Cybersecurity Bachelors vs. Masters vs Doctorate

Since entering the teaching profession, I’ve seen a general misunderstanding on what to expect from a master’s degree. It compelled me to write this post about what the difference between each degree is, and why you should seek one.

Bachelors

A bachelor’s degree is there to teach you what you need to know to get into the field. It covers everything from the basics to an intermediate amount of knowledge. You won’t be the expert, but you’ll be able to contribute to a team.

A bachelor’s degree isn’t a transformational experience. It isn’t an evolutionary experience. It is designed to give you the knowledge you need to be in the field, and nothing more. You’ll apply the same concepts you learned in high school, and apply them in your bachelor’s. You might be given some additional education on research, but it isn’t anything that could be considered transformational.

Masters

A master’s degree is not only there to teach you the next level of your field, it is there to change the way you think. It is not a transformational experience, but it is an evolutionary experience. With a bachelor’s, you can expect a high level of support from your instructors. They will generally provide good resources, or tell you how to find good resources. They will help you with labs, and other assignments. However, they may not hold your hand.

You should not expect the same in a master’s. A master’s degree is there to start the transition from a practitioner of your field, to a scholar-practitioner. As such, you’ll be expected to find strong resources on your own. You’ll generally be required to have a certain mix between industry and academic literature. You’ll be expected to understand summarization and other general techniques for proper papers.

For your labs, you will generally feel they don’t directly apply to your readings or other teachings. And they might nowt. Your readings give you the general idea, the overall understanding of a concept. Your labs take that understanding, and have you apply it to a new and unfamiliar scenario. Your instructor is not there to hold your hand in this lab, you will be expected to use research skills to discover what is needed.

Doctorate

A doctorate is a transformational experience. This is true regardless of the style of doctorate you choose. There are two primary types, the applied doctorate (in Cybersecurity, you’ll see either a Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) or a Doctor of Science (DSc)), and the traditional doctorate (PhD). The applied doctorate focuses on taking the knowledge learned from research and applying it to the field, providing some new concept that organizations can take and apply to their own. The PhD focuses less on the application of research to the field. Neither is easier than the other.

These take your knowledge to the pinnacle of your field. However, this pinnacle isn’t all of cybersecurity. It is going to be a niche of cybersecurity. It probably will be a niche of a niche. You’ll be the expert in that one part of cybersecurity, but you’ll have the skills needed to become an expert in other parts of cybersecurity too.

Cody Dostal

Cody Dostal

Maryland, US

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