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The Value of University Degrees in Cybersecurity


About this episode

In this episode, Kip and Jason talk about the value of university degrees in the cybersecurity career. This topic does come up all the time in discussions or when people come up to Kip or Jason and ask them the same thing. And there really is no single answer that would fit everyone because a degree can either hurt or help, depending on the context.

Some people ask whether certifications are better than degrees and vice versa, or whether they need a degree or not. But it really depends on what job it is you are trying to get, which sector this job belongs to, and where in the world you are located. Some have even made the mistake of “over-degreeing” and have become the proverbial “guy with more degrees than a thermometer”, which some hiring managers also avoid.

A prevailing frame of thought in the US, as well as in most countries, is that a college degree will be a “ticket” to get you places. In cybersecurity, this is not a true thing because no such guarantee exists.

What you’ll learn

  • Where is the value in a college degree
  • Where is a college degree important
  • What type of positions are important
  • Where do you hit a level that need a degree to get to the next step

Relevant websites for this episode

Episode Transcript

Kip Boyle:
Hi everyone. I’m Kip Boyle and welcome to Your Cyber Path. And, I’m here with Jason Dion. Hey, Jason.

Jason Dion:
Hey, Kip. Great to see you again.

Kip Boyle:
It’s good to see you too and this is going to be a great episode. Before we start diving into episode 75, which is going to be about the value of university degrees in the cybersecurity career, I’m just going to acknowledge that you and I are going to meet up again for the first time in six months there about, so I’m looking forward to that. We’ll meet up in Orlando.

Jason Dion:
Yeah, I know you’re bringing the kids out for Disney World, so I’m going to sneak in and visit you for a little bit while you’re having fun at Disney and we’ll do some dinner between you and me and my operations team and your family and we’ll all get to know each other and break some bread. And it’s always fun to get together in person, because we do a lot of this stuff online, virtually all the time. We talk two, three times a week at least, but it’s always nice to be able to sit down face-to-face with somebody.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, for sure. And, I like the fact that even though I’m not going all the way to Puerto Rico this time, I’m just going to go all the way to Orlando. But up here in my neck of the woods, it’s kind of weird. The rest of the country’s been baking in this massive heat wave, but we’re having Junuary. It is colder and wetter in June this year than it’s been in a long, long time. And so, I’m not going to complain because I don’t want to swelter in the 100 degree heat that everybody else is suffering in, but I just want to acknowledge that I don’t mind going to Orlando for a couple of weeks right now.

Jason Dion:
Well, as I said, I think you picked the worst time to come to Orlando because, you’re going to be here for the end of June, early July. And I could tell you, this week it’s already… I’m in Orlando right now and it’s been over a 100 most of the days this week. So, it’s been crazy and I know most people love going to go visit Mickey Mouse during June, July and August because that’s the summertime, but I will tell you my favorite time… I grew up as a Floridian. I grew up in South Florida. I used to go to Orlando all the time to go visit Disney. And the best time I find is always the two weeks after Thanksgiving, before it gets into the Christmas rush. So, the first two weeks of December is really good. Nobody’s in the parks and the weather’s great. And then if you go in around February, kids are in school, so there’s not a lot of people there. Crowds are low, you jump around most of the rides and the weather is great. But unfortunately, you’re a slave to the calendar for school. I know.

Kip Boyle:
That’s right. I was about to say. Everyone who’s listening, Jason is exactly correct. Do that. That’s what you could do. Don’t do what Kip’s about to do. But it is because, my wife is a public school teacher and so we are a slave to the academic calendar. And so, we just have to make the best of it. But in any event, hey, let’s talk about the value of university degrees in cyber security, because this is a topic that comes up all the time and whether we prompt the conversation or whether somebody comes to us and asks the question, this just seems to be a never ending topic. And so, I think we should unpack this today and I’ll go first. I’ll just simply open up with a statement that a degree can either help you or it can hurt you. There’s really no single answer for everyone and it’s all context dependent. What do you think about my opening statement?

