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I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

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Triban

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Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:07 am

I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

I graduated back in 2000 with a degree in MIS.  Essentially a Business degree with concentration on Information Systems.  Thankfully I got a job with the Info Sys dept on campus so I was able to get most of my early experience from that.  Then landed a co-op job with a local insurance company that gave me some additional sys admin experience in an enterprise environment. 

11 years later, I am using the sys admin and consulting experience to push into my Info Sec career.  I went back to the school's curriculum to see if they have added any security related classes and sadly they haven't.  Then I took a look at the CS department and shocked to see that most of what I've been interested in over the last few years has been taught there.  Granted I never really wanted to be a coder, so I figured why bother with CS?  Anyway I've come a long way I think from my MIS roots and continue to enjoy diving further into the inner workings of the systems. 

What am I getting at?  I have no real idea.  Am I a hacker?  Maybe at heart I am, in its purest sense of the word.  Did not going CS as a major hinder my newly found desire to break the systems so I can figure out how better to protect them?  Maybe only slightly.  I do believe that MIS did give me the soft skills that are desperately needed to further one's career.  As far as CS goes, well my original major was Biology and I've always had a strong interest in Science, so what is really the difference in what I do now?  The viruses I deal with now are just digital.  They still cause havok on their target systems which are electronic rather than biological.  In the end I think I am right where I wanted to be, just took a bit longer than some.

So advice to those out there who may be starting on the same path...  College is a time to grow both professionally and emotionally.  You will probably change your major at least once.  Don't regret the decision, use it to better yourself.  You will have plenty of time to gain the skills that will help grow your interests.  Oh and don't believe the instructors, you will not be making 100K out the door ;-)  Use that first job to build your experience and don't be afraid to take the grunt work jobs.  Good luck!
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cd1zz

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Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:19 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

I'm in the same boat. IS Degree around the same time and often ponder how things could have been different.

I wish I would have taken more programming and CS but it wasn't the right fit for me at the time. I went back for an MS in InfoSec which sort of jump started my interests in InfoSec after I took a course from John Strand. I haven't looked back since. I also think that like Don said in a post earlier this week, you dont necessarily need a college degree to make an impact in the industry and make a good living. It just happened to be the right thing for me.

You will probably change your major at least once.  Don't regret the decision, use it to better yourself.  You will have plenty of time to gain the skills that will help grow your interests.


I was told the same thing. However, looking back, if I had known out of the gates what I wanted to do, I think it really would have simplified my path in college and I probably would have gotten more out of my undergrad.

Its almost impossible to ask a new college kid to have this kind of forward thinking, but if you can somehow manage to put down your beer for a minute and realize this, I think you're going to be way ahead of most people.
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rattis

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Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:11 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

I have a 2 year degree in CIS, think well rounded but focus on coding. 1 windows admin class, 1 microsoft db class, 1 general lan networking class, rest was programming and electives. My electives focused on unix. I can pump out scripts when I need to in Bash or Perl. But not much of a coder. Trying to get in to a college for Information Assurance. Not because I really want to, but because it's a "security" related degree and I want to fix the missing 4 year degree issue on my resume.

I have a friend in an AI class, he's  completely self taught when he comes to programming. His current major is Linguistics, when I first met him it was Russian History.

Get the paper to impress HR and Business people. If you find you like other things, do that on your time.
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Triban

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Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:08 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

Degrees like Certs are to make the HR and Business folks happy.  Unless you have undeniable evidence that you are a leader in your industry despite your lack of degree, it sure helps to have it.  Hell my first job required me to send official transcripts and it was only for a local school system, and not a teaching position. 

I had a great time at college.  It was a great starting point and I don't think I would be where I am without the experience.  And yes if I could have seen in the future I would have done things differently but still would have attended. 

I made some good friends, made some great network connections and I learned a bit about things I probably wouldn't have cared about otherwise.  I had jobs that spanned from Door Monitor to Exchange 5.5 migrator.  I delivered campus pizzas, worked the coffee bar, radio station DJ and Business manager and even coordinated a number of events on campus from big concerts to small radio station events.  I learned more outside of class than I did inside.  I say to anyone going that direction, get your money's worth!  Don't just sit in the classroom, get involved and have some fun.    Wonder if the stations are now doing podcasts :D
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rattis

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Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:52 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

I did the college radio station dj thing too. preferred doing the production work though. Making the show promos, the bumpers, re-recording the ads from the format they were in on to the centeralized system. Splicing tape...

