I’m graduating with a degree in computer science, and I’m passionate about cybersecurity (writing that, I realize exactly how nerdy it sounds). It seems like cybersecurity is all over the place these days, from what happened in the elections of 2016 to stuff happening with big companies giving away user data. My adviser is saying I should go on to get a master’s degree, but I’m just not feeling that. At the end of last semester, he said people don’t take cybersecurity seriously. Honestly, it hurt. I’m inclined to believe him, but I want to prove him wrong. How can I do that? Should I? Or should I just go to grad school?
While we were reading your question, we were surprised at your advisor’s opinion. Frankly, it seems quite selfish for a professor to say that to a student. One thing you should remember is that professors are humans, too. They only share a small portion of their lives with you. Their assessment of cybersecurity trends may seem valid to them, but you don’t know what other experience is acting on them to make them say that. Maybe they tried to get your university to implement a new policy that never happened. Maybe they testified in front of some lawmakers, and their testimony was rejected. Maybe they think cybersecurity isn’t an issue because one day it will all be handled by blockchain tech. In any case, the best choice for you isn’t to prove your professor wrong by showing how badly he understands cybersecurity. It’s to prove him wrong by doing good for yourself.
Can you do that? The fact is that cybersecurity expertise is in high demand. As more of our lives are lived online, we need more and better technologies to keep all of that information secure. As technology changes, cybersecurity must also evolve to keep pace with it — 30 years ago cybersecurity meant making sure your punch cards were locked up. Cybersecurity news site Dark Reading writes that, “So, far from discouraging graduates to study cybersecurity, AI, and data science, the growth in both technologies should encourage students to take these courses and acquire some specialization in the field.”
Let’s take one example of this innovation-drive boom in cyber security. Twistlock is a container cybersecurity platform. A container (for everybody reading this who doesn’t have a degree in CD) is like a little computer-within-a-computer that allow apps to run on their own, according to CIO. So, where a normal operating system on a computer would be able to see and interact with every file and piece of hardware on the system — from your printer to last month’s essays — a containerized app would only be able to see the things needed to run that app. Containerization is a fairly new tool for app developers to use. However, with these new innovations came new problems. How do you secure a mini-computer, without all of the security features, such as firewalls and anti-virus software, the main systems would have? Enter Twistlock, which protects every part of the app container such as the metal shells on a storage container. New innovations are driving new cybersecurity needs. If you want to work in cybersecurity, these would be the places to look, because these people care just as deeply as you do.
Finally, a note on graduate school: while grad school may eventually be a good idea if you want to further your position in the field, we recommend that you take a few years to get to know what you really want to do before you make that leap. This may involve working in cybersecurity for a few years, or it may involve working in a completely unrelated field. You have a lot of time, and you have a passion. Your first priority on graduating should be learning what makes you happy.