Career Advice Tuesday – In Pursuit of Higher Education
August 25, 2009
Dear Mike and Lee:
I’m currently a systems administrator whose looking to get into the information security field. I’m currently taking night classes towards a bachelors in computer science degree. However, I’ve been hearing about schools that offer information security specific degrees. What do y’all think about these degrees and what curriculum do you think would be the best for someone wanting to get into this field?
Dear “Degree Seeker:”
Education alone will not determine the success of your information security career. As a society, we have been improperly conditioned to believe that education is a “magic bullet” for career success. This false expectation often results in ”buyer’s remorse” when achievement of a degree does not translate into career acceleration. There is no doubt that education is an important component of one’s career foundation. However, your ability to combine your education, with experience, talent, professional development, and interpersonal characteristics will ultimately determine your future as an information security professional.
Having said this, I do believe that pursuing a degree is a good thing and a valuable career investment. If you choose to go undertake this commitment, please make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. The right reasons should include, satisfying your own intellectual curiosity, a keen interest in the course of study, and qualified faculty, not because you believe you will have an easier time getting employment.
Next, if you decide to go to a school with an information security degree program, your choice should be determined by the curriculum, the alumni network, and the career placement program. Cost is a consideration, but should almost be a secondary factor. This is a major career investment, and you should be more concerned with the value that you are receiving, in relation to the amount of money that you are spending. Like with most things in life, you traditionally get what you pay for.
The curriculum should be something that interests you and aligns with your career goals, the network will provide you with connections throughout your professional career, and the placement program may provide you with the advantage of getting your foot in the door with the right entry level position.
Understand that choosing to go to school is a major investment and sacrifice. It will cost a significant amount of time and money. However, if you elect to pursue and achieve this degree, it will stay with you for the remainder of your career. You will carry the brand of the program and will be responsible to both uphold it and reinforce its credibility.
Make sure you choose wisely and fully understand what you are getting yourself into, before you sign the check.
Hope this helps,
Lee and Mike