(TNS) — Are you interested in a career in the cyber industry, but unsure what skills employers are looking for – now and in the future?

You’re not alone.

Next week, Augusta University will ask more than 1,600 regional employers what they want and need to fill cyber and cyber-related positions at businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

The university’s Master of Public Administration program, in conjunction with the institution’s Cyber Institute, is trying to better understand the workforce needs of the region’s nascent and sometimes nebulous cyber industries.

“It’s difficult to get straight answers about whether or not the talent is here,” said Dr. William Hatcher, the director of AU’s MPA program. “This information will help us understand what talent we have here to train up.”

The email-based survey, which consists of about 30 questions, will be mailed out by Thursday to the list of employers in the seven-county Augusta-Aiken metro area. The results will be released in June, Hatcher said.

The survey includes general questions about whether employers outsource for their cybersecurity needs and why, the number of unfilled cybersecurity positions they have and how many professionals they expect to employ in the future.

There also are questions about what certifications the companies need – such as Certified Information Security Manager and National Security Agency Centers of Academic Excellence credentials – and open-ended questions like, what are the one or two most effective actions the Augusta community could do to assist your organization with its cybersecurity needs?”

Wesley Meares, an associate professor of political science and public administration, said similar workforce studies have been done in other communities, including San Diego, which saw an influx of cyber professionals after the headquarters of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command moved there in 1997.

The idea is to ensure the region’s educational assets aren’t overwhelmed by the rapid influx of military and military contractor jobs caused by the relocation of the Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon.

“It usually takes years to cultivate the talent, but we’re getting an injection of talent,” Meares said. “But what can we do to continue to grow the talent pool and have the talent here to attract more companies?”

Although active-duty military members are not included in federal labor statistics, Hatcher and Meares estimated that 12,000 people are employed in some type of cyber-related job in Augusta, which would work out to roughly 5.3 percent of the entire workforce. Based on their research, the average wage for cyber workers is $76,489.

The survey’s goal is to give the community – including high schools and technical schools – information they can use to better tailor cyber education to employer needs and make the region a national or international hub of cyber activity.

“We keep hearing (about cyber) over and over, but it really is going to be a huge thing for this metro area,” Hatcher said. “A lot of times we get focused on what we need, but we have some huge assets that are going to be contributing to our future and this is definitely one of them.”

Hatcher said he plans to make the survey an annual event. Employers interested in taking the survey who don’t receive it by Thursday are asked to email Hatcher at wihatcher@augusta.edu.

©2017 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.