Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

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

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.
Select from the following options: