I do have some firm thoughts on how to get a job in cybersecurity, and this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to express them in Computerworld. And I’m the first to admit that I bring some strong biases to the subject. First, you need to understand that I look at cybersecurity as a specialization within the computer field. The implication of this is that cybersecurity is a career for those in the computer field to aspire to, and not a trade, with entry-level positions. It is a position that should be earned with significant experience in the computer field.
If you want to just be a tool jockey and perform vulnerability scans, don’t read this article. Just look for some basic certifications and try to get a job. There is nothing special I can do to help you. However, if you really want a career in the field, you will hopefully find some value in reading on.
One thing that will make a difference for you is getting a college degree. The article I mentioned earlier was called “Let’s scuttle cybersecurity bachelor’s degree programs.” And, yes, I do believe that cybersecurity degrees are the wrong way to go. But a college degree of some description (your major is really quite irrelevant) is still quite valuable, and here’s why.
Most college degrees require that you learn to communicate better. They require you to take writing courses that many of us would never take voluntarily. They require that you take courses that are outside your area of interest, which helps make you well rounded. Business courses, for example, can help you better understand the organizations that you will serve. It isn’t always possible to see these things at the time. I thought required writing courses were a complete waste of my time when I was in college, and it wasn’t until years later that I learned how valuable they had been.
More importantly, if you want to advance your career, the absence of a college degree will impede promotions and make it more difficult to get the jobs you want. That degree on your résumé is a baseline that recruiters and hiring managers are going to be looking for. If you can’t include it on yours, you will need some way to grab their attention and show just how truly exceptional you are at what you do. Good luck with that. Nearly everyone you will compete against is going to have a degree. If you don’t, you’re hobbled right at the start. You can argue all you want about experience being the better teacher; hiring managers just don’t have the time to root around for the person who actually has the best experience for the job. Having a degree serves as shorthand on your résumé, saying, “I have a basic check box that most serious candidates will have.”