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Professional certifications .vs. academic degree

By Amjad Zoghbi ·
I currently work in the broad IT field and do a lot of things, ranging from systems administration to design and security implementation, I currently hold the MCSE 2003 cert. I am planning to specialise in the field of information security. Should I go for professional certs such as CISSP etc. or a masters degree in InfoSec? would doing both be a definite advantage? what is the trend that employers seek?

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It all depends...

by Newu In reply to Professional certificatio ...

...on what you want to do. Do you think you want to work as a security consultant or are you leaning more towards the Chief Security Officer role?

In my opinion having both can't hurt. However, in my experience if you are looking at the consultant role I believe that the certification is going to be more directly and immediately advantageous. If you want to go the CSO route you are probably going to need to pursue the MIS degree.

I've noticed that the higher you go in a corporate environment the more formal education you are expected to have. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to have a MIS degree or a degree at all to be a CSO. In fact I'd be willing to bet there are quite a few CSOs out there that don't have a MIS degree. Especially considering that security and the CSO position have really only become a major corporate focus in the last 5 years or so.

Bottom line is if you can and want to pursue both, do it. It can only benefit you. If you have to choose one then make an informed choice based on your long term goals.

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by Amjad Zoghbi In reply to It all depends...

very nice...
Actually I am hitting a CSO or CISO position and that's why I was planning on doing the MIS... Anyhow that position will have to wait at least until I get my degree and gain a few more years of experience in infosec, and that is exactly what the certs will help achieve.

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by tagmarkman In reply to Professional certificatio ...

It really depends on what you want to do and what you are willing to invest.

Short Answer:
Get both the degree and certifications. In the software industry, neither of them "truly" prepares you for your work. I've found actual experience to be much better at that and I look for that in a resume. However, the degree and certification help validate your capabilities to your potential employer.

Long Answer:
A certification or degree is simply an attempt at proving you are a certain type of person the employer is looking to hire. These degrees and certificates along with your experience allow your potential employer to quickly determine if you are right for the job or at least right for the job interview.

When I look at resumes, I (basically) see the degrees in this manner:
AA - you have attempted to broaden yourself and you have a better idea of what you want than the person of the same job experience without one. (Maturity)
BS - you probably know what you want and you taken the steps necessary to be competent in your field. (Application)
MS - You have proven a strong desire to commit yourself to your field and are more likely to be an expert in your area of study than someone with out this degree. (Understanding)
PhD - Proves commitment to learning beyond commerce. You truly know how to research and back up your cases. You've probably shown an area of deep understanding of a very specific area. You are probably more prepared to push forward into new territory in that area of study than someone without the degree. (Theory)

Certification is simply a standard way to prove that you know a specific body of knowledge.

In other words, degrees show that you can be dedicated and have a grasp of the entire profession. It attempts to prove who you are on a broad scale. Certifications show you can perform a specific set of tasks with competence. It attempts to prove who you are on a narrow scale.

A lot of people will get their certifications while getting their degrees so by the time they graduate the have a powerhouse of proof (which makes getting a job a lot easier if you don't have the direct experience).

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