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I want to be a cyber security guru, however; the cost of tuition is extravagant. How did you avoid becoming discouraged?

I have pretty much settled on 3 universities that I am very interested in attending. Each one is more expensive than the other. My parents cannot afford to pay the $200,000 tuition costs. The underpriviledged have federal aid and grants that do not have to be repaid. The wealthy have deep pockets and large bank accounts, while the middle class have few options other than competing for scholarships and repayable loans. Applying for college can become discouraging. #science #computer #security #cyber

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Chad’s Answer

Ariel,

First off, let me say that I completely get where you are coming from. I came from a single parent household (my Father passed away of cancer at age 1), and my Mom simply did not have enough money to pay for college for myself and my brother. In fact, I remember when I was supposed to check-in to my dorm the weekend before the semester started at UNLV, the housing office surprisingly said that my student loan had magically disappeared, thus I could not register for a dorm room and ultimately not attend my dream school. That was a hard time - I was upset, confused, and incredibly discouraged. I found a cheaper alternative back home in South Dakota, and worked a midnight shift at a local business while taking night classes before work in order to fund my education. I did that for almost two years before I sought out the military, who COMPLETELY paid for my school (the remainder of my undergrad and graduate school), in addition to various professional certifications. The military was a blessing for me and was ultimately a vehicle that helped me achieve what I have accomplished today.

All that being said, I hope you understand that many students fall on hard times and can relate to you on many levels. The $200,000 price tag does seem a little bit high though. I would encourage you to research other schools by using certain websites or tools such as https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/compare

Community colleges are also not a bad idea for the first couple of years to drive the cost down, in addition to applying to internships. Some internships even lead to companies paying for a degree or landing a job directly after graduation! DHS, for example, has a great program for students interested in cyber: https://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-careers/cyber-student-volunteer-initiative . Indeed and other search engines display a wide array of internship opportunities as well: https://www.indeed.com/q-Cyber-Security-Internship-jobs.html

You are going into a great career by choosing cyber security, which will help you find a very meaningful job with a well-paying salary attached to it. Do NOT get discouraged - the juice is worth the squeeze, I promise you.

Thanks,

Chad Eckles


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Jeff’s Answer

Hi, Ariel.


While college is expensive, it is a great investment. Which colleges are you thinking about attending? $200,000 sounds quite high.


Don't get discouraged. Take action. First, fill out FAFSA. It is a mandatory step and will open you up to possible grants, scholarships and, if necessary, loans. Second, talk to everyone you know about scholarships, banks, credit unions, religious organizations, parent's employers, any activities you are involved in. Talk to your counselor about financial options and opportunities. Talk to the counselors at the universities you are thinking about. Also, talk to the departments you would be enrolling in. There are tons of grants and loans waiting for people to uncover. Apply for every opportunity. The worst that can happen is they say no.


Another less expensive option is to talk all of your lower level liberal arts classes at a local community college. You could live at home during that time. Just make sure they would transfer to the universities you like.


Best of luck and don't get frustrated and definitely don't give up!


Jeff

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kevin’s Answer

Consider alternative paths. It's different in every state, but here in Virginia you can attend community college and if you graduate with a decent GPA you get automatic acceptance to any of the state schools. This would cover most of your general ed and foundational courses in your area while achieving significant savings. There are also online colleges that offer well respected degree programs. I know many who have graduated from Western Governors University and felt strongly about the quality of the education they got there. That program gives you flexibility to manage your time if you want to work while going to school.
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Jim’s Answer

I encourage you to attend A college/university but I encourage you to pursue your passion also.  I did both and found that, FOR ME, college / university did not help me with my passion/career when I started in security. Pursue certifications and internships across a variety of security domains and a variety of industries.  I basically DIDN'T go to college, but that decision was very specific to my decision tree.  My son is going to college, because that is what HE needed.  Seeking EDUCATION comes in many forms, college/university is just ONE form.

