With each passing year, cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated and common. The costs of these attacks are also increasing, with the average data breach now totaling $9.44 million.
Demand for cybersecurity professionals is at an all-time high and is only projected to grow in the coming years. In fact, the need for cybersecurity workers is so strong that there are currently more than 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone.
Not only is the cybersecurity industry in demand, but it pays well. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a cyber security worker in the US is $112,974 as of October 21, 2022.
Although ZipRecruiter reports yearly wages as high as $304,500 and as low as $40,500, the majority of cybersecurity salaries now fall between $60,000 and $145,500, with top earners making $185,500 annually across the United States.
But what’s the best way to get started in this field? Should you get a cybersecurity certificate or degree?
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between cybersecurity certificates and degrees so you can make the best decision for your future.
A cybersecurity certificate is a short-term program that can be completed in as little as six months. These programs are typically offered by technical schools, community colleges, and online providers.
Most cybersecurity certificate programs cover the basics of cybersecurity and provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with various cybersecurity tools and systems.
Many certificate programs also offer specializations in areas like network security or digital forensics.
Certificate programs are a good option for people who are already working in the IT field and want to transition into cybersecurity or for those looking to jump-start their cybersecurity careers.
Cyber security degrees
A cybersecurity degree is a four-year program typically offered by colleges and universities. These programs can provide students with a more in-depth understanding of cybersecurity concepts and systems.
In addition to taking classes on cybersecurity topics, students in cybersecurity degree programs also complete coursework in areas like computer science, mathematics, and engineering.
This broad range of coursework gives students the opportunity to develop a well-rounded skill set that can be applied to many cybersecurity positions.
These degree programs can also benefit people who want to move into management and leadership positions or are interested in research and development roles.
Cybersecurity certificate vs degree
As discussed above, the main difference between a cybersecurity degree and a certificate in cybersecurity is the time commitment, the knowledge gained, and the cost.
That said, even if you decide to pursue a cybersecurity degree, you should continue learning after earning it.
Gaining a degree should eventually prompt you to pursue certifications, as they can keep your knowledge and skills fresh in your chosen cybersecurity field.
A conventional cybersecurity degree program is four years long. For those counting, that’s eight semesters of full-time study at a rate of four classes per semester.
Taking four classes per semester will need at least 12 hours per week of class time, not counting time spent on homework, studying, and in labs. A master’s degree in cybersecurity could add another year or more to this schedule.
Taking a full course load on top of 40 or more hours of work per week may not be practical if you are employed full-time.
If you opt to pursue a cyber security degree while working full-time, you may decide to take only one or two courses per semester, prolonging the time required to earn that degree.
On the other hand, certifications provide more specific training in less time. Certification might take up to six months to obtain, depending on the chosen cybersecurity field.
This makes it much easier for full-time employees to gain knowledge in a given area.
EducationData reports the average cost of one year of in-state tuition at a public four-year college is just over $9,300. The average cost of one year at a private, four-year college or university is over $37,000.
Note, this is just for tuition. These figures could increase significantly with the addition of textbooks, laboratories, dormitory rooms, and meal plans.
However, certifications cost a fraction of that. Most certification fees cover the cost of the certification exam as well as the cost of any required study materials.
This might cost anything from $100 to $2,000, depending on the type of certification.
So, which is better: a cybersecurity certificate or a degree? The answer to this question depends on your career goals, previous job experience, free time, and price.
A certificate program may be a good option if you are already working in the IT field and want to transition into cybersecurity. It is also great for those with little to no experience in cybersecurity who want to start their career in a niche area, as certificates are often specialized.
Alternatively, a degree program may be a better fit if you are interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity and want a comprehensive education in the field.
However, pursuing this degree can be time-consuming, and for those working full-time, it can last even longer than four years. Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your specific goals and needs.
MyComputerCareer offers a variety of online courses and programs that can help you get started in your cybersecurity career. We also provide career services to help you find a cybersecurity job after you’ve completed your coursework.
With so many options available, there is sure to be a course that meets your needs. Contact MyComputerCareer today to get started on your path to a successful career in cybersecurity.