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Degree or not degree? That is the question...

Are you a Cyber-Security professional thinking about studying for a degree? If so, you’ve probably found yourself wondering which degree programme is best for you and whether it fits in with the other commitments in your life.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the benefits of a Cyber-Security degree, the advantages and disadvantages of part-time study and which are the best courses to choose.

Most security professionals don’t step into security-focused roles on day zero. Instead, the most traditional route for trainees is through generalist IT positions, such as Service Desk Analyst or Systems Administrator roles. That way, they gain valuable exposure to IT security issues (forgotten passwords, privileged access, phishing emails or systems configuration) before moving into more focused roles. With that in mind, security-related degrees aren’t essential for entry-level positions in Cyber-Security (although it may help!)

But what if you’re already an experienced Cyber-Security professional and you want to make the next step in your career, or you’re looking to move from a related field into a security-specific role at a senior level? In that case, earning relevant qualifications can be a great way to improve your prospects.

But with so many qualifications on offer – whether it be vendor certifications, industry certifications (SANS, CompTIA, ISC²) or higher education – is a degree the best way to go?

The dream vs. the reality

If you’re able to commit the time and resources, a security-related degree can benefit your career options significantly in the long-term. It can provide a solid practical and theoretical foundation, and may even open up new career opportunities through related graduate programmes.

If you already have an undergraduate degree, your best strategy would be to build on your previous experience by enrolling on a post-graduate degree. This will expose you to more advanced studies and help you compete for senior positions in information security.

However, most people can’t just drop everything to go to university. They have family commitments, bills to pay and lifestyles to maintain.

In this case, it could be worth thinking carefully about whether full-time or part-time study is the right option for you. Part-time study offers greater flexibility and allows you to continue working alongside your degree – however, it can still be very challenging and stressful.

Advantages of part-time study… You may want to consider…
Greater flexibility as lectures and seminars are often hosted at weekends, or even recorded for students to access online in their own time

Studying requires discipline as other commitments can often distract you from study. Typically, you should dedicate at least 20 hours a week to part-time study

Improve your career prospects without you having to take a break from work

Both employers and academics may not appreciate the conflicting demands on your time. Employers in particular may need careful handling to ensure that your academic work isn’t neglected

Develops skills such as organisation and time management, since you’ll be prioritising multiple workloads

You may not have time to access resources such as academic staff, guest lectures, networking events, the library, and the careers service

Demonstrates commitment to progression and avoids employment gaps

Time pressures can leave you feeling isolated so close support from friends, family, peers, tutors, colleagues and employers is vital

Choosing the right course

So, you’ve decided to pursue part-time study. Now you need to find the right part-time course.

With nearly one hundred university degrees with ‘Cyber Security’ or similar in the title, it can be difficult to know where to begin. I would recommend starting with NCSC accredited courses.

The NCSC is the UK’s authority on Cyber Security. One of their key objectives is to nurture the UK’s Cyber Security capability, and part of this is achieved through its certified degrees scheme, which aims to set the standard for good Cyber Security education in the UK.

Here, I’ve picked out the current NCSC accredited courses that are currently available for part-time study:

Fully certified Bachelor’s degrees

Oxford Brookes

BSc Computer Science for Computer Security

Fully certified Master’s degrees

Cranfield University

MSc in Digital Forensics

Edinburgh Napier University

MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics

University of Oxford

MSc in Software and Systems Security

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of London International Academy

MSc in Information Security — Distance Learning

University of South Wales

MSc in Computer Forensics

University of Surrey

MSc in Information Security

University College London

MSc in Information Security

Provisionally certified Master’s degrees

Cranfield University

MSc in Cyber Defence and Information Assurance

De Montfort University

MSc Cyber Security

Kingston University

MSc in Network and Information Security (Cyber Pathway)

Oxford Brookes University

MSc Computer Science for Cyber Security

University of the West of England

MSc Cyber Security

For more information, you can visit:

Whatever you choose to do, there are plenty of courses on offer to fit around your lifestyle. In my next blog, I'll discuss Cyber Security qualifications such as CISSP and CEH, and which ones are most relevant for your chosen career.

About the Author

At Rullion, I work as a Recruitment Consultant within the IT and Information Security recruitment sector. I have three years' industry experience, predominantly in IT Sales recruitment and senior…