How can I determine if IST or SRA is the right major for me?
Determining what is best for you is a very subjective question, and it depends greatly on the person doing the asking. I would approach the question of whether or not SRA or IST is the right major for you from four perspectives. The first is the program perspective. Take a look at what it entails and see if you finds the coursework to be appealing. Read the information on the degree programs at the links above, and if you want to see more detail on each of the courses, take a look at BlueBook course information in LionPATH. Second, it would be worthwhile to look at careers in information security. Start with a Google search and then just start reading and reading to see what you think. Third, if you know anyone working in the field, spend some time talking to them about what they do in a typical day. Answers to this question will vary considerably from individual to individual depending on job responsibilities, but just hearing about someone's experiences can be helpful. Ask what they like and don't like about what it is that they do. Finally, consider which campus in the Penn State system will be best for you. Some students prefer a larger environment, while others like something smaller.
What kinds of careers are available in IT and computer security?
Start reading at links from this Google search.
Where can I learn about going to graduate school?
When considering graduate school, the first question should be whether or not it is the best decision for you personally. Start reading some of the links on this Google search.
Second, most application processes for various schools are about the same, so if you take a look at Penn State's application process, it will give you an excellent overview of what you need to do to apply.
Third, for an example of typical graduate degree programs, visit the College of IST site.
For examples of other graduate programs in IT related areas, see the following:
- University of Southern California | CREATE: The Nation's FIrst Homeland Security Center
- Georgetown University | Center for Security Studies
- American University | MS Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy
- Elliott School of International Affairs | Security Policy Studies
Finally, The Best Schools is an interesting link to the best online master's programs in security.
Should I get IT certifications such as CISSP, CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, AWS, etc.?
The answer is maybe, and it is a very subjective maybe. The following is strictly an opinion. I generally advise students to pursue certifications if their employer wants them to have certifications. In other words, wait until you have a job. Some employers see them as desirable, while others simply don't care. In addition, if your employer encourages it, there is also a good chance that they will pay for it. If you are determined to pursue certifications now, I generally suggest vendor specific certifications such as those through Microsoft or Cisco that certify you on a particular product. Those certifications mean that you can do something in particular, but to reiterate, this is strictly my opinion.
For salary information on certifications, see Forbes.
For an article questioning the value of certifications, see InfoWorld.
What do I need to know about computers to major in SRA, IST or Computer Science?
You don't need to know anything to get started. The introductory courses are based on the premise that everyone is starting at the very beginning, so even if you don't know anything about IT, we will teach you what you need to know. However, please be aware that students with considerable exposure to programming, networking and other computer oriented topics will find the coursework to be easier.
How can I get started learning other stuff about computers?
If you can start learning some things before you start the major, that will be helpful to you, but there are a great many ways to answer this question depending on where your interests lie. Many of our students want a more technical orientation, while others prefer less technical courses. Some students want to study more programming, while others prefer networking or security issues.
Keep up on the general news in IT. You might not understand everything you see on some of these sites, but if you read things that interest you, that will get you started. The following sites are excellent.
For computer security specific reading, these two websites are outstanding.
For some technical projects, consider the following.
If you have never installed Windows, wipe your computer completely clean and install a copy of Windows from scratch. Reinstall all of your programs. If you've never done it before, you'll learn quite a bit. Don't fret if you find it confusing. Work through it. If you have installed Windows before, then download a copy of Linux Mint and try to use it as your primary computing platform.
If you have never set up a Wi-Fi network, reset your home router and try to get it working with your computers. Go into the interface on your router and use internet searches to read about the things you see there.