As a career path in cybersecurity is becoming very lucrative, many are beginning to find career opportunity in this field attractive. However, a common question that’s asked is ‘do you need a degree for cybersecurity’?
Are you looking to start a career in cybersecurity? Previously, cybersecurity professionals were mainly in demand by defense contractors and in government agencies.
Nowadays, several industries hire cybersecurity professionals to defend valuable information from cyber attacks.
Do You Need a Degree for Cyber Security?
Well, it depends.
Although it is not mandatory to have a degree before you can get a job in cybersecurity, having one can be an added advantage.
If you are self-taught and you can demonstrate that you have the skills required to get a job in cybersecurity, you are likely to be hired.
While there are cybersecurity degree programs that may land you a cybersecurity job, high-level careers in cybersecurity require some technical IT skills and advanced analysis capabilities.
These advanced skills can be acquired by earning a certification or getting a graduate-level degree.
If you’re really interested in starting a career in cybersecurity, there are some important things to note before making a decision.
1. There Is No Defined Path
Compared to other industries, there is no defined entry into the information security industry. This is good news for a newbie.
There are experienced cybersecurity professionals who got entry-level IT positions without a degree in information security.
This field can create an environment that favors technical knowledge and experience over degree acquisition.
However, that’s not to say that you should not get a degree, as some employers tend to favor degree holders.
2. Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
Learning never stops in this field. If you are looking to get an entry-level position in the field of cybersecurity, you need to be proactive.
You need to build experience. If there are no openings, look for volunteer positions that will help you gain experience to build your professional network.
There are constantly new cyber threats and countermeasures to learn and implement. As cybersecurity, you need to stay up to date.
Find valuable online (blogs, online courses, GitHub, etc) and offline (government sources, industry events, and networking) resources that will keep you updated on the latest industry practices.
3. Plan to Advance Your Career
Find a specialized area of interest and dive deep into learning the tool, tactics and specific threats in this field.
Earn industry certifications that will help you advance in your chosen career path in cybersecurity.
Educational Degrees and Career Advancement in Cyber Security
From “ethical hackers” who probe and exploit security vulnerabilities in web-based applications and network systems to cryptographers who analyze and decrypt hidden information from cyber-terrorists, cybersecurity professionals work hard to ensure data stays out of the wrong hands.
Cybersecurity professionals work in virtually every industry, responding rapidly to real-world threats.
Whether you are looking to register for an accredited online program or go through the path of traditional on-campus programs, there are many options to pursue to become a cybersecurity professional.
Check out how you can advance your career in cybersecurity with the necessary degrees and certifications:
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
While there are some entry-level cybersecurity positions that require an associate’s degree, some still require a four-year bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field such as information technology or computer science.
Bachelor degree courses in statistics and programming coupled with courses in computer forensics and ethics are helpful in preparing candidates for a career in cybersecurity.
These courses help in the development of technical and analytical skills required in the field of cybersecurity.
2. Online Degree
Many people would like to get a job in cybersecurity but have not acquired the necessary degrees or certifications due to their busy personal or professional schedules.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, you can take advantage of online distance learning opportunities from accredited universities and online learning platforms to earn a degree in cybersecurity.
There are also cybersecurity online degree programs that offer flexible classes that can suit your schedule.
Find an accredited online school or platform that offers degree programs that can help you pursue a cybersecurity career.
Choose an online course that aligns with your career goals in cybersecurity and starts learning.
3. Advanced Certifications
Some employers require particular positions to be filled by candidates that have earned a certification in cybersecurity.
Having a cybersecurity certification even if you don’t have a related degree can increase your chances of getting the job.
On getting the job, you would have the opportunity to improve your skills and gain practical experience.
There are several cybersecurity certifications that cover cybersecurity technology, cybersecurity management, and related fields.
The list below gives an outline of some of the most popular professional certifications that are being obtained by cybersecurity personnel at various levels:
Cyber Security Certifications
There are also a variety of certifications that can be earned by cybersecurity professionals. Choosing the most effective depends on an individual’s specific interests/goals and job requirements.
CompTIA Security +
This covers the essential principles of network security and risk management. It also covers the introduction of the concepts of the field of computer security and how its relation to other aspects of information technology.
Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
This certification is available in various categories and it includes Security Administration, Audit, Forensics, Management, Software Security, Legal, and GSE.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
This certification is required for expertise in the design, implementation, engineering, and management of information security systems.
Various professional certifications are available for people looking to advance their career in IT Audit, Governance, Security and Risk.
Various professional certifications are available for people looking to advance their careers as Certified Security Analyst, Certified Chief Information Security Officer, Licensed Penetration Tester, Certified Ethical Hacker, etc.
4. Obtain Security Clearances
One of the requisites of working in the field of cybersecurity is to obtain security clearances.
Though they are not compulsory, they are necessary for employment in certain government and military parastatals.
These security clearances will give you permission to work with government systems that may hold sensitive information.
There are several agencies that issue both personnel and facility security clearances, but most are issued by the Department of Defense.
However, each clearance type has its unique procedures and paperwork. The process of getting this clearance cannot begin until you have received an employment offer for a cybersecurity position.
The first step to begin is to submit clearance documentation, after which a Background Investigation will follow.
Career Paths in Cyber Security
Here are some of the careers you can explore in this field:
- Chief Information Security Officer
- Forensic Computer Analyst
- Information Security Analyst
- Penetration Tester
- Security Architect
- IT Security Engineer
- Security Systems Administrator
- IT Security Consultant
Essential Skills for Cyber Security Careers
There are some essential skills that are needed for anyone seeking employment in cybersecurity.
Whether you are just launching your career with an entry-level position or transitioning from another IT field, here are some of the needed skills:
- Communication Skills: This is required for clear communication with clients, network administrators, legal professionals, government representatives, law enforcement agents, etc.
- Ability to Work in a Team Environment: The ability to work and understand delegated tasks responsibilities and while working in a team to accomplish a common goal is required.
- Organizational and Problem-Solving Skills: This field requires the ability to analyze and solve complex problems.
- Integrity and Discretion: Working as a professional in the field of cybersecurity requires one to handle sensitive information. Such information should be protected and handled carefully.
- Programming Skills: The knowledge of programming language and tools are required to design effective security systems that can analyze cyber-attacks and violations.
- Understanding of Security Principles: An understanding of basic security principles, such as privacy, confidentiality, authentication, access control, etc is required. An understanding of these principles can help to design programs that systems are less vulnerable to failures and attacks.
- Risk Analysis: Knowledge of risk analysis principles are needed for the assessment and analysis of the security needs of an organization in relation to its organizational goals.
- Network Protocols: The knowledge of common network protocols, their various similarities and differences, working principles and their uses, are required.
- Malicious Codes: Working knowledge of several malicious codes, their way of propagation and the risks associated with them.
- Intruder Techniques: To analyze cyberattacks, cybersecurity professionals should be able to identify known intruder techniques, effects and characteristics of these techniques. Identification of new intruder techniques through the elimination of the known ones is also essential.
Whether you have a degree or not; an individual that is interested in a job in cybersecurity should be able to hone the necessary skills and show proof of them.