Jason Dion:
Yeah, I think that’s a great statement. I get a lot of questions from people on certs versus degrees or do you really even need a degree? Can you just jump in and do it without a degree? And really, what I tell people is, it depends. And I know it’s everybody’s favorite answer that most lawyers will give you, it depends. I come from a family of lawyers, so I’m used to saying it depends. And really, it comes down to what job is it? You’re targeting? What sector are you in? And where are you located in the world? And so, I think we’re going to talk a little bit about that as we go through today, about where is the value in this college degree and there’s different value at different levels.

Because, here in the United States where we primarily focus is US and Canada, really, most people come out of high school, they get 12 years of education, kindergarten through 12th grade and then they can go off to community college, which is a two year program or to a university for a four year program. And if they do the community college, you’ll get an associate’s degree. If they go to a regular four year university, you’ll get a bachelor’s degree. And then, you can go for another two years and get a master’s degree. And then if you want to do another two or three years, you can get a PhD and become a doctor. And, I’ve seen people make the mistake of over degreeing themself. You got a phrase to say, “That guy’s got more degrees than the thermometer”, and you don’t want that person on your team necessarily. And so depending on the job, there are places that would say, “I want somebody who has a PhD.” And there are other places that go, “You have a PhD? Forget it. I don’t need you. You’re way qualified for this.”

And so, I think we need to kind of break that down as we go through where is it important? What type of positions are important and where are you going to hit the level where you need a degree to get to the next step? And there are places where you can get a lot of jobs without a degree and there are places you’re going to kind of hit the ceiling and no one’s going to let you get to the next level, until you get that bachelor’s degree that’s or until you get that master’s degree or possibly even that PhD, depending on the job. And so, I think it’s important we talk about that.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, it is. A lot of people who are new to this whole thing, have bought into a dominant theme in the United States. And I’m sure that this is probably also a theme in many other countries. But in the US, there’s this overwhelming narrative that says, if you go to college and get a bachelor’s degree, that’s a guaranteed ticket to the middle class. And maybe that thinking is eroding a little bit, but I still see people acting that out. They’re walking out that belief, even though there’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance. But I just want to say point blank that, that’s not true for cyber security. There’s no guarantee like that. It’s not a default thing.

So, let me just take a step back and tell you that, I believe that a college degree is just a tool in your toolbox. Some people are going to have that in their toolbox, some people won’t. Because here’s the thing. Hiring managers want two things from people on their team. The first thing is, they want you to be as useful as you can be on day one. How fast can you start to make a difference? That’s the first thing.

And the second thing they want to see is that, you’ve got passion for the job. That you’re engaged, that there’s a high level of engagement between you and the work that you’re doing. And so if a college degree, if a university degree helps you be and do those two things, then by golly, a college degree is super helpful for you. But if you don’t need a college degree to do those two things, well then you probably don’t need one. That’s my big take. We can unpack about it a little bit more, but I’m going to let you react to that again, Jason.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. So, I definitely agree with you. Hiring managers, we really do want two things. We want you to be productive to be a member of our team and get things done day one. I’m hiring you because I’ve got a problem and you’re my solution. That’s what it comes down to. And then, second is that passion for the job because, our industry is changing so fast all of the time. Within five or 10 years, we’re dealing with completely different technology than we were five or 10 years ago. I think back when I ran my first company back in 99 through 2002, I had my first company doing IT and websites and network installations and things like that. And I was talking at my office here in Orlando, we were installing the networks yesterday and the guys were telling me about, “Hey, we’re running these things.” And I’m like, “Yeah, back I used to do this 20 years ago.”

And the technology that we ran the networks with 20 years ago is not the technology we’re using today. We used to use things like, “Hey, there was cement walls and it was too hard to run the cable.” So we would use, power over, we would use network over power lines. Go from room to room at two megs per second. And that was fast enough back in 1999, but today nobody would wanted two meg network connection. So it’s things like that, that changing have to adapt with it. And, that’s one of the dangers of… In my opinion of a college degree, and one of the reasons why certifications hold so much weight in our field. Because, a certification is good for three years and then you have to re-op it. Whereas a degree is not. It’s good forever. I got my first bachelor’s degree back in 2005. And I will tell you that things are different today in 2022, than they were in 2005.

