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Cybersecurity Certificate Vs. Degree

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Are you interested in information security? Are you wondering whether it’s best to pursue a cybersecurity certificate vs. degree? The good news is that both are great options for forging a career in the field, but one will probably cater to your unique needs in ways the other cannot.

Asking yourself a few simple questions can help narrow down the decision. What are the cybersecurity job postings saying, for instance? Are you searching for entry-level jobs? Do you want to obtain leadership positions? Are you interested in remote options only? Do you already have an undergraduate degree? Master’s degree, perhaps?

Below, we’ll provide some additional information on both educational paths. By the time you finish the article, you should have a good idea as to which option is right for you.


What is a Cyber Security Certificate?

cybersecurity certificate vs degree

A cybersecurity certification is awarded to individuals who have successfully completed all coursework along with a certification exam or a capstone project. These programs typically focus on a specific topic or niche in the cybersecurity industry.

These cyber security programs also offer valuable hands-on experience and help students stay updated with the ever-evolving cybersecurity field. Students will develop fundamental skills and knowledge in computer science, information security, incident response, and more.

Certificate programs vary widely, though most don’t last any longer than 12 months. This abbreviated duration also significantly cuts the costs as compared to degree options.

Is a Certificate in Cyber Security Worth It?

If you’re really interested in a career in the field, then a certificate in cyber security is definitely worth it. Remember, the industry isn’t exactly regulated. Unlike doctors who must demonstrate their skills with a medical degree, cybersecurity professionals have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves on the job.

Cybersecurity certificate programs help prepare students for the task. They also provide the kinds of credentials needed to break into the field without any prior experience. Affiliations with recognized organizations can even help you network around the field. Some institutions also offer career placement programs, which can provide tremendous help with getting hired.

Certificate programs can also impact your income. According to Hacker News, certificates can help individuals already employed in the information security industry boost their salary anywhere from 5% to 25%.

Benefits of a Cyber Security Certificate Program

Many benefits come from successfully completing cybersecurity certifications.

  • Free online resources for all cyber security professionals
  • Affordable program options
  • Remote options and online programs are available
  • Ability to break into the workforce quickly

Disadvantages of a Certificate Course in Cybersecurity

Like all things in life, there might also be a few disadvantages.

  • Professional certifications have a more shallow curriculum
  • Without a cybersecurity degree, there might be limited advanced positions available to you
  • A stand-alone certificate usually has a lower salary potential

The good news is that most of these disadvantages can be avoided by staying up to date with industry advancements and with a commitment to continued learning.

What is a Cyber Security Degree?

There are three different types of cyber security degrees, each with varying characteristics:

  1. Associate’s degree in cybersecurity
  2. Bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity
  3. Graduate degree (either M.S. or Ph.D.) in cyber security

Depending on your time, your past job experience in information technology, the money you would like to invest in a college degree, and your cyber security career goals, certain programs will make more sense than others.

Is a Degree in Cyber Security Worth It?

The answer depends. We are firm believers in higher education. Still, we recognize that not everyone has the time and money needed to complete a degree program. While these programs will introduce you to new people and new skills, they may not be feasible for individuals tending to responsibilities at home.

Benefits of a Cyber Security Degree

  • Broader and richer information systems curriculum
  • Gain access to a broader network of working professionals
  • Ability to apply for more advanced positions, like information security manager
  • Higher salary potential for cybersecurity workers, even in entry-level positions

Disadvantages of a Degree in Cybersecurity

  • College courses and graduate degrees are more expensive
  • College degrees take longer to complete
  • College degrees and graduate schools have less flexible class schedules

How Should I Decide Between a Cyber Security Certificate vs. Degree?

Cyber security certifications

Deciding between a certificate program and a college degree may take some time. It’s also a challenge that many aspiring cybersecurity professionals face. The good news is that the right cybersecurity program for you is out there. We suggest asking yourself some of the questions below for help deciding between the two options.

Do you want to begin work quickly?

Individuals who want to begin their cybersecurity career as soon as possible may want to sign up for a certification program. For instance, the cyber security certificate program at ICOHS College can be completed in just one year.

The curriculum will provide you with new skills and help you match job requirements much faster than college degrees. For individuals who are not in a time crunch, short certificate programs may not be necessary. In that instance, a degree program may be better.

How much can you afford to spend?

Because degrees involve a longer, more extensive curriculum, they often cost much more than certificate programs. Individuals who can’t afford to quit work to attend school full time or those who aren’t able to cover tuition should probably look into available certificate programs.

That said, there are financial aid options available to individuals to qualify. If you really want to pursue a degree, it is possible. Benefits also apply to military personnel and veterans.

What kind of work do you want to pursue?

The type of work you wish to do and your career path will help dictate if you should get certifications or sign up for a degree program.

The skills you gain from certification programs will qualify you for a range of entry-level job postings. Certificate holders also enjoy plenty of opportunities doing consulting work and contract jobs.

Unfortunately, for more senior positions, cybersecurity certifications may not be enough. Oftentimes, a bachelor’s degree is required for managerial or leadership roles. Cybersecurity professionals with advanced degrees can also make significantly more money per year. According to the ZipRecruiter, senior consultants make upwards of $118,392 annually

What company do you want to work for?

Figuring whether to pursue a certificate in cyber security or more advanced credentials also depends on the company you want to work for. Certain companies maintain strict degree requirements. However, a growing number of tech companies have done away with their degree requirements altogether, providing more open opportunities for individuals interested in the field.


The world of cyber security is booming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow by 33 percent over the next decade. That rate far exceeded that projected for other industries.

Whether you are new to the field, or a seasoned programmer in search of some additional credentials, it’s a great time to spruce up your resume. Cybersecurity certificates have been proven to land you more jobs, enhance your skills, win promotions and boost your salary. Overall, they help you accomplish the career aspirations you’ve been dreaming about.

The Certified Cyber Security Program at ICOHS College can be completed in just 12 months and prepares students to pass the following industry certifications:

  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Network+ +
  • CompTIA Security +
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • CompTIA Cloud+
  • CompTIA CSA+

Scholarships and title IV funding are also available to help students cover the cost of tuition. Call us to speak to one of our representatives (858) 581-9460 or contact us via email for more information on financial assistance.

Students attending ICOHS College will have full access to our career counseling program. They’ll also receive lifetime job placement assistance after graduation.

ICOHS College is accredited by the ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education). To learn more about ICOHS College accreditations and licenses, visit our accreditation page.


Cyber security certifications vs bachelor’s degree

Is it better to get a certificate or a degree in IT?

Deciding which one is better for you will depend on the time you want to invest, how much money you can spend, and your career aspirations.

Do I need a master’s in cyber security?

For most positions in the cybersecurity industry, you do not need a master’s degree. However, if you want to hold senior or director-level positions in cyber security, a master’s degree will help demonstrate your expertise.

What is the cyber security certificate salary?  

Salaries in the cyber security industry exist on a spectrum. Wages for individuals with cyber security certifications will vary based on their geographic location, previous job experience, performance reviews, peer recommendations, and the company itself.

What are some popular cybersecurity certificate jobs?

Getting a certificate in cybersecurity is a perfectly good way to begin a career. With a certification in cyber security, you can work as an entry-level cyber security consultant, junior penetration tester, or analyst.

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