A Master’s Degree in Information Assurance vs. Industry Certifications

Stuart Gentry, Alumnus


While attending a security conference, one of the presenters was asked what certifications he held. After answering, he then asked, “What does it really matter? Where is the value in certifications?” Before I provide the answer, another question: What is the value of a master’s degree in information assurance? What value does the degree provide vs. certifications? Let’s discuss…

When I was in the military, I ran across many people who held either the CompTIA Security+ certification or the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. I often asked the certification holders this question: What do you know about the information security industry or what skills and knowledge do you have that prepare you for the profession? Some would say, “I passed the test…I crammed, I took the boot camp and I passed the test. That’s all that matters.”

Is passing all that matters? Would an employer think that’s all that matters? In my opinion, it’s a lot more than just passing a test. A security professional should have an idea of what is going on in the world of security on a regular basis. Personally, hiring someone who can demonstrate their information assurance experience beyond being able to say they passed an industry certification is what matters most.

When I went through my master’s degree, I was constantly in the books or doing labs and writing papers explaining and demonstrating what I understood about information assurance. I immensely enjoyed the master’s course work and really liked doing my thesis on penetration testing; I also learned a lot through the whole experience.  People say if you don’t have experience, you probably won’t land a decent job. However, I was able to gain experience by doing a hands-on thesis within my IA degree program which allowed me to be competitive in the job market upon graduation.

Regis University’s program provided me with the foundational knowledge needed to sit for industry preferred exams. When I took the Security+ exam, I passed, understanding the exam and questions being asked far better than I would have if I had just crammed for the exam.

In the end, Regis University can provide that foundation of education combined with labs and projects for experience that employers want. Additionally, upon graduation, not only will you have a master’s degree, you’ll have the foundational knowledge needed to sit for an industry certification. The combination of the two can certainly help you stand out amongst competition with employers. 

So, what value do you put into industry certifications? I believe that if you know your stuff, industry certifications have more value than just a passed exam. Earning a master’s degree is a great way to learn the foundational knowledge needed to truly understand the industry certifications and be successful in obtaining an information assurance or cybersecurity job.

Request more information about Regis University’s graduate and certificate information assurance programs by calling an admissions advisor at 877-820-0581.