I got my master’s degree in IT and cyber security in 2011. And again, it’s been 11 years and no one has come back and said, “You need to, re-up your master’s degree. It’s no longer valid. Once you get it, you’re valid.” And so, that refresh cycle is important. And so, when it comes to this degree, really what I find the value of the degree is what you were exposed to during your degree program. It’s what you learned while you were getting that degree, the paper itself to say, I have the degree, is not nearly as important. That said, some hiring majors really like seeing you have that degree, because it tells them what? You can stick with it for four years. It’s something hard, it’s long and you could finish what you start and really that’s more to the value of the degree than what you learned, because what you learned in five years is going to be obsolete anyway.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. And I think, I give credit. How about that? I will give credit where credit is due when somebody finishes a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Because, they are finishing something tough that they’ve started. College is not compulsory. So, the fact that you have a college degree tells me, you opted in and you did it and you saw it to the end. So, credit where credit is due. And I agree with you that it’s not so much what you learn in college in terms of subject matter. So for example, you talk about old stuff, I learned Cobol in college.

Jason Dion:
Me too.

Kip Boyle:
And these days actually, if I wanted to become a Cobol programmer again, I could actually make a lot of money, because they’re in super, super short supply. I don’t want to do that. But, what I learned in college that has been invaluable to me, there’s one thing. And that is, I’ve learned how to learn. And I believe that ties right back to your point. Things change so much, so often if you are in cybersecurity and you don’t like learning new things, you are in big trouble.

Jason Dion:
Oh yeah. Most definitely. And, I think this really goes back to, what is a degree going to do? It really can help you understand what you need to learn and expose you to a wide variety of things. I look at people who go get their computer science degree as an example and they want to go become a coder. Great. My son, he actually is… He’s in high school right now, and he’s going to be graduating this year. And he wants to go off and become a computer science major and he wants to be a programmer. I’m like, “That’s great. But just realize that, whatever you learn in school is probably not what you’re going to be doing when you get hired.” Because you’re going to be learning C plus plus, you’re going to be learning Java. But most people, that’s not what they need you to code right now.

They need you to do web apps. And so, they want you to know no JS or React or Next, and most of things are done in some form of JavaScript these days, because JavaScript has become so popular as a web application framework. And really what you’re learning in your four year degree is, how to think and how to code, but not necessarily the syntax for that particular language because, we’ve looked at a lot of college curriculums and most of them aren’t covering React and Node and Next or any of the web based app frameworks that we use. They might give a little HTML and CSS, but then they really focus on objectory into programming, which is not what most people are using these days.

Kip Boyle:
And when I went into the air force, the fact that I learned Cobol, even though Cobol back then was common, it didn’t matter. Because when I went and joined the Air Force, they said, “Cobol? No, no, no, no, no. You’re going to learn Ada, because Ada is the future.”

Jason Dion:
I programed 15 languages. Ada is not one of them.

Kip Boyle:
My Lord. And so, I went to off at Air Force space for four weeks on a TDY to learn how to code in Ada, which I went back to my unit and promptly never used. Anyway, it’s crazy. But yeah, uncle Sam is fickle sometimes. But anyway. So, let’s talk about a few use cases where a degree might be helpful. Because we’ve sort of said it’s a tool. Okay. So, when should you use the tool? And so, we did say one thing. Which is, if it helps you be useful on day one, if it helps you be to demonstrate high engagement on the job and if you need a degree to do that, if you feel like that’s kind of who you are, whatever, that’s a great use case. There’s another use case. Which is, if you want to be a vice president, like a senior decision maker.

Because I know in the banking industry, they give out the vice president title pretty easily. But I’m talking about, somebody with senior decision making authority or if you want to be a chief information security officer or something like that, you’re going to need a master’s degree. Generally speaking. And by the way, if you’re going to do this in a mainstream company, which is to say a non-technical company, then your master’s degree should probably not be in a technical field. What I know is that, you’re going to want to get like more of a business degree or an MBA or something like that. And, I think that’s where a college degree is really going to make a difference in your career. And if you’re in a tech company, then yeah. Maybe, a master’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, something like that. But notice how I didn’t say cybersecurity as a degree area focus. Right Jason?

