The Cybersecurity and Privacy Workforce in Higher Education, 2023

Work Role Experiences

In this section, we report on a number of factors that relate to individuals' work roles and experiences including access to flexible work options, ability to travel, workload, changes in time demands for specific job functions, and job satisfaction and likelihood of seeking other employment opportunities.

Many respondents have flexible work options. Over half of respondents (57%) said that it was very or extremely important to them to have remote/hybrid options for working, and a larger majority (68%) of respondents indicated that they currently do have remote/hybrid options for work. This latter number is likely even higher when considering that all of the 7% who selected "other" indicated some form of a hybrid arrangement. Only 19% of respondents said that they are required to be on campus, and 7% said they are required to be remote/hybrid. We also asked how difficult or easy it is for respondents to change their work schedule to accommodate one-off occurrences (e.g., doctor appointments, important errands, personal commitments, or other life circumstances). A wide majority (89%) said that it is somewhat or very easy to change their schedules.

The ability to travel for work has not changed much since before the pandemic. We asked respondents to identify the extent to which they are able to travel for work now compared to before the pandemic. A majority (65%) said that they are able to travel the same amount as before the pandemic. About a quarter (26%) said they are able to travel less, while few respondents (9%) said they are able to travel more.

Most respondents have an excessive workload. We asked respondents about their current workload (to what extent it was light, just right, or excessive). A majority (80%) said that their workload is somewhat or very excessive. We also asked whether respondents' workloads have changed within the past 12 months. A majority (76%) said that they experienced an increase in their workload, while only 6% said their workload decreased and 19% said there was no change. Among those who said their workload increased, about half (49%) said they experienced moderate to great increases in workload.

Increases in workloads are causing reactivity rather than strategy and adaptability. Respondents who reported changes in their workload provided comments on the impact of this change on their ability to perform their duties. Those who experienced an increase in workload reported lower-quality performance, difficulties in completing tasks on time, having to work longer hours, lack of time to devote to certain areas of responsibility, an increase in multitasking and juggling priorities, and negative psychological and motivational effects such as increased stress, burnout, difficulty in concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, and decreased motivation. Further, respondents noted that with growing security and privacy risks and limited staffing, increases in workload have intensified the need to prioritize tasks, causing the adoption of a reactive approach (i.e., responding to the most urgent and serious threats, risks, and issues as they occur due to limited capacity).

"Firefighting" modes are the norm. Only things that are broken get prioritized and completed with untenable workloads and project lists.

Our organization is in a constant state of urgency. Everything comes into ITS last minute. Priorities change frequently without much organization.

I'm not able to complete all of my duties, and critical projects are falling behind, endangering important operations for the college.

I feel like I am constantly buried and not getting any projects done, or having them take forever to get completed. Before I could get my projects done in a timely manner, but now I am doing 2.5 people's jobs, and I don't see any end in sight.

An increase in workload impacts my ability to perform duties by creating time constraints, reducing efficiency, causing stress and burnout, creating challenges in prioritization, and hindering communication and collaboration, which [are] crucial in my position.

My role comprises multiple areas of responsibility—demands and "crises" in other areas of responsibility have resulted in less time to focus on cybersecurity and privacy-related work.

Compliance and regulations has seen the largest increase in time demands. We asked respondents to identify the job functions/areas that have seen the largest increases and declines in time demands in the past 12 months. The areas that saw the largest increase were compliance and regulations (55%), followed by monitoring and detection (47%) and incident response and threat hunting (40%) (see figure 7). The areas that saw the greatest decline in time demands were offensive operations (29%), followed by specialized offensive operations (23%) and threat intel and forensics (21%) (see figure 8).

Figure 7. Job Functions That Have Increased in Time Demands
Bar chart showing increase in demand for various job functions. Compliance and regulations (55%), Monitoring and detection (47%), Incident response and threat hunting (40%), Cloud security (22%), Education and training (21%), Cyber defense operations (21%), Leadership and management of staff and operations (20%), Privacy operations (13%), Privacy programs (12%), Other (9%), Threat intel and forensics (7%), Offensive operations (4%), Industrial control systems (2%), and Specialized offensive operations (1%).
Figure 8. Job Functions That Have Declined in Time Demands
Bar chart showing decrease in demand for various job functions. Offensive operations (29%), Specialized offensive operations (23%), Threat intel and forensics (21%), Industrial control systems (19%), Education and training (19%), Leadership and management of staff and operations (15%), Other (14%), Compliance and regulations (9%), Privacy operations (8%), Cyber defense operations (7%), Monitoring and detection (7%), Privacy programs (7%), Cloud security (6%), and Incident response and threat hunting (5%).

Respondents were satisfied with many aspects of their job. We asked respondents to indicate how unsatisfied or satisfied they are with various aspects of their work/role (see figure 9). Respondents were most satisfied with workplace flexibility (79%), their peers and colleagues (77%), and workplace autonomy (76%). Surprisingly, salary, which was identified as the biggest concern for staffing issues, was not among the factors that respondents were least satisfied with. Rather, they were least satisfied with mobility and growth opportunities (39%), HR policies and practices (47%), and institutional policies supporting sound cybersecurity and privacy strategies (48%). Interestingly, across the board, many respondents were satisfied with the areas we asked about. The number of those somewhat or very satisfied never dropped below 39%, and for all but three of the areas, between 54% and 79% of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied.

Figure 9. Satisfaction with Particular Job Functions
Bar chart showing percentage of respondents who were somewhat or very satisfied with particular job functions. Workplace flexibility (79%), Peers, colleagues (77%), Workplace autonomy (76%), Benefits (75%), Departmental culture (75%), Work–life balance (70%), Diversity and inclusion at department level (66%), Leadership, management (65%), Diversity and inclusion at unit level (63%), Diversity and inclusion at institutional level (62%), Institutional culture (61%), Salary (54%), Institutional policies supporting sound cybersecurity and privacy strategies (48%), HR policies and practices (47%), and Mobility and growth opportunities (39%).

More than half of respondents are likely to apply for other positions in the next 12 months. We asked respondents whether they had lately applied for other positions or were likely to do so soon. Respondents indicated a stronger likelihood to apply for other positions in the next 12 months than to have applied in the past 12 months (see figure 10). Respondents looking for new positions are about evenly split between staying in higher education or working elsewhere: among those who are planning to apply, 55% are looking outside higher education and 56% are looking within higher education; among those who have already applied, 32% applied outside higher education and 37% applied within. This finding is notable given the fact that salaries in higher education tend to be lower than in industry positions.

Figure 10. Applying for Other Positions Within and Outside Higher Education

Across the board, job satisfaction correlates negatively with individuals' likelihood to apply for other positions in the next 12 months. That is, the more satisfied respondents are with the various aspects of their job, the less likely they are to consider applying for other positions, whether within or outside higher education. (Interestingly, job satisfaction did not correlate with whether respondents had already applied to other positions.) This finding suggests that in their efforts to retain staff, institutions might pay special attention to the nonmonetary aspects of employment, such as policies, culture, and mobility and growth opportunities, rather than trying to compete on salary.