Certs Versus Degrees: Which Is More Important for Cybersecurity Jobs?

Certs vs. degrees Cybersecurity professionals enter the field with all sorts of professional experience: information technology (IT), physical security, military, law enforcement, and more.

Many also come in with academic degrees in disciplines like math, engineering, or law enforcement. So, is it possible to get a job without a degree in cybersecurity?

The Different Paths to a Career in Cybersecurity

An academic degree can certainly be helpful if you're going after cybersecurity positions, but you don't necessarily need one to enter the field. It all depends on the kind of cybersecurity job you're looking for.

Some job listings might only require specific tools or technology-related certifications. Others ask applicants to have certain cybersecurity-related certifications—CompTIA's Security+, Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), and Certified Encryption Specialist (EC-Council ECES) are a few common ones.

Meanwhile, more senior-level jobs generally require an advanced degree, often along with more advanced—yet broader—certifications such as EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI).

So, where do college degrees factor into the equation? We partnered with LinkedIn to check the profiles of people who identified themselves as cybersecurity professionals. The results: Most professionals who transitioned from other careers into cybersecurity jobs had bachelor's degrees—71 percent for entry-level, 73 percent for associate-level, and 77 percent for mid-senior level.

When we searched for entry-level cybersecurity job postings using LinkedIn's job search feature, many results asked for a bachelor's degree or higher, but some were fine with just basic certifications.

Basically, an academic degree becomes more and more necessary as you progress within the field, but not having one isn't an insurmountable hurdle, especially for entry-level positions. Depending on the job you want, the right degree and certificates will help you get your career started in the field.

Choosing Your Own Path

Ultimately, you have unique strengths, experiences, and career goals, so your path might not the same as the next person's. Many people wonder whether they should start their cybersecurity career with certifications alone, and then pursue a bachelor's degree—and perhaps even a master's—in the field later on. Others think it might be better to pursue a bachelor's degree out of the gate in order to improve their candidacy for jobs as they enter the field.

One thing is for sure: More and more professionals looking to build a career in cybersecurity are doing both at once by attending WGU, which offers multiple certifications (including the ones mentioned above) as part of their cybersecurity degree programs.

Interested in learning more about the current cybersecurity job market and what it takes to get started in the field? Read our in-depth Cybersecurity Jobs Guide for more exclusive data from LinkedIn and insights from industry-leading experts.

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