Cybersecurity Certificate vs. Cybersecurity Degree

Cybersecurity Certificate or Degree: Which is Right for You?

Cybersecurity is a growing need across industries worldwide. From healthcare organizations protecting their virtual systems (and patient data) to banks and finance organizations securing resources and customer information — to higher education institutions, grocery stores, government agencies, nonprofits, tech companies, and everything in between — every industry and sector needs cybersecurity professionals to keep their data and systems safe from bad actors.

In fact, the need for cybersecurity pros is so great that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2020 and 2030, the number of information security analyst jobs in the country will grow by 33 percent. Right now, estimates there are just under 600,000 cybersecurity job openings nationwide — but there aren’t qualified candidates to fill more than 200,000 of those openings.

This bodes well for folks who want to work in cybersecurity. The high demand for cybersecurity professionals means these jobs pay well (a median of $102,600 annually, according to the BLS) and candidates often have their pick of employers. 

But that doesn’t mean anyone off the street can get a cybersecurity job: These jobs are still competitive, and they require a level of expertise that goes beyond other computer science jobs.

Whether you’ve worked in computer science for years and are looking to advance into a cybersecurity role — or you want to make a total career change — you need the right credentials to land that promotion or catch that cybersecurity employer’s eye. 

There are plenty of different cybersecurity credentials out there: certifications, certificates, full-blown degrees. But how do you know what option is right for you?

In this article, we walk you through the nitty-gritty of these options. You’ll find the details you need to decide which path is right for you. The next chapter of your career is just a step away.

Cybersecurity Credentials: The Options

Every credential comes with upsides and downsides, whether in terms of timeline, cost, or how much you actually learn. Here are the basics:


Pay the certification fee (if applicable), pass the test, and you’ll gain a certification for your resume that will tell employers you have the particular skills represented by the certification.

A variety of organizations — including CompTIA, (ISC)², ISACA, GIAC, and Cisco — offer certifications to paying customers. But certifications don’t teach you anything. They only serve to verify that you have the knowledge and skills associated with the certification. All of that knowledge and skill? You have to attain it on your own. 

If you already have the requisite skills to pass a certification test, this could be a good low-investment route to a cybersecurity credential. But you’ll probably need more than one, and if you don’t have a lot of computer science knowledge to begin with, you will have to find out exactly what you need to learn — and then learn it yourself.


A level up from certifications, academic certificates are like a mini degree: you take a few courses, maintain a certain grade average in all  those courses, and earn a certificate that bolsters your existing experience. 

At Regis, the Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Essentials provides a holistic introduction to cybersecurity. The 12-credit online program can be completed in six-to-12 months, and enrollees are eligible for financial aid.

The certificate courses are:

  • Information Technology Concepts
  • Advancing to Cyber Security
  • Risk Management
  • Computer Forensics

You’ll learn the core ideas and skills needed to understand the cybersecurity landscape and work in the field. You’ll gain both a theoretical and practical grounding, but won’t go very deep into specific areas of cybersecurity. You’ll learn enough to be a cybersecurity generalist.

Some key benefits of the cybersecurity certificate are:

  • Lower cost and shorter timeline than a degree
  • More guidance (and actual education) than a certification
  • Eligible for financial aid
  • Flexibility: you decide how many courses to take at once and courses are online so busy professionals can work while earning the credential
  • Credits transfer to the cybersecurity master’s degree program at Regis

The certificate requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, and a grade of “C” or higher is required to earn each course’s credits for the certification. The certification must also be completed within four years of acceptance into the program.


A cybersecurity degree, whether a bachelor’s or master’s, requires a greater investment of time and finances than either of the previous options, but it also offers a more well-rounded and deeper immersion into cybersecurity and relevant topics. For someone with little to no coding background, a degree will help them learn the practical skills and gain the critical thinking and ethical foundation to land a cybersecurity job and use their role to make the world a better place.

Regis offers both a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and a Master of Science in Information and Cyber Security. Both programs offer financial aid and are valuable to individuals looking to start a cybersecurity career from scratch.

The bachelor’s program is a 120-credit program featuring small online classes and individualized attention from faculty. The program has a rolling start, so students can start at various points throughout the year. The eight-week accelerated courses are entirely online, offering flexibility for busy schedules.

Courses include:

  • Data Structures
  • Information Assurance Fundamentals and Cryptography Basics
  • Network Concepts, Technology, Protocols and Defense
  • Cyber Threats and Defense
  • Database Management Security
  • Policy, Ethics and Compliance
  • Fundamental Security Design Principles and Secure Operating System Concepts
  • Network Forensics
  • Ethical Leadership in Computer Science
  • Intrusion Detection and Response

Students in the bachelor’s program can participate in Regis University’s FastForward and earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in cybersecurity at the same time. Courses involve hands-on projects, so students gain tangible experience.

The master’s program is a 36-credit program designed for working professionals. Featuring both online and on-campus evening classes, the program can be completed in 12-24 months. The rolling start enables students to start the program at different times throughout the year, depending on their schedule. Courses take place over eight-week terms and prepare students for industry certification exams from (ISC)², Cisco, ISACA, CISSP, and others.

Courses include: 

  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Managing a Secure Enterprise
  • Risk Management
  • Information Technology Concepts
  • Information Technology Research Methods

The master’s program also offers two different specializations in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Policy Management. Courses for these specializations dive deep into topics like:

  • Offensive cybersecurity
  • Computer forensics
  • Malware
  • Legal basics of cyber and information security
  • Architecture security
  • Information technology auditing

The multidisciplinary approach ensures that graduates develop the leadership skills, ethical grounding, and critical thinking skills to thrive in an ever-changing field.

Regis University: A National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

Cybersecurity isn’t new at Regis. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHA) have designated Regis a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense because of our track record producing graduates who excel in cybersecurity. 

In 2018, Regis received a U.S. government grant of nearly $1 million to focus on cybersecurity and develop a curriculum. The resulting curriculum is now used across the country to train cybersecurity professionals.

We’re also a long-time host for the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (RMCCDC). In 2022, we marked 12 years welcoming competitors from Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and Kansas for the annual cybersecurity competition.

At Regis, you won’t just earn a credential: you’ll gain real-world cybersecurity experience. From identifying and patching network vulnerabilities to building systems that are more secure than ever before, you’ll finish your certificate or degree — whichever is right for you — with the knowledge and experience you need to start your cybersecurity career.

Ready to get started? Learn more about Cybersecurity at Regis: Master’s | Bachelor’s | Certificate

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