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Newcomer I

Seeking PhD education advice

Hello,

 

I am in a bit of a dilemma and I am seeking advice from the community.

 

I am a 40+ security professional wondering whether it is worth it pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Information Security. I graduated with a Masters degree in information security a couple of years ago, and since then, I can not seem to find a job that matches with my qualifications. Even the additional certifications do not seem to help ...

 

I know it is a very costly venture, but is it worth the dare just for job satisfaction ?

 

Regards,

Brian.

20 Replies
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Contributor II

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

@BMwine After completing my Master's in Information Security and Assurance I considered going on as well. What came to be me deciding factor was searching for jobs that required it, and I found very very few. Even now I find that most jobs only ask for a Bachelors degree and a Masters is a plus. The only place I feel a further degree would have been of value would be in an academic setting and that is not a direction I would have wanted to go.

 

As far as matching your qualifications, what are you finding you don't match in? It seems like you may have or may become over qualified for many positions. A lot of times job titles and descriptions have gotten very messed up and it's almost like an art form to figure them out. I remember someone sharing with my that their company just fired someone that only matched 20% of what they were looking for, but they were the best fit they could find. I once asked a recruiter why the job description looked so crazy and he told me first they ask for a requirements list, then a wish list, and then they have them throw in the kitchen sink! I was told if I match at least 50% I should apply for anything I was interested in. I have also heard it is best to ignore most of what is written and just look at the responsibilities section and see if it fits and is something you want to do.

 

Just me .02

 

John-

Highlighted
Community Champion

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

Brian,   @BMwine  said:

-=-=-=-=

I am a 40+ security professional wondering whether it is worth it pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Information Security. I graduated with a Masters degree in information security a couple of years ago, and since then, I can not seem to find a job that matches with my qualifications. Even the additional certifications do not seem to help ...

I know it is a very costly venture, but is it worth the dare just for job satisfaction ?

=-=-=-=

Brian,

To set the stage for this reply: I started a doctorate in IA at age 61, while working full time, with goal of completing before 65. I made it by 11 months. By the time I earned it, the degree name had changed to Cybersecurity. I am very happy I earned it as a personal goal and accomplishment. And my wife thinks my title is cool!

 

First, to answer the question, "is it worth the dare just for job satisfaction ?" No, not at all worth it for job satisfaction. However, it may well be worth it for personal satisfaction, or other reasons.

 

I recommend you answer some questions for yourself, and consider a few things I throw in below.

 

Why do you want the degree? Unless your current employer has an incentive for you to move up to that degree, there is close to no job benefit of getting the degree. You might get your resume looked t with a PhD on it, but you will not get a job because of it; they will still look at your skills and accomplishments in the field for the hiring decision.

 

Do you want to teach at the college level? For adjunct appointment, the MS is fine. However, if you want to go for full-time and possible tenure track, then yes, get the doctorate.

 

There are other legitimate reasons for getting a doctorate: personal accomplishment, score keeping, prestige of the title, even as a personal merit badge.

 

Understand clearly that a doctorate is not a “deeper knowledge” degree per se. Rather it is all about learning to do and proving you have and can do research. I have talked to a few who think it is like a masters but with more heavy duty course work. Nope, not at all. If you really want to get into funded cybersec research, then yes, the doctorate is a good thing. 

 

If you want to learn more about the various ares of our field, a plan for more masters degrees and other certifications, like SANS, is better.

 

Next, are you considering school while working full time, as I did, or as a full time grad student? If you go full time at a research university, you will be diving deep, with  lot to learn and also have to be “free” labor for one or more professors on their grant funded research programs. If you go into a program aimed at working adults, your experience will be much more limited, and may not have the money for extensive tech capabilities for the research. On a research university you will likely be a contributing author in several published papers before allowed to publish your personal stand-alone dissertation. If you are in a working adult program, your dissertation may well be your only publication, and be limited by funds.

 

So, to summarize: why do you want the degree, and what do you expect to do to earn it, and then use it afterward.

 

Feel free to contact me directly for more discussion.

 

Good luck!

 

Craig

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. D. Cragin Shelton, CISSP
Dr.Cragin@iCloud.com
https://CraginS.blogspot.com/
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Community Champion

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

The moto "be all that you can be" applies. Is it worth it? Yes. What new knowledge do you want to create? What do you write/teach about today? What are your research interests? What schools/professors do you see as a good fit?

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Community Champion

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

> AppDefects (Community Champion) posted a new reply in Career on 07-09-2020 06:34

> The moto

Hello moto ...

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
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victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm http://twitter.com/rslade
http://blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/author/p1/
https://community.isc2.org/t5/forums/recentpostspage/user-id/1324864413

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Contributor III

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

 

@JKWiniger :

"I once asked a recruiter why the job description looked so crazy and he told me first they ask for a requirements list, then a wish list, and then they have them throw in the kitchen sink! I was told if I match at least 50% I should apply for anything I was interested in. I have also heard it is best to ignore most of what is written and just look at the responsibilities section and see if it fits and is something you want to do."

