Is a Cybersecurity degree worth getting student loan debt

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Cybersecurity as a field has a tremendous upside, it’s one of the fastest growing tech fields. As a result more post secondary intuitions are creating courses, bootcamps and degree programs focused solely on Cybersecurity. However, history shows that going out and getting a degree in something doesn’t mean that you will have success in that area. According to the Washington post, as little as 27% of people are working in the field that they majored in for college. So I believe it’s important to be strategic in deciding whether or not you go to college at all and being thoughtful in what degree program you choose. In this article I will outline why I wouldn’t recommend getting a cybersecurity degree today and what I would do if I was going to college and interested in Cybersecurity.

Why I would not get a Cybersecurity degree

It’s too focused: Cybersecurity is a niche within Information Technology and it’s not something that gives you many options. If you get a degree in Cybersecurity, the only thing that degree is good for is getting a job in Cybersecurity nothing else. If you’re going the technology route, I think it’s better to get something like computer science, software engineering, software development or just Information Technology. If possible get any of these degrees with a specialty in Cybersecurity but don’t get a degree in just Cybersecurity. With any of these other degrees you can get into Cybersecurity if you want and you have the option of going into any of those fields themselves. You don’t lose the Cybersecurity option, but you give yourself much more options.

It’s too theory based: One of the main reasons people struggle coming out of university/college to get into the job market is that they lack practical work experience. Most employers are not going hire you solely based on the classes that you took, especially if you’re not coming from a reputable school. If your program isn’t teaching you practical skills and building a portfolio that you can show an employer, you may struggle to break into your field and end up with no job and a large amount of debt. 

What would I look for if I am going to university for Cybersecurity

Co Op/internships: If you’re going to school I would highly recommend aiming for a coop program so that you can make sure you will be graduating with some real work experience. Getting a college degree is just one thing an employer is working for, work experience is going to be very important as well. Also, if you can get a job somewhere and make connections, when you graduate they may be willing to hire you right away and you don’t even need to go around applying for jobs.

Reputation and Alumni: If your school’s cybersecurity program has a good reputation and industry partners that hire from the alumni this is going to greatly increase your chances of getting a good job after graduation. Also, you want to look at the alumni of the school to see how many of them have gone on to have good careers. This lets you know what you can expect to happen for you and you may be able to reach out to these people and have them give you a referral or advice on how to be successful in your career.

Curriculum: You want to have a good look at the curriculum before deciding to go into a program. You want to look at the details of what you’re being taught. Don’t be impressed by course headings like intro to cybersecurity, advanced computer forensics, ethical hacking etc. You want to look at exactly what you will be taught in these classes and how the software and techniques you will learn line up with what is being used in the industry today. You can find out what is being used in industry by asking people that work in cybersecurity, doing online research and by looking at job postings to see what is in demand. This will give you a better chance of picking a program that will teach you useful skills and knowledge. 

Location: The location of your school will have a tremendous impact on how successful you are post graduation. You want to ensure that your school is in a strong job market for your chosen career. For example if you were a programmer, you would want to go to a school near silicon valley, because that’s where all the startups are and a programmer can easily find high paying work. If you’re going into Cybersecurity you may want to look into locations like Washington DC, New York or San Francisco, you can find a full list here.  Getting a good job is a numbers game, if you’re in a location where there are plenty of jobs and higher pay, you will be more likely to get a good job coming out of University/College. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, if you can afford it I think a university degree can still be a good investment. However, my position is that you should not get a degree specifically in Cybersecurity. I would recommend picking a technology degree such as computer science, software engineering, software development or Information Technology and specializing in security. This will give you the most options in your career and give you the best chance of getting a quality job straight out of university. In order to maximize your university experience it’s important to do your research on the school and their alumni, examine the curriculum, get work experience while in school and pick a location that has a strong job market so you will be able to easily find work upon graduation.