Masters Degree or certification??

ComputerbeginnerComputerbeginner Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□
Hello Everyone!
I am completely lost and need some advice. Currently 23 years old with a bachelors degree in something that is NON IT related. I am looking to switch into the IT field. Currently taking graduate classes in forensic science-high tech crime. (Basically cyber security)... My question is, is a masters degree in that worth it? Or should I just get certifications since I already have a bachelors degree. The masters degreee is 10 classes however when I finish I won’t have any certs. I will have to go to my local community college to get certified in whatever I choose to pursue. I’m Scheduled to graduate with my masters in May of 2019. But by that time I could be doing certs now and possibly be employeed by then.
Any advice is greatly appreciated it!


  • JDMurrayJDMurray MSIT InfoSec, CISSP, SSCP, GSEC, EnCE, C|EH, CySA+, PenTest+, CASP+, Security+ Surf City, USAAdmin Posts: 12,076 Admin
    Look at posting for jobs that you would like to work in for your new career path. Check what degrees and certs those jobs are asking for. If your reason for degrees and certs is employment then job postings will determine what you do.
  • TechGuru80TechGuru80 Member Posts: 1,539 ■■■■■■□□□□
    Are you already enrolled into the Masters program or are you just taking classes? To be honest, at 23 (24 or 25 at graduation) you aren't likely to get a lot of benefit from a Masters degree. You would be much better off trying to get an IT job such as help desk, entry cyber...basically anything that will get you in the door...and work on knocking out some certifications along the way. The greatest benefit for a Master's degree comes from having at least a few years work experience so you know how things actually work in real life. Certifications and credentials can help getting into some jobs but in your situation you need experience. Once you have at least 3 or 4 years experience you can revisit the whole Master's degree idea but at this point it looks really weird to have graduated with a non-IT related degree within the last year or two and all of a sudden looking to drop a bunch of money on a Master's degree. You should make sure you actually like IT before dropping money (and probably student debt) barely even gave your previous degree / career field a chance.
  • BlackBeretBlackBeret Member Posts: 684 ■■■■■□□□□□
    The two aren't mutually exclusive, this comes up often. You can do both at the same time. They also serve different purposes. I'm going to completely disagree with TechGuru here, but I do believe there's some serious value in having a Master's degree. I'll start by saying I may be biased, because even with years of experience and around a dozen or more technical certifications, the employer I'm pursuing (and MANY in my area) still base your pay on the degree you have.

    Certifications are technical areas in which you have a solid understanding of xyz technology, technique, or procedures. They're usually narrowly focused prove you have an understanding of the topic. A degree is a much wider focus, even in a specific field, and is designed to teach you not just the technical topic at hand, but (especially at the masters level) how to work in that field, the legalities you may be faced with, working within a team, etc. I'd imagine your capstone course will be something like a fully developed scenario going from establishing your teams (company) policies to, conducting a full forensic investigation, to court presentation. It's designed for someone to learn the expanse of the field.

    The certifications you get in forensics will be narrowly focused. It will be something along the lines of how to use one specific piece of software, like FTK or EnCase, but knowing how to use that is just one step in the overall process. Employers are heavily focused on certifications because they're often hiring for someone who has the specific training and knowledge to use XYZ technology/process within their organization. It's definitely the immediate step to a job, if you already know what you're talking about and doing.

    If the Master's program is structured well, you'll learn a lot from the program. When you finish you'll have a degree in forensic's, you'll know how the field operates, how IT functions within it, and hopefully how to conduct an investigation. If you go get a certification, you'll learn what that cert is focused on, but you'll be lacking on the field as a whole. The method proposed by TechGuru above is the typical IT method. Get a very basic certification, get a basic IT job, and learn and work your way up, learning about the field as you go from there. It's just one method though.

    You need to figure out what you want to do first. Based on your name, I'm guessing you're new to the IT and Forensic fields. Do you want to work in forensics? IT covers a wide range of topics. Do you want to do something else within the IT field, security, etc? If you want to do forensics, I'd say the path your own will be the quickest route. If you simply want a job within IT, then you might be better off getting a basic certification and going job hunting.

    Also, the part about people thinking it's weird you have a masters degree with no experience, that's just not true any more. A LOT of schools are offering the 5-year Master's degree. I might disagree with it and think that you should have some experience, but the fact is that a LOT of people are doing it, or getting the Master's degree as part of a career change. It's not going to be viewed as a negative.

    To get certifications, you don't have to take classes at the community college. Go to the library, borrow a book for free, read the book, register for and take the test. Of course the more you can build out a lab and practice what's in the books the better. I'm not discouraging the CC classes, but there are plenty of faster and more cost-effective methods to get certifications. If you're really new to IT go to the library, find books for CompTIA's A+, Network+, Linux+, and Security+.
  • TechGuru80TechGuru80 Member Posts: 1,539 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I wasn’t saying a masters degree doesn’t have’s unlikely to get OP much though without experience.