I know the college I played at didn't podcast, but they do stream.
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the_Grinch

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Post Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:09 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

Boy do I know this feeling and I actually think I am at a disadvantage for not having the computer science degree.  I changed my major 4 times in college, I entered as a business student, then economics, then international area studies, and finally Computing and Security Technology.  When I entered I loved working with computers and didn't want to lose my hobby, but ultimately I had no interest in anything else.  I took a ton of security courses for various areas of security, but I have always felt a coding base would have been better.  I find a lot of Masters programs for information assurance are in the Computer Science department and require a mastery of one computer language or another.  I have considered going back and get a BA/BS in Computer Science.  We shall see....
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Darktaurus

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Post Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:13 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

I'm in the same boat myself.  I started out in Electrical Engineering which was fun but I figured Information Systems or Computer Science would help me be a better Systems Engineer or Network Engineer at the time.  I even talked to my EE advisor and he said the same thing so I switched to Information Systems. However, currently, I do not regret going to IS instead of CS.  I have been told by many that it is not how you start but how you finish. Back in 2002, I did regret it since there seemed to be no jobs out there for graduates especially after 9/11.  It seemed hopeless but I was able to keep my old co-op job that I had till I got a new job which was great. 

I think people can get into InfoSec starting out as anything as long as they don't mind paying their dues. Study hard and get as much experience as you can should help. Volunteer and join clubs that can help with that. Learning from the infosec people here seems to help greatly too. :)
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O_o

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Post Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:34 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

where exactly did you guys go to school? did you'll go to a small near by school because I have rarely hear of people going to any university bigger than pheonix university and i have never heard of a person mention Cornell University(this is the university I which to attend.), which is known for more than liberal arts;they have a well developed computer science program.
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rattis

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Post Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:33 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

O_o
I started at a local community college, where I dj'd, and then went over to the university of Michigan, where I dropped out after 1 year. Now I'm trying to get into Easter Michigan University.

UofM could do Computer Engineering or Computer Science, but didn't want to do programming. EMU has the NSA backed Information Assurance Program.

So are those big enough schools for you?
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the_Grinch

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Post Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:05 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

Graduated from Drexel University....
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Triban

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Post Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:12 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

Graduated from CCSU. 
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YuckTheFankees

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Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:53 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

Like most of you, I'm very interested in InfoSec and from reading hundreds of post, I think I have come up with a good plan.

Its a 18-24 month plan.
- complete BS in IT security
- complete MS in IA
- My current job title is NOC/ linux support; I think this experience will be great for a Info Assurance position
- certs certs certs
- after 6-12 months, Ill start doing some side contract jobs (to get even more experience
- keep reading Info Assurance job descriptions and try to get a good feel for what they are asking.
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l33t5h@rk

Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:11 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

College degrees & certs are mainly for the business. I worked on a team of very strong engineers in the past where my boss, and most technical of the group, had a degree in history, and two of the sr. engineers didn't even go to college. I personally have certifications and a BSCS as well as a MSCS but I think this is because I just enjoy education and am constantly trying to learn about technology. I will say in terms of what school you go to that some organizations will only hire you if you went to an Ivy League school or a big name school. It typically doesn't matter where you went to school unless you have some connections from the same institution where you are applying. This will get you in the door but once you get to the tech interview I hope this separates the wheat from the chaff. I suppose in short, the degrees and certs are a good way in the door, but you have to be able to deliver to actually get the position.
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O_o

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Post Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

@chrisj

definitly
;)
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Darktaurus

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Post Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:03 am

Re: I picked the wrong degree... or did I?

O_o wrote:where exactly did you guys go to school? did you'll go to a small near by school because I have rarely hear of people going to any university bigger than pheonix university and i have never heard of a person mention Cornell University(this is the university I which to attend.), which is known for more than liberal arts;they have a well developed computer science program.


Graduated from Drexel Univ. and of course now they have all new buildings and actual security curriculum.  >:(
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