Careers, Security Education

Cybersecurity Degree vs. Certification

What’s best for your career – a Cybersecurity certification or a degree in Information Technology (IT) security?
[Guest Author: Laura Linhart]

A few years ago, this question would not have been as relevant as it is today.  The CISSP® (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) sponsored by the International Information systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) first offered as a security certification in 1994, was the first information security certification to meet ISO standards.[1]  Since then, the number and types of information or Cybersecurity certifications and professional organizations that offer these certifications has proliferated.

The growth and evolution of information or Cybersecurity as a degree unto itself has also been significant in recent years.  Today, many colleges or universities offer it is a field or major unto itself, offered as both undergraduate and graduate degrees.  In previous years it was only available as a subset of another major such as data processing, computer networking or computer science.

From a career or professional perspective, information security appears to be a stable and growing profession[2] .  As the profession continues to grow and evolve, the question of which is more relevant – a degree or certifications is now a consideration.   As with most things in life, the best answer is “it depends”.  Where you are at in your career, life’s journey (i.e., age) and your own ambitions are things to consider.

Degree – to expand or gain knowledge.  On the positive side, a degree is forever, and does not require any upkeep.  It will get you in the HR screening process door if an IT degree is a particular job requirement.  It indicates that you have the work ethic to complete something.

Certification – to establish your credibility.  Require continuing care and feeding (continuing certification requirements).  Most also require years of experience in the specific area of certification.   It indicates that you have the subject matter expertise.

Another variable to consider is practical experience.  In some situations, practical experience means the most.  It indicates that you have the ability, and can apply and expand on what you know.

The bottom line is that there is no one answer that fits all.  It depends on your particular circumstances.

In reality, you will probably need both a degree and certification(s).