Jason Dion:
Yes. And, this is one of the areas that I get a little frustrated with. I guess, probably the best way to put it. I guess open kimono backstory here is, I’ve been a college professor. I’ve done it at the associate level at the community college. I’ve done it at the bachelor’s level and I’ve done it at the master’s level. And I’ve taught for different programs, whether they were computer science, information technology or cyber security, the master’s program I taught in, I was in the cyber security area underneath the college of engineering and computer sciences. And, it was a master’s of computer science degree. And one of the things that I found just ultimately frustrating for me was, I was dealing with a lot of people who come in and they’re thinking, “I’m going to get this master’s in cyber security and I’m going to be able to walk into a job, making a $100,000 a year.”

And routinely I was seeing people they would graduate, they’ve just done this two year master’s program, they spent 30, $40,000 on tuition and nobody wants to hire them. And it’s like, “Well, why I have my master’s degree? Why don’t they want to hire me?” Well, because a lot of the students were coming in for that master’s program, straight out of college, which was straight out of high school. And so, they’re now 22, 23, 24 years old, they’ve got a bachelor’s and a master’s in IT and cyber security and nobody wants to hire them. Why? Because they’re missing that key component, which is experience. And this is why a lot of times I tell students that, if you’re going to go get your bachelor’s degree out of high school, that’s fine. But I wouldn’t go to the master’s if your goal was cybersecurity. I think getting to the bachelor’s level, getting into a position, start working, and there’s plenty of programs that you can do a two year master’s degree in your nights and weekends and get that later on.

But the problem is, if you have a master’s degree and zero experience, what a lot of employers and hiring managers are seeing is, “This person is going to cost me a lot and they don’t bring me enough value because they don’t have the experience yet.” And so, that becomes a blocker where you almost over qualify yourself for the positions you need to be in. Whereas if you have that bachelor’s degree, I think that’s the right level. If you’re trying to make an entrance, especially in the government world, we’ve talked about this before. I come from the government DOD background, the government has a lot of programs for, if you have a bachelor’s degree, you can get hired into a government job in cyber security as a GS nine or a GS 11, coming out of your bachelor’s degree as part of their internship programs.

And being able to do that, that becomes your ticket into one of those programs to then get the experience. And they’ll hire you without experience if you have a degree. But again, there’s a lot less opportunity if you have a master’s to do those things, because you’re now overqualified for that internship program.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. And, I can’t tell you how many people have gone off to get a master’s in cyber security, because they were changing careers. Maybe they were in IT and now they want to be in cyber security. They already had a bachelor’s degree and they just sort of knee jerk reaction had this thought, “Oh, I’ll just go get a master’s degree. And then all of a sudden I’ll get hired.” And, that hardly ever works. At least in the private sector, that hardly ever works. And I’ve seen some very mopey people who can’t understand why they can’t get into cybersecurity. And I explained to them, “Hey, you need to be able to get some hands on capabilities.” That’s the last thing they want to hear, which is unfortunate, because it’s the truth.

And, they’re just kind of demoralized because they just spent a ton of time and money going to school. They have to work again. They don’t have time to go take a $15 an hour help desk job, to build back up into cybersecurity, which you and I both know, that’s not what they have to do either, but these are just some of the common thoughts that people have, when they find themselves in situations. So, we’ve talked a little bit about college degrees in general. We’ve talked about how it’s a tool in your kit and when you might use it and which one you might get. Now, we also need to talk a little bit about how hiring managers see college degrees. Now, some companies really emphasize college degrees. If you go work for consulting organizations and other industries where college degrees are highly valued, because they really help with marketing and portraying their workforces being highly educated.

Well then, there’s still going to require a degree. Now there’s other companies like Google, who are de-emphasizing college degrees for various reasons. Whether it’s because of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, or because they’ve just come to their own conclusion that, “There’s lots of talented people out there who don’t have college degrees and we want to tap into that, so we’re going to make it a little bit more competitive for them.” But what I’m seeing is that, so many people have college degrees that even when a company doesn’t require them, it kind of ends up being a screening, a tool for hiring managers anyway, because it’s just an easy thing for you to use, to say, “Oh, Kips got a college degree, Jason doesn’t. I can only hire one person. All of the things being equal, I’m going to hire the guy with a college degree, whatever.” So, it’s still kind of a frustrating situation for folks who don’t have a college degree. They hear that things are loosening up for them, but in practice, that’s just not always true. What are you seeing, Jason?

