Cybersecurity Challenge

How might we create ways for veterans to get credit for job experience and a rapid pathway to careers in the high-demand field of cyber security?

The Cybersecurity Challenge explores ways of creating more opportunities for veterans to obtain cyber security jobs. During the initial phase of this project the Lab’s Challenge Lead, Quintan Wiktorowicz, explored veteran experiences, employer needs and educational programs. Challenge Lead Rebecca Horton conducted additional design research and lead the development of key insights and early prototypes. Insights and prototypes from this work have created a greater understanding of current and potential pathways into cyber security jobs and where the Lab can work with stakeholders to increase the number of veterans who seek and successfully enter cyber security jobs.

View the Challenge Update: From Sketches to Service Blueprints

Smoothing and Shortening the Pathway for Veterans

For this challenge, we started with the fact that more veterans are returning to the workforce, yet they have persistently higher unemployment rates than non-veterans of the same age groups. In addition, veterans face hurdles that most civilians don’t. Some 28% of Iraq War veterans have a service-related disability; 9% are at least 60% disabled. They also have less office-style work experience, which can be hard to correlate with military occupational specialties. But they possess significant skills, including highly technical training, that should translate to the cyber careers that hold so much promise. How can the educational system help prepare veterans efficiently for these coveted roles?

Hiring enough “workforce ready” talent to manage this risk in government and private industry today is a challenge. Listings for cybersecurity positions with average annual salaries over $100,000 rose 3.5 times faster than postings for computer jobs as a whole, according to Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm.

Cyber Degree Speed This shows how the community college is beginning to map military occupational specialties, working in particular with the Marine Corps. From there, the community college and the four-year university are working together to forge articulation agreements so that those credits will transfer. This new partnership is expected to save significant time and money for qualified veterans going for degree completion.


Current Work 

  1. Identifying entrepreneurs who might fill a market need for training, coaching and development. (using Mason/NVCC as test bed), and
  2. Identifying employers who might co-design relevant curriculum and provide training and coaching opportunities for veterans.

Join The Challenge!

The Education Design Lab starts with an educational problem and designs a scalable solution in collaboration with learning institutions, industry and entrepreneurs. In a metro region that is home to 1.3 million vets, the largest per capita concentration in the country, this 8 month Design Challenge brings together:

  • George Mason University
  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • Employers from Northern Va. Technology Council and elsewhere
  • Regional workforce development commissions

These learning institutions serve 100,000 students. So far, the Design Challenge has:

  • Researched gaps in the veteran higher education pathway
  • Advocated shortening vet higher ed pathway with critical stakeholders
  • Isolated a critical role for the Lab around workforce readiness
  • Held design days to facilitate prototypes
  • Managed application for $900,000 NSF grant to use Mason/NVCC as test bed for Cyber Education grant