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Is a cyber security degree truly practical in the real world?

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TLDR:

Higher education in cyber security is disconnected from the real-world, according to cyber security professionals. A survey found that half of cyber security professionals viewed the availability of cyber security courses in higher education as poor or very poor. The fast-paced nature of the industry makes it difficult for universities to keep up with the latest developments and provide relevant training. Additionally, many cyber security professionals believe that theoretical knowledge is emphasized over practical experience in higher education programs. However, universities are beginning to incorporate industry-recognized certifications and practical experience requirements into their degree programs.

Summary:

According to a survey of over 1,000 cyber security professionals, higher education in cyber security is disconnected from the day-to-day reality of the industry. Half of the professionals surveyed believed that the availability of cyber security courses in formal higher education was either poor or very poor. The number jumped to 83% for professionals with two to five years of experience. The fast-paced nature of the industry, driven by the discovery of new hacking techniques and zero-day flaws, makes it difficult for universities to keep up with the latest developments and provide relevant training.

Many cyber security professionals feel that theoretical knowledge is emphasized over practical experience in higher education programs. Only 30% of the professionals surveyed believed that the availability of cyber security courses was good or very good. In Europe, the number was even lower, with only 20% of respondents believing that the availability was good or very good. Nearly 40% of workers felt that their trainers and teachers lacked real-life experience in the industry.

However, universities are beginning to make changes to address these concerns. There is an increasing willingness to embed practical experience requirements in degree programs or align degrees with industry-recognized certification programs. Community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities in the US are leading the way in providing hands-on learning opportunities and preparing students for real-life cyber security scenarios. While academic education cannot produce the perfect cyber security employee given the different combinations of companies, roles, and technologies, it aims to develop well-rounded, deeply skilled critical thinkers who understand the core concepts of cyber security and can adapt to complex situations.

Overall, there is a recognition that there is a chronic shortage of cyber security experts worldwide, and education is part of the problem. Universities are working to bridge the gap by incorporating practical experience and industry certifications into their programs, but continued collaboration between academia and industry is necessary to ensure that the education provided aligns with the needs of the industry.


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