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Cybersecurity Degrees: The Pros + Cons Explained

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By: Tatianna

February 4, 2019

As with nearly everything in life, there are pros and cons (advantages and disadvantages, positives and negatives, etc.), but what side is more effective in helping someone make a decision?

The facts

There are many degree programs and educational opportunities that can be applied toward jobs in cybersecurity. Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees from accredited institutions can qualify an applicant for a wide range of work in cybersecurity, but there are specific degree programs that are useful in this sense. The post reviews degree programs as they relate to cybersecurity as well as their benefits and drawbacks. Also discussed is the professional training and certifications used in the industry.

What's the deal? From general to direct.

Option A: The most general approach would be degree programs focused on programming, computer science, computer engineering, information science, and other computer-related degree programs. These programs qualify candidates for work in industries unrelated to cybersecurity, so accreditation in these general fields may precede professional certification or specialized training. An Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s in these fields is not wholly necessary for finding work in cybersecurity, but many of these programs can be applied in a general sense towards work in programming, information technology, and computer science. This is a good option if you are already seeking a degree in computer science and/or related fields. If, however, the decision to work in cybersecurity has already been made, this next method may be preferable.Option B: A more direct approach would be degree programs that revolve specifically around cybersecurity, computer network security, software development and security, and information security. These programs offer various degree programs with varying graduate levels that are focused on skills applied directly toward work in cybersecurity. These programs are designed for students who have decided to focus specifically on cybersecurity. Now, this is good if a candidate already knows they want to work in cybersecurity, but a specialized degree in cybersecurity has a more narrow scope of work. When seeking work in the field, it’s advantageous to have a specialized degree in cybersecurity compared to a more general degree. There is one caveat; however, which is that a specialized degree in cybersecurity is designed for a very specific set of jobs. This is where individuals must make a choice on the type of job or career he'll want to move toward and hopefully keep.Option C: The most direct approach would be professional training, certification, and eventually professional experience. There exist many certifications and accompanying courses for work in cybersecurity, including cybersecurity analysis, computer forensics, malware analysis, and Department of Defense industry certifications. This approach is best suited for those not seeking a degree. However, this may require a good deal of self-motivation and dedication as “bootstrapping” entails doing a lot of the heavy lifting on your own.*
*Cybrary Career Paths are a good option for people following Option C because it's included in the Insider Pro membership which includes access to mentors (people to offer guidance and answer questions), live courses with instructor Q&A, and access to a community of other people in the same situation. <-- Now that the sponsored portion is done... back to it!
Ultimately, it’s a question of time. If you need time to decide and don’t want to limit yourself to cybersecurity, a more general degree in computer science or related fields can be useful. If you’ve already decided to work in cybersecurity and are seeking formal accreditation, a cybersecurity degree program is better suited. If you simply want to work in cybersecurity and take the most direct route, professional training and certification can get you work and valuable professional experience. Either way, many positions in the industry require certification with cybersecurity tools and practices. No one path is the same, but having a solid goal in mind makes the way more clear.TL;DR You can apply a general degree in computer science and related fields towards cybersecurity. Specialized degree programs for cybersecurity exist, and a direct, professional route exists for those not seeking a degree.
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