According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2016 survey, the five most desirable attributes employers look for when seeking new graduates are soft skills: leadership, ability to work in a team, written communication skills, problem-solving abilities and verbal communication skills. Technical skills lag far behind, in 10th place.
How can you ensure the courses you pick will put you at the top of the interview pile?
5 Tips to Get the Best Master’s Degree ROI for Your Cyber Career
In the new digital age of expanded connectivity, cybersecurity has become one of the most in-demand tech careers on the planet. As a result, colleges and universities are racing to offer the most technically advanced cybersecurity training. Yet technical perspective alone is no guarantee of long-term career success.
Here are some tips on how to find a curriculum that will offer the best return on your investment for your cybersecurity career.
Tip #1: Communication Skills
“Today the breakdown within corporate America is all around communication skills,” says Deidre Diamond, founder and CEO of national cybersecurity staffing company Cyber Security Network (CyberSN) and founder of the not-for-profit, thought-leadership platform #brainbabe. If you’re considering going into cybersecurity, the video above discusses why it’s vital to find a program that focuses on communication and other soft skills, as well as core technical skills.
The program should cover verbal and written communication skills that will help you inform colleagues throughout your organization about cybersecurity and its importance. If you are aiming for an executive cybersecurity position, this can play an important role in budget negotiations. It will also help make your evaluations of the latest security technology trends accessible to non-technical staff and clients.
Utica College’s complete suite of Cybersecurity programs offers a variety of specializations and addresses both the technical and non-technical areas of the industry.
Tip #2: Teamwork
For an organization to protect its information and systems against fast-evolving threats, cybersecurity needs to be a closely coordinated team effort that has both IT and non-IT colleagues focused on the same objectives. Look for a course that gives you opportunities to work with – and learn with – people from different backgrounds, disciplines and cultural contexts.
Since they are not restricted by geographic location, online courses can be an ideal way to obtain a significantly more diverse classroom experience. Students are more likely to have different life experiences and the emphasis on digital communication will help to reinforce and strengthen non-verbal communication skills.
Advanced education programs should arm students with a host of important soft skills, including brainstorming, negotiating, conflict resolution and the ability to have honest and challenging conversations about cybersecurity. Diamond stresses the importance of good teamwork skills. “No matter how technical someone is, if they can’t communicate in a team atmosphere, they won’t be successful in the long term,” she says.
Tip #3: Problem-solving
Cybercriminals are some of the most creative people you’ll encounter – and it is your job to be even more creative, to stay one step ahead and anticipate their attacks. Counteracting their activities often requires an ability to think beyond basic technical problems, into areas of complex puzzle solving – perhaps also the ability to empathize with and understand the mindset of someone who is breaking the law.
Through a combination of foundational theory and hands-on practice, Delaware University’s online MS in Cybersecurity teaches students to engineer and execute sophisticated solutions to protect systems and infrastructure.
This program focuses on:
- Techniques for building secure software, networks and systems from the ground up.
- Using forensic tools within virtual machine environments to repel and disarm real-life modern cyber threats.
- Learning from active practitioners and researchers with experience in corporate and military systems.
A good cybersecurity program will equip you with the skills needed to tackle real-world, ill-defined security problems. This may be reinforced through group exercises or competitions – along the lines of the Global Cyberlympics – that encourage students to think creatively about problems and to try to find a solution within a set time limit.
Tip #4: Critical Thinking
Cybersecurity is a highly technical field, and cybersecurity experts must be able to exercise effective analytical thinking and critical judgment. This applies to identifying problems, analyzing user requirements and proposing solutions. It may involve learning how to prioritize between must-have and nice-to-have solutions, based upon available budget or business needs. For example, rather than requiring that every company email be encrypted, you could require all employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement that protects intellectual property.
Another important skill is the ability to design and explain cybersecurity policies and tools that are easy to use and understand for non-technical users. For example, use real-world analogies (such protecting a house from burglars) to explain key cybersecurity concepts.
Regis University’s online Master’s in Information Assurance details how to take a leading role in the efforts to keep sensitive data safe by planning for physical security breaches and disaster recovery, implementing enterprise and architecture security systems, instituting risk management techniques and auditing best practices. A certificate program in Information Assurance Policy Management is also available.
Tip #5: Career-aligning Curriculum
Cybersecurity is still a very open-ended field that offers a wide range of different job opportunities, from entry-level network and system admin jobs, all the way up to senior engineering and the C-suite roles. If you’re aiming high, be prepared to commit to a postgrad degree, as they offer the specialized technical skills and managerial guidance necessary for senior positions. Learning institutions such as Utica College allow you to focus your education on specific areas of cybersecurity, such as cyber policy and economic crime and fraud management. “Having a master’s degree or Ph.D in cybersecurity will give you a leg up for leadership roles,” Diamond says.
Whatever your level of study, a curriculum that offers a good balance between communication skills and technical teaching is likely to lead to a greater set of career opportunities, and set you up for long-term career success.