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Building a Better-Rounded Cybersecurity Skills Resume

Nowadays, anyone with the necessary drive can pursue a degree in IT fields such as cybersecurity. Even if you're entirely new to programming, system administration or other relevant topics, you can jump online for a quick crash course.

While you'll have to overcome hurdles along the way, this career path definitely rewards those who put in the effort. 

IT is evolving rapidly, however, and the job marketplace is following suit. Today's cybersecurity positions are highly competitive. In other words, you need the practical talents to back your theoretical knowledge. Here are some tips on how to choose certifications and coursework that help you broaden your horizons and skills. 

What's in a Course Catalog?
If you peruse cybersecurity degree options available at various accredited institutions, you'll encounter an overwhelming range of course titles.

For instance, an institution that starts with an undergraduate computer science pathway will probably offer introductory programming courses. A higher-level network admin program might delve further into specific tasks that depend on knowledge of programming and operating system shell environments, such as configuring services or setting up new networks. 

Making Sense of It All
The breadth of choices can be confusing indeed. Things get particularly puzzling if you're new to IT topics or higher education in general. Before diving in and signing up for an interesting-looking ethical hacking class or digital forensics lab, you need to chart out a roadmap. Ask yourself some basic questions: 

  • Will a given course provide you with credits that count towards the degree you're ultimately pursuing?
  • Will a given course prepare you to obtain supplemental certifications?
  • If a course doesn't count towards your degree or counts as an optional elective, will it help you diversify or reinforce the skillset that you cultivate in your main courses?
  • What kinds of classes and degree programs do people who have the jobs you want typically complete?
  • If you've already worked in a certain area, will going through a course make you better at that job?

These guidelines aren't set in stone. By considering them early on, however, you can get a better feel for the long-term commitments associated with obtaining a degree. 

Certifications Make You Well-rounded, but They Aren't Stand-ins for Degrees
Many IT veterans wandered into the field via alternate pathways. For instance, you may know a programmer or network administrator who dropped out of school before landing their current job. While such examples can be inspiring testaments to human willpower, it's important to understand that they're the exceptions to the norm. Having more education is always better for your career, and certifications work best when they supplement more formal credentials. 

Even if you earn a degree, you'll derive massive benefits from obtaining certifications from recognized sources, such as CompTIA, (ISC)², Red Hat or Microsoft. Certification holders have to demonstrate that they possess real-world skills as well as theoretical knowledge. Although sitting for certification tests is a lot of work, it's ultimately worth it when it comes to building a resume that employers find attractive. 

Picking Your Long-term Route
Earning a cybersecurity degree isn't always the fastest path towards getting hired, but it may be the most flexible. Although you'll have to sit through classes and complete lots of coursework, you'll end up with credentials that make it easier to choose how your professional life plays out. Not having a degree, on the other hand, can raise barriers to promotion and hiring even if you possess ample certifications or job experience. 

Who Are Cybersecurity Degrees For?
Thanks to the fact that you can get your choice of an associate, bachelor's, master's or even doctorate degree, cybersecurity education is open to all. Whether you want to open your own security consulting firm or become a pen tester, learning the basics and proving that you jumped through the hoops are good starting steps.


Rehan Jiaz is an entrepreneur, business graduate, content strategist and editor overseeing contributed content at SmartdataCollective.com. He is passionate about writing stuff for startups. His areas of interest include digital business strategy and strategic decision making. 


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