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Bachelor or Masters degree required?

education
#1

Hi people

I’ve been at a crossroads in my IT carreer for a couple of months, and don’t really know what to do. It would be nice if I could hear some different views on the path I’m following and what you would suggest.

A little history.
I was a highschool dropout. Damn, at 16 I stopped formal education and got my highschool diploma through an associates degree. Meanwhile I started working at a local computer store. Here I did everything from SoHo network design and building towers, to repairing ipads and selling laptops. I worked there for 3 years after I hit the ceiling. The company wasn’t that big, and I couldn’t come into contact with the technology I find interesting.
So I went back to school for a year to to an accellerated networking course. Got a deep dive on servers/services corporate network infrastructure and hands on experience with Blade servers.
After looking for a good job, I landed a job as IT consultant and that’s what i’ve been doing now for almost a year and a half. My days are filled with configuring our infra and servers for a large DIY firm.

So now, I’m 23. Achieved my initial goal of being part of the IT Engineering staff. Now I want to make the next jump in my carreer. I’ve been liking the network security part of the job more and more. And want to continue with it as a specialisation.
So here are my options:

  1. Bachelors/Masters
    I could go back to school to get a bachelors, but when I look at the course material, I am bored. I’ve learned most of the curriculum through work experience. I can’t seem to find IT Security specific bachelors, only the generic CS course.
  2. Take a course
    I could take a specialisation course in the evening for cybersecurity, but I don’t know if it’s a smart move to do it this early in my carreer.

Last but not least, all of this is in Europe. I keep hearing from my collegues that experience is more important then a degree. And that makes me unsure of what to do. Another part of it is that my wife is American and we would like to move back to the states (CAL/AZ or CO) for atleast a couple of years. Would i need a bachelors to get a job in the USA in IT? My wife tells me I wont find a job without one…

Thanks for reading this far, hope you get some interesting perspective on my situation.

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#2

Read job postings for the postition you want in the areas you are likely to be. Whatever they require, do that. A good rule of thumb for IT in the US, specifically California, they want everything. A degree, all the certs and experience.

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#3

Just a word of advice. Here in Colorado the only thing that really stands out is the Google facility in Boulder. We don’t have too much in the way of tech jobs. If you’re going that route, and want the mountains of Colorado along with it’s beauty then choose Washington. You won’t regret it. That said, UC Boulder is relatively cheap if you do pursue your Bachelor’s but on the other hand you could do the same at UW and get a better education. There’s also the School of Mines here in Colorado which is an engineering power house but the only two majors computer related that they offer are CS and EE. Hell, they don’t even offer CE even though they have the classes to do it. So yeah, that’s my recommendation. Can’t recommend California. They have high paying jobs but the cost of living makes it pretty useless. Not to say somewhere like Seattle would be cheap but it’s leaps and bounds cheaper than CA and maybe even Boulder.

But that’s my two cents. I’m hoping to get into UW through DA into their engineering department but I don’t know if I will yet…

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#4

In my experience, there isn’t a Bachelors degree that will get you close to this. There are some schools that teach Cisco stuff, and some that will show you Penetration testing and developing malware. But those are typically 16 week semester courses, and you don’t delve any deeper than that.

If you go the Computer Science route, you’ll dig into networking on the theoretical and application side, exploring electricity, fiber, software, the telegraph road, and high level (TCP/IP, OSI, etc).

If you go the I.T. route you’ll learn a bit about it, either through a certification manual or through the high level concepts. Sadly, most MIS/IS/IT degrees focus on “I.T. Management” as much as the tech itself. You’ll really focus on distributed systems, databases, InfoSec ideas, things like that.

I would checkout the two books by Chris Sanders, Practical Packet Analysis (based on your experience, that might be too entry to mid range for you, but it definitely has some nuggets in there) and Applied Network Security Monitoring.

There are also The Practice of Network Security Monitoring (more advanced) and a slew of books on Memory Forensics and Malware Analysis, something you can T shape or branch into from NetSec to keep going down the rabbit hole.

If you want lab style training, checkout The Hacker Playbook series. I think he had a new one just come out, which is undoubtedly a gold mine of hands on networking attacking knowledge.

