigerator. The other day I wanted to purchase an electric toothbrush, but they were all Bluetooth-connected, and these kinds of internet-connected devices can cause havoc. We had an attack a few years ago that took down major internet connections across the East Coast and West Coast, and that attack was propagated through unsecured, internet-connected baby monitors."
  • Students: ‘We are seeing students come out of high school much more prepared for our cyber-security programs. The University of West Florida is the only university in Florida that offers a stand-alone bachelor's degree in cyber-security that is also designated as a Center for Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.”

When $60,000 Is Low

University of West Florida senior Michael Mitchell will not graduate until December but already has landed a job with IBM’s Austin-based cyber-security division.

A Jacksonville native, Mitchell was offered the job after he impressed IBM during a summer internship in 2019.

Mitchell says his starting salary is in the $80,000-plus range.

His job as a “penetration tester” is to find flaws that hackers can exploit in large software operating systems.

“Many of my friends landing cyber-security jobs are getting salaries similar to mine,” he says. “The lowest offer I've heard a friend of mine receiving is in the $60,000 range with the high-end offers being in the low six figures.”

Mitchell says most of his peers at UWF will not even consider salary offers below $70,000.

$293.4 Million

  • Florida, the nation’s third-most populous state, ranks second only to California in total cyber-crime losses and in victims — 27,178 — reports the FBI in its most recent annual internet crime report.

$96.2 Million

  • Compromised e-mail accounts led to $96.2 million in losses by Florida victims in 2019, says the FBI.


  • The top cybercrime in Florida by number of victims is non-payment/ non-delivery of goods ordered or shipped. Some 4,392 Floridians in 2019 complained to the FBI about that.


Read more in Florida Trend's July issue.
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