    Also, a 5 year masters program or having a masters without experience isn’t necessarily weird....what is weird is OP barely has graduated from an unrelated undergraduate degree and all of a sudden wants to change fields and spend a bunch of money on something that he or she may not even like. I guess it’s part of growing up but I would highly discourage taking on a bunch of additional debt until you get your feet wet...who knows you might change your mind again and decide you want to be a truck driver.
  • suntosunto Member Posts: 29 ■■■□□□□□□□
    There's a lot of variables, but don't misconstrue a MS and a certification in terms of value. They are both valuable for different reasons. If you're hard-up on getting a job, focus on knocking out some certifications. A bachelors and a few certs will make landing a job a bit more easier. If you're trying to bolster your resume for some management or leadership roles (architect, et al.), the MS can be valuable.

    All of that aside, experience is the biggest card right now. Get into a cyber job, and learn what you can, and cull years of experience.
  • Info_Sec_WannabeInfo_Sec_Wannabe Senior Member Member Posts: 405 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Each has its own value, but where I'm at, a Masters Degree is usually pursued as you climb the corporate ladder and as what @TechGuru has said, will be of most benefit to the OP only after getting real-world experience.

    Obtaining certs is fine, but do note that there are organizations that do require a certain number of years of experience before you actually get the certification (e.g., ISACA, ISC2 - unless you are after the Associate of ISC2 designation, etc.). I'm just not certain if the same goes for forensics-related certifications aside from GCFA.
    Three year plan: (2018) CISSP [X] and eJPT [ ]; (2019) eCPPT [ ]; (2020) OSCP [ ]
  • BalantineBalantine Member Posts: 77 ■■□□□□□□□□
    As others have mentioned, the primary use of a Masters degree is for *signaling* your conformity and intelligence.

    It doesn't mean that you actually are that way, it is just how the system works.

    So you must define worth it. You won't get skills from very many Master's degree programs: that comes from experience and possibly practicing a lot.
    dulce bellum inexpertis
  • Pmorgan2Pmorgan2 CISSP, CCSP, A+/Net+/Sec+/Project+, ECIH, ITIL v3, CIW SDA & WSP Member Posts: 115 ■■■■□□□□□□
    If you have a scholarship of some sort, I would pursue the Master's Degree full time. It might help you get your foot in the door in a higher spot than most. Then there's anecdotal evidence that your career will progress much faster if you prove yourself at the entry level. However, it may preclude you from ever really getting into the technical side of IT.

    If no scholarship then I suggest slowing your course work down, getting a full time entry level IT job and working on certifications. Experience trumps everything, but Master's Degrees do seem to be a silver bullet for fast progression.
    2020 Goals: ECIH, CCSP,  and Azure Security Engineer Associate
    2021 Goals: M365 Enterprise Administrator Expert, GRID, and WGU BSCIA
  • vCISO2017vCISO2017 Member Posts: 51 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Certifications - Why? Because the Masters is a point in time and in this rapidly changing technology world will become out of date quite quickly - Other reasons, certs are more specialized (privacy, audit, cloud, etc.), cheaper, less time consuming and more marketable.
    CITP | CCSP | CCSK | AWS CCP | VCP | CISM | CGEIT | CIPM | PMP | MCSE, etc.......
  • MustafaITMustafaIT Member Posts: 13 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I was thinking to take a Mater Degree and I have got an offer from the company , but I did choose not to go for that path since I need to focus on core subjects in IT and networking . I think if you have a great deal of experience and knowledge and you want to increase your salary , master degree will be a good option. Certifications are always a big demands for employers . Good luck
  • scadascada Member Posts: 49 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Masters is a point in time? A two year program v.s. a 4 hour certification ....

    A healthy mix of both would be a great suggestion
  • NiTech-5NiTech-5 Member Posts: 25 ■□□□□□□□□□
    You should look into several job announcements. I've seen many that list and prioritize MS in IT as a 'preferred qualification'. Likewise, some entry-level positions even list MS with 0 years of experience. I've seen a few cyber announcements that say 'BA/BS'...but way more announcements that request a BS or MS in IT; Computer Science; or a 'computer-related' field.

    I have a Non-IT BA and an MA that weirdly offered a concentration in cybersecurity [practice/procedural side of it]. I intend to get an MS but only [after] I earn several certs...I might take the WGU route or any other 'convenient' online sure as hell doesn't have to be a prestigious program. I somewhat wish that I got into IT [security] a bit earlier. But eh.....grew up in a small town in which IT security & networking wasn't prioritized, taught, promoted, or in high in demand.
    • Education: BA; MA (a concentration in Cyber/IT Risk Management); Later: MS in Cybersecurity @ WGU, 2020
    • Certs in Progress: Security+ Sy0-501 (late-August or early Sept 2018 )
    • Late 2018/ Early 2019 Goals: CCENT then CCNA Security
    • Self-Taught Programming: Python; SQL (basic)
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