This career field has thousands of unfilled jobs

Computer Hacker

Cybersecurity has thousands of job openings and a lack of qualified applicants. Recent graduates with the skills can write their own ticket.

Even as U.S. employers added 211,000 jobs in November, prospective employees still have trouble finding jobs — unless you work in cybersecurity. That is one field where the demand for workers routinely outpaces applicants.

To help fill the shortage, universities and companies are working to train potential employees. Still, recent graduates with information security (InfoSec) skills can write their own tickets.

"Odds are there are several hundred thousand jobs today that aren't filled," said Caleb Barlow, IBM 's vice president of mobile management and security, told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

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By 2020, there are expected to be 1.5 million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, according to the 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, released in April. Some universities, such as New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, are moving to take advantage of that boom by offering programs in the field.

"We have classes like computer security where we try to encourage an attacker mindset in younger students," said Kevin Chung, a 2015 graduate of NYU, using an industry term that means viewing IT with the perspective of a potential hacker.

Chung now works as a security analyst at IT consulting firm Bishop Fox. He also mentors current students, helping them learn the skills they will need on the job. While at NYU, Chung was one of the most recruited students on campus, receiving multiple job offers.

"This attacker mindset is very valuable to companies and to individuals because it's very difficult to cultivate," he said.

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While many college students are just looking to be paid, cybersecurity jobs come with ample salaries. The average industry salary is around $116,000 according to a survey by Semper Secure, an organization looking to draw more talent specifically to Virginia.

Corporations are now partnering with universities to get access to their students. For example, IBM works with more than 300 universities around the globe and gives them free access to its security software.

"The challenge we have is not only do we need the technical talent, but we need the pipeline of students coming out of universities," IBM's Barlow said.

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An additional challenge for companies is connecting with students.

"Part of what you have to keep in mind is if you're a top cybersleuth coming out of school, not only are you in demand, but this isn't just about money. It's also about students want to go work someplace where they are going to see these types of attacks and be able to use these types of skills," Barlow said.

Now that almost every company needs a security staff to defend its networks, cybersecurity companies are seeing increasing competition for workers.

Read More Why more companies are using the cloud to fight cyberthreats

"On the Money" airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET, or check listings for airtimes in local markets.

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