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John’s Answer

I would highly recommend the book "Tribe of Hackers". The authors asked 70 cybersecurity professionals the same 15 questions: What is the one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck actions that an organization can take to improve their cybersecurity posture?, What is your specialty in cybersecurity and how can others gain experience in your specialty?, What is the best book or movie that can be used to illustrate cybersecurity challenges?, Do you need a college degree or certification to be a cybersecurity professional?, etc.

These are the leaders that other security professionals follow, the gurus. And, they offer 70 different opinions on the value of a degree vs. experience. Some of them are extremely successful without a degree, some highly recommend formal education. Some noted that having a degree or certification can help get your foot in the door, makes your resume more likely to be selected by H.R.

An internship can be a great way to get some experience and figure out what you are interested in and what you would like to do.

You might consider finding a job that will reimburse you for continuing education.
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David’s Answer

I agree with John! a degree or a certification is going to help to be eligible for a job. In that term what you can do is to check the certifications (they are cheaper than a degree) like Certified Ethical Hacker or any Offensive Security cert. Also it would be important to define what you can do as "cybersec guru" since there are many ways in cybersec like audit, pentest, forensics and many others. Investigating this and practicing and studying for a certification will help you to really understand cybersecurity and if you like this you will be encouraged to continue.
So my advice here is to study by yourself and obtain a certification (there are a lot! CEH, OSCP, ISO 27001 LA, CISSP and many others), that will help you to find a job or an internship to obtain experience and money and with that money you can pay a degree in a good university.
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E’s Answer

There is zero correlation between having money for a fancy degree and becoming a cybersecurity expert. You can become an expert in your desired domain, whether it be pentesting, blue team ops, GRC, with zero dollars and a workstation that can support virtual machines. There is so much open source knowledge and resources out there and that I assure you if you do some research into your desired security field, you can find learning material and resources you need either for free or for a minimal cost. TryHackMe, HackTheBox, are all free or charge a nominal fee for premium plans - and they are worth their weight in gold as far as being a cybersecurity expert. Nothing beats hands on learning, and degrees are extremely overrated and overpriced in this field in my opinion. Not too different from certifications honestly, though the content is good in some certs like GIAC ones as long as you apply them. Noticing a theme here? You are only as valuable as your skillset in this field... and you can build that for zero dollars.
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Rob’s Answer

I completely understand your situation. I'm a parent of two college-aged children, and it is indeed super-expensive. But there are some things for you to keep in mind:

Cybersecurity is a very hot field right now, and one that is projected to grow faster than the economy as a whole for the foreseeable future. So many firms need these skills right now, and as long as you have good grades from an accredited school with an accredited computer science/security program, you will absolutely not have a problem starting a career, regardless of the school you attend. What's most important is *your* ability to show that *you* have learned the subject matter.

From a tuition standpoint, you may find that some of the schools that you believe you can't afford will have programs to make it more affordable, even though you fall into that broad middle class. While it's true that you may not get any *federal* aid, most colleges and universities will grant scholarships to help pay tuition if you are a student with good grades. No matter what, never conclude that you won't be able to afford it until you've talked to the admissions department at a variety of schools to see about scholarships.
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Tina’s Answer

I agree with Jim's answer completely. This field requires you to pull from your experiences and education from a plethora of areas. Tapping into your ability to critically think well as to be creative will get you through all aspects of an information security program. My undergraduate degree was in Communications from my state college and I was able to get tuition assistance from my company when I went for my Masters in Information Assurance.
In this role you will play on what you have learned in business, sociology, psychology, writing, researching, planning, etc.. What is important in understanding that what you will gain in your education can be applied in all aspects of where your career passion.

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Stan’s Answer

I don't agree that an expensive college tuition is necessary for "a path to become a cyber security guru". I would argue that hands-on experience, self-learning, internship or apprenticeship can be just as affective - at least enough to get your "foot in the door' for an entry level position and build from there.

The field of Cyber is so vast that you can spend a lifetime working with just one aspect of info-sec/cyber and not touch upon other sides of cyber. If you find your passion in a specific sector of cyber you can then dive deeper, get targeted industry-based certification and mentor others once your reach guru status. If you get an entry-level position with a reputable company, most will even cover the cost of training and certification.
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