6 Top Nontechnical Degrees for Cybersecurity

A computer science degree isn't the only path into a cybersecurity career.

The gap between trained cybersecurity professionals and need is on the order of 4 million people worldwide, and yet not nearly enough students are in computer science and cybersecurity university programs around the world to bridge that gap. One solution, some say, is to look beyond the traditional computer science/cybersecurity academic pipeline for entry-level professionals. 

In fact, "About 58% of cybersecurity professionals come from fields outside technology," says Wesley Simpson, COO of ISC(2). "Cast a big net. We need people from all different backgrounds and degrees."

The big question is: Which degree programs are worthy of consideration?

For practical reasons, Simpson points to the liberal arts. The frequent stories of cybersecurity teams not getting management support for the tools and personnel they need comes down to not effectively telling the cybersecurity story, he says. That's where liberal arts grads can help.

"The liberal arts people are better at telling the story, crafting the story, and talking to all the people they need to talk with to build the story," Simpson says. "We need people from all over the spectrum to tell the story."

Beyond the budget story, individuals from different academic and personal backgrounds can bring critical new perspectives to cybersecurity, which is "key to forming a concrete and inclusive analysis," says Harrison Van Riper, strategy and research analyst at Digital Shadows. "Whether you're conducting an investigation of a threat actor or performing incident response, it's important to understand all of the different views and perspectives that may be impacted." 

Dan Basile, executive director of the security operations center at Texas A&M University, agrees. "We all need a greater diversity of thought and background, in addition to traditional diversity concerns, in order to attack the complex problems we face," he explains. "All nontechnical majors have something that is of value to the cybersecurity field." 

So with general agreement that a wider net is part of the solution, which nontechnical degrees should cybersecurity managers look to for their future staffing needs? We asked a number of cybersecurity professionals for their thoughts, and we received a variety of responses. The six degrees on this list were at the top of the collective heap.

We're also curious: Is your academic background something other than computer science? Let us know where you came from — and what you think about the idea that cybersecurity teams should look beyond computer science and security programs for their future hires.

(Image: StockSnap via Pixabay)

About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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