You’re interested in getting into the growing cybersecurity field, and now you’re trying to figure out what credentials might help you get started. But you’ve found that there are certificates, Associate’s degrees and Bachelor’s degrees. Which one is right for you? The answer depends on your own goals, job experience, timeline and, of course, cost.
A certificate in cybersecurity is awarded after completing a program that is shorter and more narrowly focused than a degree. The certificate program curriculum is focused on a specific job field or career niche.
Certificates can be helpful for two different groups of people: those new to the cybersecurity industry and seeking entry-level jobs, and those who are experienced in the field but want to obtain another credential to help further their careers.
Certificates offer students the ability to solidify their skillsets, build confidence, improve performance, and make themselves more marketable to potential employers and become better candidates for promotions with current employers.
Compared to a certificate, an Associate’s degree in cybersecurity includes a more broad-based education that encompasses both cybersecurity-focused courses and general education courses. For example, the Associate’s degree curriculum at Cambridge includes classes on speech, writing, psychology and law. Such courses are not part of the certificate program, which is more narrowly focused on improving your job skills.
Associate’s degrees take a little longer to obtain and are generally slightly more expensive due to the additional coursework.
A Bachelor’s degree is the highest level of undergraduate study. It offers a broader, more varied curriculumcompared to either the certificate or the Associate’s degree. At Cambridge, the Bachelor’s program also includes an IT Capstone Project.
A Bachelor’s degree is intended to provide the most diverse education experience of any of the three programs, equipping graduates with problem-solving skills, communication skills, and general knowledge that employers desire.
In the world of IT and cybersecurity people often—but not always—spend some time working in the IT field before studying for the Bachelor’s degree. Some employers require candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree to be hired, and obtaining one helps you advance your career, earn more money and achieve leadership roles as time goes on.
When deciding from these options, it’s helpful to think about the following:
- Experience: Do you have any IT or cybersecurity experience already? If not, a certificate can be a good way to get started. Certificates are also helpful for those with IT jobs who want to advance their career.
- Time: A certificate takes the least amount of time (about a year), while the degree programs take a little longer. But a degree gives you a more well-rounded education and deeper knowledge of cybersecurity.
- Job requirements: Consider the education requirements listed in the job postings for the types of jobs you’re interested in.