Jason Dion:
Yeah, I’ve seen the same thing. And, I like to talk about it just from the other side of how… If you find yourself in that position where you’re struggling, because you don’t have a college degree, how do you go out about getting a college degree without going 40, 50, $60,000 in debt to go get a four year degree, because you don’t need to do that. So, first let me bring up the point. You mentioned that a lot of companies are de-emphasizing college degrees. Google’s a great example of this. But if you look around the world, in the US, we are kind of at the forefront of looking at people without college degrees and hiring them. The only people who are higher than us on that list is Europe. I saw a recent study. Europe, especially in the German economy and the states that are influenced by Germany, they have a very high proportion of internships.

And, so they look at internships and certifications over degrees. At around 70 to 75% of their employers just say, “We don’t require a degree anymore.” In the US, it’s somewhere around 55 to 60%. So, it’s flip a coin and the company may want one or they may not. If you start going into some places like Asia or Africa, it is almost like 80 to 90% of the companies want degrees. It’s super, super high. And so in those areas, it’s becoming a requirement. You must have it to kind of get into those positions. So, I think it’s important to think about those things. And as you said, the company you’re applying for is going to make a difference there. If you’re applying for Kips company or my company, we probably don’t care as much if you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.

We care that you can do the work. But we’re also small businesses. And so, we care much more about that. Whereas, if you’re going to go work for, I don’t know, a big consulting arm like Deloitte or Ernst and Young or something like that, they may want to see that you have a bachelor’s or a master’s because, they’re going to be billing you at 300, $500 an hour as a consultant. And because of that, they want to make sure that their customers see the value in that because, you’re bringing all this educational experience. Even if that degree really meant nothing, in fact you have it is, it allows them to charge more. The other place I see this is in the DOD contracting world. So in the DOD contracting world, the way the contracts are written with the government, it’s either experience or degree and the degree can count as years of experience.

So, if you have zero experience, but you have a bachelor’s degree, according to the department of defense, you are considered to have four years of experience because of that bachelor’s degree. Now, if I have four years of experience and zero degree, and you have a degree and zero experience, we are now considered equivalent in pay bands and hiring perspectives. You have a master’s degree, they give you two years of experience for that. PhD, they give you eight years, total of experience because, four plus two plus two. So, that is one way to gain experience is by if you’re going for a DOD contract by getting degrees. But again, it’s kind of an expensive way of going about it. So, going back around to what I was saying is, how can you go and get these degrees without killing yourself on cost?

There’s a lot of great schools out there that focus on low cost and high turnover, I guess. High graduation rates and pushing through a lot of students. And I will tell you, in the cyber security world and in the IT world, I don’t see a lot of companies who say, “I must see a degree from X college.” In the MBA world, that kind of carries some weight. “I went to Dartmouth, I went to UCLA. I went to… I don’t know. Rutgers, whatever, Harvard.” Harvard business school. That’s going to carry some weight versus, “Hey, I went to Florida, Atlantic University.” Nothing wrong with Florida Atlantic University. It’s a great little school down in Boca Raton, Florida, but they’re not Harvard. And so, that doesn’t carry that weight. But I will tell you that, most companies don’t really care where your degree is from when you’re dealing with the IT or cyber security world.

It’s more that you have it. And so, because of that, don’t go spending $60,000 to go to, I don’t know, Boston University or Boston college. You can go to your local university system. Conversely, a lot of states, including… I’m sitting in Florida right now. Florida has a university system which are four year degrees. They also had a community college system. And over the last five to 10 years, they’ve taken all their community colleges and they’ve allowed them to start giving four year degrees too.

Kip Boyle:
Same in [inaudible].

