Degree vs. certification in the late career: Cybersecurity analyst
Being a late-career cybersecurity analyst puts you in an elite category of this job role. Those in the late stage of their career make up only 3.8% of all cybersecurity analysts, and they can expect around a 36% increase in pay (equaling around $102,000). For many interested in being a cybersecurity analyst, this is as good as it gets.
The question remains: is getting a degree or a certification better for getting to this career pinnacle? This article will detail the different degrees and certifications useful for late-career cybersecurity analysts and will wrap up with some tips for how to get to the top of this career mountain.
What is a cybersecurity analyst?
Cybersecurity analysts play a pivotal role for organizations in that this role combines many information security skill sets and responsibilities into one well-rounded package. This role has the goal of developing stronger information security by analyzing and assessing weaknesses and vulnerabilities within an organization’s IT environment — from hardware to software, networks and potentially even devices if needed. Cybersecurity analysts conduct risk analyses, perform vulnerability management activities and use network visibility of networks to identify potential attacks.
As you can see, it takes more than a baseline level of skill to successfully perform this role. Those in the late stage of their careers may find that their wealth of skills and knowledge will be tested more than those with less experience in this role as they are more likely to take leadership roles in their department or team.
Degrees for late-career cybersecurity analysts
While earning a degree probably occurred years if not decades ago for those in the late stage of their career, it can still be important. This arguably comes up the most when these seasoned cybersecurity analysts apply for new jobs in this role.
Bachelor’s degrees are the most commonly requested degree for cybersecurity analysts, but this is generally for those in the early stages of their career. Unless a cybersecurity analyst was hired on and stayed with the same organization their entire career, further education will be desired.
With that said, a master’s degree would be the best option for a late-career cybersecurity analyst. The following master’s degrees will prove to be the most helpful:
- Information security
- Information systems
- Computer science
- Computer systems
This list is a departure from the early-career cybersecurity analyst degrees that included broader topics of math and physical science. Those looking to advance to the late stage of their career will want to have the most relevant advanced degree possible. The best thing about the master’s degree level is that there are more cybersecurity degrees available.
Certifications are another route to education that a late-career cybersecurity analyst can take. There is no one certification that will help you but there are several available. These certifications include:
Cybersecurity Analyst+, or CySA+, is a certification that is for those with at least three to five years of in-the-field job experience, making it out of the league of entry-level cybersecurity analysts. Unlike Security+, CySA+ delves into more up-to-date methods for cybersecurity analysis, including behavior analytics which can be used to better detect, prevent and fight cybersecurity threats.
If I were to recommend any one certification for a late career cybersecurity analyst, I would firmly recommend this one. It takes a more advanced skill set to pass this certification, and there is a robust number of performance-based questions which will test real-world cybersecurity skills. More information can be found here.
Certified Information Security Manager, or CISM, is hosted by ISACA and certifies an advanced level of information security skill necessary for a late-career cybersecurity analyst. This certification covers the following knowledge domains:
- Information security governance
- Information risk management
- Information security program development
- Information security program management
- Incident management and response.
Hosted by (ISC)2, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, or CISSP, is a cybersecurity certification well-suited for the late-career cybersecurity analyst. CISSP certifies a top-flight level of cybersecurity knowledge, skills and understanding that goes beyond the existing threat landscape and into the landscape of emerging threats and how this will affect an organization. More information can be found here.
Late-career cybersecurity analysts probably have more than one degree or certification at this point in their careers. If you were to pick one or the other, which would you pick?
Frankly, I would say you want some of both. You will definitely want at least a bachelor’s degree, and smart money would bet on a master’s degree. Certifications take much less time to earn than degrees, so if you do not have at least Security+ by this point, I would earn that too.
Besides degrees and certifications, you will want to have a variety of real-world cybersecurity analyst skills and be able to present them as a cohesive cybersecurity analyst skill set on your resume. Organizations will expect more out of a late-career cybersecurity analyst, so do not fail in delivering or they may just pass you up for someone with less experience and ultimately settle for less. You invested your life into you career — let it shine for all organizations to see.
Those looking to make it to the late stage of their cybersecurity analyst career can take the paths of choosing either a degree or certification to help them get there. There is also a third option that may be overlooked — earning both a degree and certification, as well as gaining solid cybersecurity experience. Combining a master’s degree with certifications and top-flight skills gained from years of cybersecurity analyst experience will be your best bet to make it to the lucrative late stage of your career.