Given the statistics, job advertisements for cybersecurity positions have been springing up three times quicker than other IT job advertisements.
Now is a great time to consider a career in this industry—whether you are fresh out of school looking for your first job or a working professional interested in a career change, getting into cybersecurity is something you can do.
You don’t need a cybersecurity degree to get your foot in the door, either!
There are numerous ways to get into the Cybersecurity industry.
What is Cybersecurity and Why Does It Matter?
Cybersecurity is what it sounds like—it is the practice of protecting and securing valuable computer systems, electronic data, networks, and anything else transmitted online.
It is something that is now relevant to all entities when it comes to IT infrastructure. From small businesses to government agencies and even individuals, cybersecurity requires close attention, and there are millions of criminals branching out who want to exploit this for their own gain.
We now live in a digital world with an unprecedented level of connectivity
It is and will continue to be the job of cybersecurity professionals to protect against such threats and intruders.
With cybercrime growing at an alarming rate, the world is preparing for new cybersecurity talent and the opportunities are ripe for the picking.
Getting into The Industry: Is a Cybersecurity Degree Necessary?
Or any degree, for that matter?
The short answer is no, it is not necessary to go to college and study for an advanced degree in order to find work in the cybersecurity industry. Although a college education, particularly a degree in computer science or similar will demonstrate your technical ability. But it is not the be all and end all.
After all, the cybersecurity industry was pioneered by people who never went to college. Lots of cybersecurity professionals are self-taught and although many undertook some form of cybersecurity training online (not all, though!) most of what they learned came through their own hard work.
If you are one of the smart, dedicated, switched on, and hardworking individuals, there is no reason why you can’t enter the industry.
A college degree can only do so much. They are useful for expanding your options and ticking checkboxes at larger organizations, that’s about it. While there are lots of large organizations who won’t take somebody on without a computer science or related degree, there are plenty that will.
Interested in Taking the Degree Route?
Although there are lots of options, your best bet is getting onto a computer science degree program at a good university. While you could undertake any sort of IT degree (and even a cybersecurity degree) it is computer science that is most respected by employers, particularly large organizations.
Why? Because it is computer science that provides the depth of knowledge necessary in-order to work in a cybersecurity environment. For example, computer science is a very code-heavy degree course and many cybersecurity jobs, particularly analyst jobs, involve spending a long time combing through computer code looking for malicious bits and pieces.
There are three institutions that stand out from all the others in the U.S. when it comes to providing relevant cyber and information security education.
While these are the best, it’s not all about where you studied your degree. Simply having a computer science degree with good grades is often enough—remember, there is a huge skills shortage!
Let’s have a quick look at the courses available at these institutions.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT is a highly-regarded college worldwide known for producing the highest caliber of graduates and a good degree from here will let you walk into most entry-level cybersecurity jobs.
The possibilities for Computer Science graduates are endless and having MIT on your resumé will open up lots of opportunities.
It’s not called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for nothing; the college shines in all areas related to it.
A Computer Science Major at MIT, for instance, the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program, will not only set you up for a career in cybersecurity but for life.
2. Stanford University
Stanford University offers several different courses and majors that are suited to a career in cybersecurity. Some of these include–
- The Stanford Advanced Computer Security Certificate
- The Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate
- CS155 Computer and Network Security (suited to CompSci majors)
Stanford is a private research university known for its academic strength, wealth, and close proximity to Silicon Valley, and companies based there often head to Stanford University careers fairs and events to poach students for internships.
Just like MIT, a Stanford University qualification is a great investment for life.
It ranks among the world’s top universities and is a highly-regarded institution in any professional field.
3. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is regarded as a brilliant choice for students interested in cybersecurity due to its strong support of and research within it.
CyLab offers several graduate programmes (with scholarships available) to novice cybersecurity experts. Hailed as a National Center of Academic Excellence in three areas of cybersecurity (cyber operations, cyber defense education, and cyber defense research) it is no wonder that Carnegie Mellon ranks so highly in terms so far as cybersecurity is concerned.
Part of the Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering, the university’s cybersecurity department, CyLab, brings together over 300 different security and privacy experts from across the university to deliver world-class education and training on the subject.
It’s not all about having a degree, either. While having one helps, there are plenty of cybersecurity practitioners who don’t have them. Instead, they work in other IT environments while studying for industry-recognized certifications through providers such as the EC-Council and CompTIA.
Certifications awarded by these providers–CompTIA’s Security+ and EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker are just two examples of these certifications–are often a requirement for entry-level jobs in cybersecurity and are more important than your degree itself!
What About the Other Paths?
Like we’ve already said, it’s not all about having a computer science degree or cybersecurity degree; there are so many options for people from all backgrounds.
By taking the initiative to teach yourself and perhaps undergo some formal cybersecurity training (there are even online cybersecurity degrees available!) you can still end up with a rewarding career in the field.
Picking a Cybersecurity Path
With cybersecurity, there are so many different pathways and routes you can take, and you don’t need a background in tech to pursue them.
Only you can decide on your path, though. Think about your unique traits, strengths, weaknesses, and background. Honestly evaluate your own skills and interests. Ask yourself key questions and think about what you would enjoy doing.
Deciding on a path is often one of the hardest elements of securing a career in the industry.
For example, if advising people on laws and policies is not appealing to you, then don’t go down the cybersecurity consultant pathway. If, however, you are excited by the possibility of attacking systems to find weaknesses, you would be great as a penetration tester or analyst.
Want to learn more? Check out our article on entry-level jobs in cybersecurity!