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I think I've wasted tens of thousands of dollars on a worthless degree

NOTE: I originally wrote this in April 2016 at the peak of my job-hunt frustration, resulting in me taking the summer off to relax and re-evaluate my immediate career aspirations. While I still embrace the advice I give to students going back to school or working adults seeking a change in disciplines, whether or not I maintain the more pessimistic feelings in portions of this post...only time will tell.

After 5 years of studying, I recently graduated with a B.S. in Cyber Security believing that the job world would be my oyster. "There are SO many security jobs available. I'll have employers fighting over me. Six-figure job, here I come!" However, after months of fruitless job-searching, do you know how many employers/recruiters have asked about or even mentioned my degree?

Not a single one. Zero. Zilch.

Instead, the same 3 questions come my way, "What's your previous security work experience? Do you have an active clearance? Do you have a CISSP?"

"None, no, no."

"Oh. Ummm...we'll, uh, be in touch."

In the meanwhile, my student loan payment of $637 is still due on the 13th of every month.

The truth is, after these past few months of applying for jobs, talking to various people, and reading various forum posts, I've come to a epiphany: your degree is just a checklist item - beyond that, no one cares. Security? You could just as well major in English. It's not going to open a magical portal to a wondrous world of career choices. Recruiters are not going to beat down your door with Cyber Analyst & Engineer offerings (you will get a shitload of offers for sales positions, however). The degree is just a tick box to get recruiters & hiring managers to read the rest of the resume instead of immediately tossing it into the "round file". In fact, if you already have relevant security experience on your resume, you probably don't need the degree at all. I already knew this applied to certifications but, for some reason, I thought degrees were different.

My uptake from everything I've learned so far about getting a career in security? GET WORK EXPERIENCE TO PUT ON YOUR RESUME. Get an internship. Take a side-job. Find a way to take on security-related responsibilities at work. Take a look at job postings and get your hands on the technologies for which employers are seeking. Do something, anything, so you can honestly put security-relevant work experience on the resume. You're only in your freshman year? PERFECT time to start! You'll have even more experience by the time you graduate!

Also, if you're working, or are interested in working, in government-support roles (which are the vast majority of job openings in my area), find a job that will sponsor you for a clearance. Even if it means finding another job at the exact same position, just with a clearance. Active clearances will give you a step up on the competition more than the degree will.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to follow some of the other advice I've read and switch my job search over to systems administration. Maybe I'll have better luck there.

TL;DR - Experience is not just > degree/certs for security jobs, it is the be-all, end-all. Do it. Do it now.

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