Educational Credentials

Oct. 27, 2008

During our many hours of discussions with job seekers, we are frequently asked about the value of having a college degree. Many talented and experienced professionals who have long, solid track records in security have not, for various reasons, obtained a college degree. In today's competitive job market, there is a good possibility that your resume will not be considered for $100,000-plus positions — or many lesser security management roles — without a degree, regardless of your experience. As a result, we are starting to see security management candidates enrolling in online degree programs that are not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation .

Sometimes, these “universities” will create their own accreditation and membership organizations to help them appear more legitimate, while in reality they are simply online diploma mills. We have become aware of one online school, allegedly based in Phoenix , whose accreditation certification association program was operated by a mainland Chinese organization with a Web site hosted out of Singapore . There appears to be a number of other organizations owned and operated by the same groups. Names are changed when the various state Attorney Generals close them down for fraud, but make no mistake, it is the same operation. Given the nature of the backgrounds of many security candidates, I find it troubling that they would send their personal information to such groups without first guaranteeing they are legitimate.

The point of this is twofold. First, go out and get a legitimate, recognized degree if you want to advance your security career. Second, when you look at degree programs, know who you're working with. Using bogus organizations brings into question your judgment, your ability to conduct an investigation, and your integrity.

Jerry Brennan is co-author of the book Security Careers, founder of SMR Group (a job-finding resource for security executives), and a content expert for the Security Executive Council. For information about the Security Executive Council, visit