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Training and inspiring the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is more than simply an economic imperative. It’s clear that the supply of cybersecurity specialists will not meet the demand for the foreseeable future. A decision to enter the field makes economic sense: stability, compensation, job growth… it’s all there. However, cybersecurity is also a vital national security priority. Whether an individual chooses to work in a commercial Security Operations Center (SOC) or serves in an intelligence or defense related cyber-role, their work and actions are vital to the security of the United States.

But how do we—as a nation—help expose kids to cybersecurity, inform them about opportunities in the field, and inspire the next generation to follow a career path that will lead them to cyber?  One program has been doing just that for well over a decade.

CyberPatriot is a nationwide cyber security competition run by the Air Force Association. Billed as the nation’s largest and fastest growing youth cyber education program, it has grown from eight teams to over 6,000 teams since the first contest in 2009. Through training, mentorship, and several rounds of competition, participants play the role of IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company using virtual operating systems. This includes finding and fixing vulnerabilities in Windows and Linux operating systems, and a Cisco-centric networking exercise and test.

Teams, consisting of a coach and up to six competitors plus technical mentors and team assistants, compete in three divisions (based on status of competitors):

  • Open Division: High school students from schools, scouting units, Boys and Girls Clubs, home school programs, STEM programs, etc.
  • All Service Division: High school students in JROTC Programs / Civil Air Patrol units / Naval Sea Cadet Corps units
  • Middle School Division: Middle school students from schools, scouting units, boys and girls clubs, STEM programs, etc.

Cybersecurity training (the curriculum is provided by CyberPatriot) and unscored exhibition rounds take place between May and September. Competition rounds take place in a six-hour block over a one weekend in October and November, followed by advanced competitions in December and January. National Finals—which brings the best teams to an all-expenses-paid trip to Bethesda, Maryland to compete for the title and scholarship money—are held in March.

CyberPatriot is making an impact in developing the next generation of cyber professionals, getting kids interested in cybersecurity and helping fill the cyber talent pipeline. According to a CyberPatriot survey, nearly half of current participants intend to study cybersecurity or computer science through a two- or four-year education program when they complete high school. 91% of former CyberPatriot participants now in college or the workforce point to their CyberPatriot experience as driving them to cyber/computer science and other STEM-related fields.

Registration Open Now For CyberPatriot XXIII

If you would like to learn more about CyberPatriot, or help build a team for your school or youth program, visit the CyberPatriot registration page. Note that team registration is at no cost for Title I schools, all-girl teams, and All Service Division (JROTC, CAPNSCC) teams.