Wils BellWhile there are lots of possible IT education trends for the year ahead, they pretty much all center around security.

So says Wils Bell, president of SecurityHeadhunter.com, a security search firm in Orlando, Florida. Bell, whose company specializes in the recruitment and placement of information security and risk management talent. He states emphatically that IT minus security is a losing proposition.

Relying on his knowledge of the industry from the perspective of a recruiter with many clients in the U.S., he comments below on what he sees as the top IT education trends for this year.

What is the current state of affairs in IT education overall?

The people I place in jobs are higher-level professionals, so many times the formal education they got was many years ago. Their education is now hands-on in a real-life situation within IT security. Any time you look around—whether it’s a college, an online education or a certification program—you can see that IT education or training is everywhere. From what I can understand from some of the younger people, education is now integrating security methodologies into an IT curriculum. If you look at software designers and programmers 10 to 15 years ago, you’ll find that they just basically designed and wrote a program, and they worried about somebody else securing it when securing it became something that was needed. Now security is part of the development and coding process built into programs from the beginning.

I read an article the other day that indicated there are many employers recruiting from non-four-year-degree schools or trade schools to help fill technology positions that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree. There are also in-house training programs that allow those without a four-year degree to move into the information technology field.

What are the top five anticipated IT trends for 2014?

The education trends will be directed towards information security.

  1. Cloud computing. More and more, IT is moving to the cloud. Trends dealing with this security will continue into the future.
  2. Information assurance. There are a lot of master’s degrees programs directed towards that area of study.
  3. Training in network security. This area would make a great career option or stepping stone.
  4. Windows or operating system security. This is a very important as is web app security.
  5. Mobile and BYOD security. More and more people are becoming mobile, which means that companies have to keep up with the need to secure these devices.

Remember, a degree can really help in your career. However, most times people get their true training on the job. When you’re out in the workplace, it’s no longer an educational environment for grades; it’s an educational environment to actually secure IT environments.

What sorts of developments on the horizon could have an impact on IT education in the years ahead?

You can’t have IT and not have security. For example, the cloud is ever growing. Several years ago, it was not nearly as prevalent as it is today. Not everyone is utilizing the cloud now, but wait a couple years. There are many ideas in development and planning stages for cyber-security. Since this is an ever-growing and changing field, the ideas and concepts to come are only limited by ones imagination.

Another area of [ongoing] growth will be in mobile security and BYOD (bring your own device). These will continue to be real challenges for companies. Everything these days is connected to Wi-Fi. The PC market is down while the tablet market is way up. People are now buying tablets and replacing their laptops. Smartphones are everywhere. Continued advancements within mobile security will be a strong trend.

If someone’s planning to focus on IT in college or university, what areas of specializations make the most sense at this point?

Information security stretches across so many boundaries. People interested should consider getting a degree in IT and security first. Areas that are very highly sought after are numerous, including security architecture. Another area that is a very hot area is web-application security. Every time you go online to a website, there are people who supposedly have checked the software programming behind it to help prevent security issues. Understanding how to find vulnerabilities in web-application software and remediating the needed changes is a strong asset in the workplace. Some people may want to concentrate in networking security while others may want to pursue operating-system security. I also get security searches for candidates who will have a degree in IT and Security but must have an MBA with a concentration in IT security or risk.

Is there anything else you care to add?

Technology is a great field for many people. You don’t necessarily need a degree to get into some of the areas. Degrees can help, but it is the on-the-job training and the on-the-job experiences that people will encounter that will really give them their true education as they go through their career. Many other careers don’t have the same opportunity as certificated programs (only healthcare such as lpn nursing programs are a field that can offer cache with this level of education). Many times I’ll have a client say, “A degree is preferable. However, we will waive that in lieu of work experience.” Clients realize it’s what you learn and experiences gained in the real world that will make you a solid asset to the company.