Jason Dion:
You could actually get… Yep. And that’s a great, very inexpensive way to do it, because you can go to a community college for about a $100 an hour for a credit, and you need 120 credits to graduate and get a bachelor’s degree. So, $100 an hour times 120 credits is $12,000. You can have a four year degree. As opposed to going to the university level, like when I was up in Maryland, University of Maryland was $500 a credit hour. So, it’s five times the cost to be able to say, “I went to this school versus that school.” You’re going to learn the exact same thing. I’ve taught at both the community college and the bachelor’s level and the master’s level at various schools at various prestige levels. And I will tell you, we taught the same curriculum in all three places. So, it really doesn’t make a difference.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. And you said the P word, which I was going to try to make sure we said was just prestige. So, it really is a lot about status. And, I do want to say something tack onto what you said about community colleges giving bachelor’s degree. So, we’ve got a community college very close to my home. I actually went there, because my first two years in college were at a community college. And so recently, I went back there to serve on an advisory board for a cybersecurity degree that they were creating. And, I loved what they came up with. And not just because I was part of the process, but when you go through their degree program, not only do you get a bonafide four year college degree, but the way they structured it, you actually get several key certifications upon graduation.

Because, they’ve aligned their curriculum with A plus and security plus and CCNA and all their core classes have hands on requirements. So, you have to get hands on with a router, hands on with a firewall, hands on with active directory. And so, graduates of that program are ready to go. They can say they have a degree, they have certifications and they have hands on experience. And so boy, that’s what I would encourage people to look for. If you believe you need a college degree in your toolbox, that would be the kind of one that I myself would go and find and get. And, I would not want to pay a million bucks for it either.

Jason Dion:
And the other thing is, depending on the state, a lot of states are allowing people to go to community college for free in their state. So, I know for instance, Tennessee has a free community college program. So, you can go get a four year degree and it costs you nothing, because you’re a Tennessee state resident and they have great programs. And as Kip said, a lot of these programs, they build them based on an advisory panel. So, I was working with an Orlando Community College when they built out their program back in 2012, 2013, 2014 time period. And we still use the same program today. And as part of that, they actually got not just the professors like me, but they also got local companies in that area. So they said, “Hey, local companies, what skills do you need when you’re hiring somebody as a cybersecurity analyst, what do you need?”

And they said, “Well, we really need somebody who has Security Plus. We really need somebody who has CCNA, who understands logs, how routers work, how switches work.” And they kind of told us all the things they wanted in a person and we built our program around those things. So now, that company knows when you come with that four year degree from this college or two year degree from that college or university, they know that basically they got two years of training of what they needed. And it’s very little for them to get you into being what we say before. Being productive on day one when I hire you. Because, we already built those skills in this program in a very hands on way. And so, I see a lot of those programs are just very, very beneficial for people trying to break into cybersecurity as well, because it can be that on ramp directly into a partnership, because a lot of these companies in your local area work with the community colleges.

They don’t necessarily work with the universities, because the universities are too big. They’ve got 30,000 students. They don’t have the time for that, but the community colleges do. And so, you’ll see it very, very tailored program in there.

Kip Boyle:
Community colleges are very scrappy and very real world universities tend to be a bit more in the theoretical domain and don’t like other people telling them what to do.

Jason Dion:
We know better. We’re the university.

Kip Boyle:
Hey, listen. As we wrap up this episode, I want to give you one real practical piece of advice here. Hopefully, you’ve heard something very practical already, but in case you haven’t, here’s a super practical piece of advice. If you still don’t know if you should get a college degree or which one? Or if the one you have is going to be any good for what you want? Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to pull job descriptions. I want you to sit down and say to yourself, “Okay, I want this job and I want you to be clear on what the job title is. And then, I want you to get really clear on the industry that you want to work in and the size of company that you want to work for.” Now, if you can get those three things figured out, then you can start pulling job descriptions and comparing them.

And I think, after you pull six job descriptions for the job you want in the industry you want, for the size of company you want, it’ll become very obvious, very quickly, what it is you need to do. So, that’s private sector. Jason’s shaking his head. Jason, what if somebody wants to work in like DOD, whether it’s for a defense contractor or if they want to actually go on uncle Sam’s payroll, is there some equivalent thing they should do?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. So, when it comes to uncle Sam’s payroll, that your best source for that is always going to be usajobs.com. So, if you go to USA jobs, is the clearing house for all government jobs. And when I say being on uncle Sam’s payroll, I mean, you are a W2 employee working for the US government. You are a government civilian working either in…

Kip Boyle:
Paid by US treasury.