 

50%??  I was always told and operated on matching 80% and been upset that companies seem to want someone who matches 100%, or pull out one item and treat it as a must have skill even tho it wasn't so marked.  ("Oh, do you know X?  You don't.  Sorry, that's a must have skill, we aren't interested in you")

But I'll agree on the craziness of job descriptions and thought of posting some of these on my blog and critiquing them.  Then companies wonder why they can't find people after looking for months because they are searching for unicorns/purple squirrels...

 

---
Michael Brown, CISSP, HCISPP, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, GSLC, GSTRT, ISSA Fellow
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Community Champion

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

If you thinking that getting a PHD is going to get you a job you will be disappointed. A degree may fill a required checkbox but your personality and job skills is what usually get you the position. As someone who has been in the hiring manager position I looked at several things:

From the resume:

1) Does the person have a skill set that is crucial to being able to perform the role successfully? Basic skills I need for the job. (i.e. I would look for someone to have server experience if I was hiring for a server administrator)

2) Has the person held positions that provided opportunities for growth? I don't mind seeing lateral moves but usually like to see progression over their career. I see a progression of responsibilities in careers as an indication of ambition.

3) Education is usually just a check box for HR. I do not weight someone with a PhD more than someone with a Master's. I note the effort required to go for the PhD is extreme and admirable, but like another poster said it usually means you have spent a lot of time on research. I have had excellent employees who did not have degrees, so that is why I don't automatically assume that a candidate with a PhD is going to be excellent.

In the interview I look for:

1) Passion and ambition. The best employees I have had were very ambitious and eager to learn and grow. They were always learning and willing to take on new tasks and seek out new opportunities.

2) Honest. I would rather you tell me that you don't know something than try to lie and give a fake answer. Once I see falseness in your interview, you are done. Even better say you don't know it but are willing to learn it is even better.

3) Do you have the ability to adapt. I want to hear of the challenges you faced and how you came up with solutions to overcome or deal with them.

4) What kind of self improvement have you done? If you have spent the last 6-8 years in school you may not have the hands-on experience I am looking for. Book knowledge is important but experience is better. If you have only been in school (and not in the workforce) expect me to ask what have you been doing in your "spare" time to better your skills. If the answer is partying or "relaxing" in your down time don't expect to be selected.

 

So my questions to you are these. There seems to be a lot of information security jobs out there. You say the jobs in the job market do not match your qualifications. Does this mean that you can't find a job that pays you what you think you should be paid? You can't find the job in a location you want? Are you looking for a very specific job that does not have a large number of postings (i.e. forensic specialist)? If you can't find a job with your current skill level/education/certifications etc. getting a PhD won't help. I would be interested in seeing if your search area is too small or if there are other restricting factors in order to help you more. 

 

In order to advance my career I have had to move from a small job market to a bigger job market. I have had to make some moves that were considered lateral or a downgrade, but I had good reasons for them (i.e. family sickness).  Overall I have shown progression in my career and it shows on my resume. I recently considered taking a position that would have taken me out of management and in to a more hands-on role, my justification? A 25K a year raise! It didn't work out but I had a justification for future interviews about why I left a management role and took a "downgrade" in position title. What does your resume say about you? Does it show progression or just bouncing around with no clear path? Have you considered a professional resume writer to look at what you are putting out to potential employers? How do you interview? Have you looked at that possibility that you might be a poor interviewer? There could be many factors that are affecting your ability to be hired, having a PhD might not be one of them.

Highlighted
Newcomer I

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

Hello CISOScott,

Thank you for your candid and reflective response. I truly have a lot to questions I need to ponder upon.

Regards,
Brian
Highlighted
Newcomer I

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

Hello Dr. Cragin,

 

Thank you for your response. Your story is really inspiring and I will definitely engage you directly as I continue to think about my future.

 

Regards,
Brian

Highlighted
Community Champion

Re: Seeking PhD education advice

> emb021 (Contributor III) posted a new reply in Career on 07-10-2020 09:19 AM

 

>   @JKWiniger : "I once asked a recruiter why the job description looked so
> crazy and he told me first they ask for a requirements list, then a wish list,
> and then they have them throw in the kitchen sink! I was told if I match at
> least 50% I should apply for anything I was interested in.

 

Must be a lot of people giving that advice. When recruiting, I generally know what I need, and put that in the ad or posting.

 

Funny thing: I get lots of resumes from guys who are unqualified. I don't get as many resumes from women--but when I do get a resume from a woman, she is qualified.

 

>   Then companies wonder why they can't find people after
> looking for months because they are searching for unicorns/purple squirrels...

 

Indeed ...


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