Are Credentials a Waste of Time?

Keirsten Brager

May 17, 2018

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Every few months, there is a debate on social media about some variation of the following comment: "I question the credibility of people with certifications and/or infosec degrees."

Credentials are one of the main tools available for underrepresented groups to gain access to opportunities. Many professional doors stay shut without the validation of minimum skills. Even if you manage to get in, promotions tend to be reserved for those who meet the criteria for formal, educational requirements.

I am an advocate for women approaching their careers from multiple angles to best position themselves for success. Therefore, my message is simple: when you see these comments, do not get discouraged. Do not question whether you are making the right decision by arming yourself with another tool.

Pursuing credentials is not about impressing anyone on social media; it is about getting what you need to make yourself eligible for multiple sources of income.


  • That six-figure role you want is reserved for women with credentials.

  • Certification providers and universities pay women with credentials to develop content.

  • Businesses want women with credentials advising them for handsome fees.

  • Companies want women with credentials on their boards of directors.

  • Vendors want to sponsor women with credentials.

When you see comments that make you question whether you should pursue any tool that gives you a competitive advantage, remember that those of us with degrees and certifications have access to paid opportunities that those without them do not. Whose opinion matters most—the direct depositors or the person on social media who will probably never write you a check?

The bottom line is there is a tangible return on investment for securing tools that make you more marketable, valuable, and eligible for seats at lucrative tables. If you approach your career like you are the CEO of [YourName], Inc., it will be a lot easier to stay focused on why you are charting your unique path. When you finally reach success based on how you define it, remember to send the ladder back down.

Lesley Carhart (@hacksforpancakes on Twitter) also has a great post on her blog where she interviewed industry veterans about College and Infosec: to Degree or Not to Degree. There was a consensus among those interviewed that credentials are valuable.

Keirsten Brager is a security technology lead at a Fortune 500 power utility company and was recently named one of Dark Reading's top women in security who is quietly changing the game.

She is also the author of
Secure the Infosec Bag: Six-Figure Career Guide for Women in Security. Keirsten produced this digital book to help newbies strategically plan their careers. The book was also written to help established professionals diversify their income, fire their bosses if they are in a toxic environment, and guide on taking their careers to the next level.

Keirsten holds a master's degree in cybersecurity and several industry certifications including the CISSP and CASP. As an active member of the Houston security community, she has participated in numerous panels and public speaking engagements promoting strategies for success.

In her free time, Keirsten loves sharing career advice on her blog, cooking New Orleans-style food, and spending time with her family. Connect with her on Twitter (@KeirstenBrager).

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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