Careers in Cyber Security - are Degrees a Necessity?

Published
27 Feb 2020

27 Feb 2020

With demand for Cyber Security professionals continuing to outpace nearly every other industry, the qualifications and requirements for landing a job in this field are somewhat tricky to pinpoint. Whether looking to work as a Cyber Security Analyst or succeed as a Cyber Security Engineer, is a degree necessary to carve out a career in Cyber Security?

Simply put, yes - careers in cyber security do not only require but benefit from a cyber-focused degree. Of entry-level cyber security jobs, over 75 percent list a bachelor’s degree as a non-negotiable requirement. This degree requirement only increases for mid- to senior-level roles. However, there are some cases where cyber certifications and experience can be enough for employers.

Regarding degrees, a bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security, Information Technology or Computer Science are the most relevant course options. Through completing one of these degrees, cyber professionals are equipped with the required statistical and programming foundation along with an ethical understanding and broader business knowledge. This level of education places these professionals above their non-degree educated colleagues as they have the technical and analytical knowledge required.

The exact degree required varies somewhat for each cyber role. A career in Cyber Security Analysis would benefit best from a degree in Information Systems, Computer Science or Programming. An Ethical Hacker should consider Information Technology or Computer Science and also must hold a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification. Cyber Security Engineers should look to Information Security, Computer Engineering or Computer Programming.

With a degree in tow, university educated cyber security professionals can expect job security and high compensation. With some experience added, cyber professionals can anticipate vast global opportunities that are not necessarily limited to one specific industry.

Yet, with the current cyber security unemployment rates at zero and with millions of cyber roles remaining unfilled, more employers are becoming flexible. Cyber certifications and experience can sometimes be enough for employers. Certifications and qualifications aside from degrees have many benefits - they are cheaper, quicker to obtain and easy to complete whilst working.

The CompTIA Security+ certification is a good entry-level certification which maps out the foundations of cyber security. From here there are a number of specialised and advanced certifications available such as ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification or the Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP) certification.

Whilst these certifications are an option, investing in a bachelor’s or master’s degree the smartest investment pathway. University educated cyber professionals report the highest paying salaries and are the most desirable candidates for the majority of companies.

Finally, education and certifications are not a guaranteed pathway to landing a cyber role. Experience is of equal value. A degree and certification is helpful for landing an interview, however in the interview candidates can expect questions pertaining to previous cyber experience.


A tick in the degree, certification and experience boxes is what employers are looking for in an ideal world, however, if only one is to be checked, many employers favour the degree box. With a degree, cyber security professionals are best positioned for success.

 

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