There has never been a better time to get involved in the tech industry. There are so many key roles, and no, you don’t need to have a decade of experience to get in. Employers put wish lists on job listings, but the fact is that due to the sheer lack of experts out there (especially ones that check all the boxes they are looking for), you can often apply without the experience they are asking for and get the job.
The only thing you need is to be the most qualified of the applicants. That is it. In some roles, like cyber security, this could be right after you earn a cyber security degree and have qualified for a few certifications. It is such an in-demand sector, and not just in tech businesses. All companies today need IT specialists and those with a cyber security degree.
You can easily change careers into this sector, and yes, that applies to those without experience in coding. Without that experience, you will want to give yourself some extra time, as universities and courses often require you to take a foundational degree or graduate certificate (between six months and a year), but if you are serious about making a shift into the tech industry, this is your best bet.
There is a lot to learn, so use this guide to make sure you choose right, make the most out of your education, and most of all that you do all you can to make job hunting easy, stress-free, and fast.
Choose the Right Specialty for You
First things first, choosing the specialty that you want to get involved in. As you are changing careers, rather than starting your career, you don’t really want to go through the traditional route many tech experts have gone through in the past. For most, getting an undergraduate degree in computer science and then going on to specialize later on is the way to go. Otherwise, they will have been curating their interest and talents by themselves since they were young, putting passion at the forefront of all that they do.
You don’t need to be an independent genius in tech or have spent your entire academic career in computer science to get a tech job. You can start again at any time with the right degree and certifications, but you need to be 100% certain of what you want to do. The degrees that will be best for you are highly specialized and will work to get you ready for a very specific role.
The specialty you choose doesn’t have to be your passion, but you need to believe in it and be happy to dedicate yourself to it. In most cases, this can be as easy as choosing a degree that you know is going to be relevant and stay relevant. For example, cyber security is growing in importance, and therefore the number of open job positions only continues to skyrocket. If you were looking for a job that is important, with great job security and high pay, this is an exceptional option.
Still, if you aren’t sure, give yourself time to explore the available roles, what they entail, and which one interests you the most.
Finding the Right Degree
Once you are confident in what future job role you want, it is time to find the right degree for you. There are generally two types of degrees available. Those for experts who want to either specialize or further their expertise, and those for newcomers who want to change career paths. In this case, you will be looking for degrees in the second category.
There will be more lax requirements, as well as additional support options if you don’t quite have the experience necessary to enroll. As stated before, you will likely need to take a foundational degree or a graduate program first to bring your coding up to par before you can start that cyber security degree. This is fine, however. Many of these take only six months to a year to complete.
Other than making sure that the degree was designed for someone like you (coming in from a non-tech background) you will also want to make sure that it is:
Accreditation is important if there are certifications that you will ideally want to earn. For a cyber security analyst, an example of the certifications you would want to earn for your career includes things like the C|EH, the C|ND, the CISCO CCNA, or the CCNP Security certificates can really help kickstart your career.
In some cases, you will specifically need an accredited degree to earn these certifications. In most cases, however, you will want an accredited university in this field because they are guaranteed to teach you what you need to know to take the test and earn your certification.
- 100% Online
For those looking to change careers, online education is a god-send. You don’t need to quit your job and lose that financial stability in the process. Instead, you can continue to work and study.
There are caveats, however. The degree you are earning must have been designed to be completed online from the outset. It also needs to have no mandatory log-in times, otherwise, it will be impossible to properly balance your career and your degree. Every great cyber security degree will offer these features, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a flexible degree in the field that you are interested in. Just remember to double-check before enrolling, as your dream can turn into a nightmare if you don’t have the right support.
- Teaches You What You Need to Know
There is a very, very easy trick to make sure that the degree you are looking at will help you with your career change. Start first at the job boards. Search for the job role that you want, and explore what employers expect from your expert. In cyber security, for example, you will typically be in charge of auditing the system, improving their defenses, testing, and of course creating contingency plans for the worst-case scenario.
