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Is a Degree in Cybersecurity better than a Certification Course?

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Cybercrime cost the global economy as much as $600 billion in 2017. New technologies and connections mean new threats to some countries and new opportunities to others. Cybercrime affects nearly every location on the globe. The McAfee Labs Q3 Report of December 2017 stated that biggest number of the third quarter is their count of new malware. It reached an all-time high of 57.6 million new samples, an increase of 10% from Q2. The total count in the McAfee sample database is now more than 780 million. New ransomware also rose by 36% in Q3, largely from widespread Android screen-locking malware.

For example, the ubiquitous nature of cybercrime has extended into cryptocurrencies. The increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies has inspired some people to pursue coin mining, essentially making money online. McAfee reported that malware grew a stunning 629% to more than 2.9 million known samples in 2018 Q1 from almost 400,000 samples in Q4. This suggests that cybercriminals are warming to the prospect of monetizing infections of user systems without prompting victims to make payments, as is the case with popular ransomware schemes.

The demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow as the top five in-demand IT jobs in 2017 were in the domain of security. This increase in demand is the result of the immense amount of breaches over the past twelve years (over 10 billion records breached in the U.S. since 2005).

Which is better: Degree or Certification Course?

Reasons for a Degree

McAfee is one of the world’s leading independent cybersecurity companies. Inspired by the power of working together, they create business and consumer solutions that make the world a safer place. In 2016, McAfee selected eight countries for their study titled—Hacking the Skills Shortage. The countries were Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US)—reflect a diversity of sizes, educational systems, income levels, and political structures.

One of the critical conclusions of the study was that about half the companies surveyed (globally) prefer a bachelor’s degree in a relevant technical subject as the minimum credential required for entry into the field. The utility of a degree, however, is more in its market signal than its effectiveness in honing cybersecurity skills. Additionally, respondents ranked hands-on experience and professional certifications as better ways to acquire cybersecurity skills than a degree. Sixty-eight percent also said that hacking competitions (capture the flag exercises) play a role in developing critical cybersecurity skills within their organization.

The results of the country data reveal that 70% of employers in the U.S. prefer a bachelor’s degree. This percentage drops to about 50% when looking at the data from all eight countries. In contrast to these statistics is the consensus that experience, even simulated experience, or certifications are better than a degree. The report states that traditional academic institutions are the primary source of initial education and training for cybersecurity professionals. However, non-traditional methods may be a better way to acquire and grow cybersecurity skills.

In the United States, the need for a degree in the relevant subject is on the rise. A degree demonstrates a candidate’s dedication, discipline, and hard work. The degree-holder gains knowledge in a host of subjects pertaining to cybersecurity, mathematics, and computer science.

Certificate Courses

Not to be confused with certifications, certificate courses are typically available online as a means to boost your skills and/or knowledge in a particular subject. MOOC or Massive Open Online Course provides numerous courses to enhance most careers.

The University of Washington, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Harvard, and other major universities and institutions offer introductions to cybersecurity. For advanced cyber security training, consider a MicroMasters program or professional certificate program. These multi-course programs provide in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity tools and best practices. These include how to perform digital forensic analysis, risk analysis and vulnerability assessments in enterprise environments.

Certifications

Professional certifications can augment your degree and highlight your credentials. When it comes to entry-level training, you might start by considering one or more of these certifications:

CompTIA Security: It focuses on the latest trends and techniques in risk management, risk mitigation, threat management, and intrusion detection.

GSEC: GIAC Security Essentials Certification: For Security Professionals who want to demonstrate they are qualified for IT systems hands-on roles with respect to security tasks.

SSCP: Systems Security Certified Practitioner: This certification demonstrates you have the advanced technical skills and knowledge to implement, monitor, and administer IT infrastructure using security best practices, policies, and procedures established by the cybersecurity experts at (ISC)².

OSCP: Offensive Security Certified Professional: It is designed for penetration testers; it includes a rigorous 24-hour certification exam.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity is an evolving industry; therefore, it is imperative to stay abreast of the latest trends, threats, and changes. Hence, obtaining both a degree and a good mix of certifications is ideal for today’s professional. By adding certifications, as well as certificate programs to your degree, your resume will impress prospective employers.

Additional Resources

What should I know about Designations for a Degree in Cybersecurity?

What are the best Certifications to add to my Degree in CyberSecurity?

What is the Difference in a Degree in Cybersecurity and Network Security?

Why should I consider a Degree in Cybersecurity?

Where are Jobs in Demand with a Degree in Cybersecurity?

How can I use my Cybersecurity or Network Security Degree in Finance?

What is a Degree in Mathematics?

Top Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Mathematics

 

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