Does a Career in Cyber Security Require a Degree?

Does a Career in Cyber Security Require a Degree?

Last month we attended Cyber Re:coded, Europe’s largest cyber security recruitment event, focussing on school and graduate attendees. Over the two days, we connected with young cyber security professionals or soon to be graduates looking for future work within the industry. As one of the original recruitment consultancies within the industry, the event was important as an opportunity to pass down some professional advice to the next generation of cyber security talent.

One question we were repeatedly asked was ‘what is better a cyber security degree or an apprenticeship?’.

There is no short answer to this question. So after a deep discussion with our experienced recruiters we compiled some answers.

Only a few years ago, it was expected that those looking to enter to cyber security industry would earn a relevant degree. Recently however, it appears employers are being less specific about the types of requirements they look for in a successful candidate. Some claim to have found degree-holding candidates to lack the essential skills required for specific positions.

Slowly, managers are starting to deviate from the normative hiring processes, and are looking for skills over qualifications. Many Information Security positions require proficiency in Python, Ruby and other programming languages. Such skills can be learned independently online through free resources, or via formal academic programs.

Alternative pathways such as apprenticeships are extremely valuable and worthwhile. Degrees can lead to masters and help develop a more academic understanding, whereas an apprenticeship provides a more practical understanding. Both are beneficial in separate ways, dependant on the desired career.

For more technical roles, degrees are less important as the focus lies more on capability and/or certifications. The employer is only looking for candidates which have the ability to fulfil the role. However, for higher level, less technical work employers tend to place more of an importance on degrees and masters.

Education isn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’ and neither is a career in cyber security.  Different skills sets lead to different positions and types of opportunities that suit each candidate. With the much discussed skills gap within the industry, we are witnessing organisations becoming less reliant on the traditional qualifications desired for certain roles. In order to combat this skills issue within cyber security, it is important for businesses to look beyond formal qualifications and focus on whether the candidate is capable of fulfilling the requirements of the role.

There is no clear answer to the question, as mentioned it completely depends on the career path a candidate is looking to follow. It is important to learn this prior to evaluating the relevance of a degree. Both apprenticeships and degrees are valuable within the field of cyber security as is relevant experience within the industry. Attaining a position without any experience or qualification is near impossible so it is worth noting that some form of recognised learning is vital.

Still planning to embark on a degree in cyber security? We have a full list of what courses are available in the UK here.

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