By knowing what you will be doing in that job role, you can then go through the syllabus of the degree you are looking at. Just check to make sure you are taught what you need to know. A cyber security degree, for example, should help you develop proficiency in machine learning and AI, networking and data mining, penetration testing, and secure software design as a minimum. You need to know the basics and how to create a threat analysis, create a disaster recovery plan, and more.
- Hosted and Run by Experts in their Field
Another great thing to check is who will be teaching you and who is in your faculty. They should all have impressive resumes of their own, either in the academic world or in the professional world. They are, after all, the people who will be teaching you. You could also look for them on professor rating sites to see how their teaching stacks up against other options you are looking at. If everyone absolutely despises how one teacher learns, you may not get the most out of that degree.
A great degree is one that is run and taught by people who have experience in the subject but, more importantly, are good at teaching. It’s a very, very important skill to have because a great teacher will make a world of difference to what you take away from the program.
- Good Value for Money
Master’s degrees, even online, are expensive. Thankfully you can spread out those costs by taking one course at a time and paying as you go, but that’s standard today for online degrees. You don not necessarily want to choose the cheapest degree, either. That is why it’s a good idea to look at the university rankings for value. A good cyber security degree is one that is great value for your money. After all, this is for the sake of your career.
How to Juggle Your New Degree and Your Job
Choosing the right degree means finding one that teaches you what you need to know and one that supports you throughout. Even with a great, supportive degree, however, it is still up to you to figure out how to juggle your degree and your job.
We highly recommend working on improving your routine before you start. This means getting into the habit of learning after work, going to bed at the same time, eating better, and so on. By building these routines ahead of time, you can jump right into your new degree without the learning curve.
How to Make the Most out of What You Learn
Try as much as you can to put what you learn to work. You could carve yourself a new job role at your current employer, for example, but discussing it with your manager. Most businesses do not have a dedicated cyber security analyst. Even if you don‘t intend to stay, you could help your current company and gain very important experience by applying what you learn while you are studying. They get the benefit of having a whole educational team helping you with your efforts, and you get work experience long before you graduate from your new degree. It is a win-win for everyone involved.
How to Improve Your Job Hunt
You are already in a great position when you finally start to look for a new job with your cyber security degree, or whichever tech degree you ended up going for. Why? Because the sector is growing massively. It is projected to grow a further 11% in the next decade – far outpacing any other role in the United States. Cyber security, specifically, is estimated to grow massively. In 2019 the global market was worth 112.01 billion. By 2027 it is estimated to be worth more than double that at 281.74 billion. Already there are millions of unfilled cyber security positions around the world, meaning that it is one of the best industries to get involved in.
More tech means more weaknesses. More crime means more investment in security measures. There has never been a better time to get involved in this area of tech, and you can do it with just a few years of part-time education.
That being said, there are always ways to make it even easier for yourself when you are finally on a job hunt. Start by building up your portfolio. This can be done either by publishing some of the projects you have been working on or by writing about your new expertise. Try to get published as often as you can in top magazines and digital publications so that your name is tied to your new expertise. This is one of the best ways to get hired today, not by telling but by showing.
Don’t Give Up and Give Yourself Time
One thing you seriously need to remember is that even an online, part-time cyber security degree is still a serious commitment. Don’t assume that you can easily get everything done and continue your full-time career without the right precautions and routines. More than that, know that your mental health and physical health will fluctuate through the experience. Push yourself too hard or too fast, and you could inadvertently lead yourself to mental burnout.
Burnouts take a serious toll, and in many cases, require time off in order to recuperate. Some can never bring themselves to take up that double responsibility again.
It is far better to take a step back when you start to experience the warning signs. Care for yourself, and everything else will fall into place. This isn’t a race; it’s a marathon, and so long as you use all the tips and tricks in this guide, even taking longer to complete your cyber security degree can be a huge benefit for your career.