Learning how to breach, penetrate, and access networks is as good for a Blue Teamer as it is for a Red Teamer.

Check out some courses on Udemy as well. Learn Wireshark, tcpdump, and use PenTesting tools to audit your own network and learn to how to defend yourself better. Build a Cisco lab and hack it. Build an ESXi lab and hack it. Then, start attacking AWS/Azure.

Checkout CloudGoat once you get to the VPC level:

https://rhinosecuritylabs.com/aws/cloudgoat-vulnerable-design-aws-environment/

TL;DR – Go to school to get ahead of the competition, challenge yourself, accomplish a milestone, and learn and grow. Don’t go to school because you think it will teach you network security.

Be so good they can’t ignore you. Start a blog. Start a GitHub. Get a LinkedIn profile. Write weekly, monthly, whatever you are comfortable and consistent with. Learn to make your own tools and throw them on GitHub. Even if you just have a write up of how you did something, rename it to have a .md style, add some formatting, and throw it on GitHub as a project.

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#5

Actually the best advice going. If you see a bunch of companies you would like to work for are all asking for similar things craft yourself to that.

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#6

Yeah, that’s what I figured. I don’t know if a multi thousand dollar course to give me an entry level understanding of the subject is really worth it

I definitely want to stay in an enterprise environment for the foreseeable future. And whenever I go over the course trajectory of a CS bachelor, it seems that I’m going to waste 2-3 years getting a piece of paper, since I gained this knowledge while working.

Exactly, and that is something I don’t really want to do just yet. I might pick up an ITIL and PRINCE but IT management is for down the road for me.

I think this is the most valuable piece of information I heard until now. I know how important it is to get hands on experience.

I’m just worried, since 99% of all IT vacancies ask for a bachelors degree, I might fall out of the boat. Having experience and a fat github page will definitely help with that I think.

I really don’t care much what company I work for. The requirements are that I need to feel challenged in my work, and can sit in with more experienced/talented people. Hoping it will rub off.

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#7

See if you can get an internship somewhere in the enterprise world. Then you can get your hands dirty while getting an education.

Colleges, may be even able to help you get an internship. I know the community college near me makes you take an internship in order to graduate. They want you to find one on your own, but if you can’t the college will hook you up.

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#8

Yeah, a lot do. Purely anecdotal, but I’ve applied for and accepted several positions that wanted a degree before I had one.

I’ve also worked with incredible people that had 0 college. Young and older. Take it as you will, but just know it’s not the only option.

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#9

In the UK and probably elsewhere in Europe its worth it if you have little experience as you get access to things like grad programs.

But you’ve said you want to move back to the states. When? That is going to direct your decision.

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#10

Well, no need for that. I am currently working as an IT Engineer for a large DIY chain.

That would be in 3-5 years

That’s kind of what I hear from a lot of people in IT. The way I see it, I’d like to have a degree eventually. Even if it’s just for management purposes or getting paid better.

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#11

If that’s the case you can probably put that on your resume when you enroll. Just do an education and certification section and have your degree with “In Progress” or “Expected Graduation Date XX/XX/XXXX”

That will guarantee (mostly) you bypass the bots that are scanning specifically for degrees. I’ve never experienced that, but I’ve heard about it happening.

I have harped on this before, but I recommend a LinkedIn profile. At least initially. Maintain it well, don’t worry about writing or posting or liking things, but definitely have it be clean, accurate, and professional.

I get lit up regularly because of my LinkedIn and Dice profiles. Most jobs are meh, but one or two a month I strongly consider pursuing.

These range from Desktop Support, Software Engineer, I.T. Support, Business Analyst, Site Reliability Engineer, and every other buzzword you can think of.

You can also apply for jobs on LinkedIn and message the hiring person/recruiter directly.

Food for thought.

Plus, you can join a ton of networking, security, netsec, and programming clubs and attend meetups if they are in you area.

meetup.com is a thing, too.

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#12

it might be a moot suggestion here but if you are young and have a decent background in IT there are two places you can choose that can use your skills and fine tune them.
USNavy and US Coastguard!
Being a veteran myself I can attest to the thoroughness of the technical training you would receive. (no cost to you but your service)
once you come out of the service you will be a desirable candidate for any employer.

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