Securing a Career in Biometrics

People looking to enter a job field or make a career transition often look to technology. Every industry needs it and, to meet this demand, new tech companies are popping up all the time to fulfill needs or create new solutions. Across the United States, many of the startups currently receiving venture capital funding are rooted in technology.

In the D.C. Metro area alone, according to NerdWallet, 79 out of every 1,000 jobs are in tech. If you hold a tech degree there are clearly many ways you can go in terms of careers, but as cybersecurity continues to become a priority for both the private and public sector, this is one niche where companies are actively seeking IT talents. Biometrics is steadily growing to be an important piece of security solutions. According to Transparency Market Research, the industry is forecast to reach $363 million by 2018. If current growing security needs are any indicator, we'll be hearing a lot more about biometrics in the near future.

EyeVerify is a biometrics company based in Kansas City, Mo. Its Eyeprint ID product uses the blood vessels in eye whites as a unique identifier. 

"Think about where you authenticate your identity today - at work, online, in hospitals, at your bank, anywhere you make a payment, etc. Biometrics has potential applications in financial services, healthcare, government, even gaming," says Dr. Reza Derakhshani, EyeVerify's Chief Scientist and inventor of Eyeprint ID.

What does he find most interesting about working in biometrics?

"I find [biometrics] interesting on multiple levels. First, passwords are dead. It is no longer safe to secure your identity with what you know (a password) or what you have (physical keys) as they can be misplaced, forgotten or stolen. Current and future security solutions will be based on your unique physical characteristics (biometrics) - who you are," shares Dr. Derakhshani, a 17-year veteran in the field.

"Second, by participating in the industry, I get to drive solutions that are not just accurate and secure, but also convenient and private. As the use of biometrics become more commonplace, the concern around using an irrevocable part of your identity increases," says Dr. Derakhshani. "At EyeVerify, we focus on technology that is accurate, revocable, fully encrypted and device-based, giving the end user full control over their biometric."

You might be wondering what kinds of skills and credentials you need to get into this career niche.

"We look for scientists and programmers with expertise in machine learning, computer vision, imaging, and physiology among other things, along with degrees in Computer and/or Electrical Engineering, Physics or Mathematics," says Dr. Derakhshani. "In addition, we look for people who are willing to try things that initially don't seem possible."

If you want to work in biometrics, there are a few other things you should know. There is a fine line between security and privacy, and success in the field includes a strong understanding of the two.

"Given that biometrics is multidisciplinary, be flexible and willing to work across multiple knowledge domains," recommends Dr. Derakhshani. "Also, be aware of ethical issues around biometric system design, keeping the best interests (and privacy) of the user in focus."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites technology as a "faster than average" growing industry with salaries in the $50K to $100K range. People interested in cybersecurity will likely want to keep a pulse on biometric developments. Due to the increased need for secured data, this emerging field is likely to provide unique career opportunities in upcoming years.

Leigh Goessl is a freelance writer who covers topics about business, technology, careers, education and travel. Reach her @LeighGoessl

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