I Have a Cyber Security Degree. Why Can’t I Find a Job?

I have had people with Associate’s, Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees in cyber security tell me they cannot find a job in the field.  Without a doubt, a degree in the cyber security field is a big plus for your career and earnings potential.  For the most part, I believe there are three possible reasons someone may find themselves in this predicament.

  1. They incorrectly assumed that their degree alone would carry them and that once they earned it, employers would welcome them with open arms.  Therefore, they never bothered to build other parts of their resume – certifications, volunteer experience (volunteering is a great way to build IT or cyber security experience), and most importantly, related work experience.  Now they’re an unproven applicant with no documented experience and a degree.
  2. Their educational program was fully online, or mostly online, and they therefore didn’t pick up a sufficient amount of hands on skills and experience in a lab setting, other than via “simulators”.  Now they’re an unproven applicant with no documented experience and a degree.
  3. They are currently incarcerated or in some other freedom-limiting scenario where they can’t get to work.

When addressing this issue, I like to think of the different sections of a cyber security resume as legs of a table.  Without one or more of these areas covered, the table is unstable (just like the employment situation).  With only one leg of the table in place (the degree), the table won’t stand at all (just like the employment situation).

So, what can you do if you’re in this situation?  To get past this hurdle, I recommend that you begin immediately to build up each area of your resume.  Focus on building:

  1. Related volunteer experience.  See if you can help a local church or non-profit with their technology.  These organizations often don’t have the budget for tech support and this makes you look like a nice person who really enjoys what you do.
  2. Professional associations.  Join local technology networking groups or associations.  Yes, they do exist in your area. This looks great on the resume and is hands down the best way to meet an employer who will hire you.
  3. Certifications.  What certification could you knock out in the next three to four weeks if you studied pedal to the metal?  Remember, you’re not working anyway, so you have the time, and certifications are a great way to set yourself apart from other applicants.  Check out our recommended certification resources here.
  4. Professional work experience.  There are plenty of tech companies in every town that would be open to hiring someone part time to cover the Saturday shift or fill in temporarily on a current project, even though they don’t have an opening posted.  Go visit them face to face and negotiate a deal.  You’ll be amazed how often an employer, who had no intention of hiring someone, chooses to do so on the fly when presented with an opportunity.  I’ve seen it happen – several times.
  5. Start a blog.  Start a blog on a free platform and begin posting weekly on cyber and tech events in the news.  Review the event and add your analysis. You can then share your blog with potential employers. This makes you look like a thinker who can write well and has a passion for the field – all qualities of every employer’s perfect new hire.

Good luck out there!

Matt Day

Matt Day

Matt Day is a college cyber security instructor with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cyber security and technology training fields. He holds certifications from CompTIA and Cisco, and is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.

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