Jason Dion:
Yes. You’re getting paid and you’re working for either US treasury, IRS, social security, FBI, CIA, NSA, the DOD, whatever. You’re working for somebody in the greater government. And for them, all those jobs are put into USA jobs. So if you’re thinking, “Hey, I’d like to go work for customs and borders patrol, because I live down in Texas. And they’ve got a lot of drones flying overhead that need to communicate back. And maybe I could be that guy.” You could find that at usajobs.com. USA jobs.gov. Excuse me. Dot gov. G-O-V. So, definitely check that out. And just like Kip said, if you’re looking at a position, for instance, an IT specialist is a 2210, so they call those, that’s the 2210 series. It’ll tell you, for this position, you must have eight years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.

So what that means is, you need eight years of experience plus a bachelor’s degree, or you need 12 years of experience and no bachelor’s degree. They won’t tell you that, but that is one of the things. And some hiring managers will only hire people who have a degree if they put that in the job description, but a lot of them will say, “Or equivalent experience.” And so, that’s one of the things you can look at. The other thing is, if you’re looking for government contractors, if you look at any of the common government contractors, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Harris, there’s a million of them out there. But any of them, when you start looking at theirs, they’re going to do very similar. Where they’re going to say, must have degree or X number of years of experience, because for the most part, they are very transferable.

And what that allows them to do is, find a wider pool of candidates to fill those positions. But also, it helps them establish what your pay band is. And this is one of the things that we haven’t really talked about in this episode yet, but a degree can change your pay band. Especially in the DOD. DOD Contractors are very big on that. Where it’s like, “Hey, I can pay you $80,000 a year. But if you have a bachelor’s degree, I can pay you a 100. If you have a master’s, I can pay you 120. And the reason for that is, their contract with uncle Sam says, “If I get somebody who’s in a level one, two or three, based on their education, I can pay them level one, two or three rates.” And so, that will count. I don’t know if that holds as true in the private sector Kip.

Kip Boyle:
Not so much. Although, it can happen. I think it really just depends on where the organization is in industry wise. And then also who’s setting the hiring policies, I have encountered it. It’s just not very common.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. And so, that’s another thing to consider. Depending on again, are you looking to be on the uncle Sam side or are you looking at being general private sector side and if you think about it that way though, if I’m going to make an extra 10 or $20,000 a year by having a bachelor’s degree working for a defense contractor, well heck, it makes sense for me to go get that four year degree, because it costs me 12 to $14,000 to get it. And I’m getting $10,000 a year. I’m getting instant payback, right? Especially if you do it on the cheap by going to a community college. So, those are the kind of things you should be thinking about as you’re looking at that. But again, look at those job descriptions, it’ll tell you what is required or not. And then the other thing that I just want to point out is, if you have experience, but you don’t have a degree, that’s okay, you could still apply.

Because, I will tell you as a hiring major, I will take the guy without a degree who has experience over a guy who has a degree with no experience. Because the guy with experience, a guy or gal, is going to have a lot more to offer me, in terms of real world, they can actually do the job.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. Right. And that’s what it kind of, we said that we want to see in the beginning, is we want to see people as useful as possible on day one. Okay. So Jason, we’re about out of time, you want to wrap up the episode for us?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. I just want to thank everybody again for joining us for another episode of Your Cyber Path. I’d like to remind you to go to yourcyberpath.com/75. If you’d like to get any of the episode notes or links that we have talked about in this particular session. And, if you go to yourcyberpath.com on the homepage, you can sign up for tips, mentor notes. I highly recommend you do that. He sends those out every other week and it’s got lots of great information that will help you in your career search and help you as you’re doing your interviewing, your resumes and all sorts of other stuff and just to keep you up to date with what’s going on in the industry. So it’s totally free, no cost, highly recommend you sign up at yourcyberpath.com. And until next time, we will see you in two weeks.

Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

    Kip Boyle
     Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

    Jason Dion
     Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.


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