The answer to this question is most often “a lot.” When you limit the question to the security industry alone though, the answer can sometimes be “not much,” which is a reflection of the path a candidate takes to enter the profession.
Many senior leaders in today’s market began their careers at a time when security management degree programs either didn’t exist, were relegated to community colleges and trade schools, or were geared toward law enforcement. However, just as often, today’s directors and managers entered the profession as a result of their initial work experience, perhaps going into a police or intelligence agency following military experience.
The option to secure a degree at a later point in life is a good choice, and if you do so, you should seriously consider a business-oriented program. Many schools award credit for life experience, which can get you pretty far down the path to a degree. There has also been a proliferation of certification programs, very few of which have proven to be meaningful to hiring companies. Choose carefully though, because being seen to be hiding behind a collection of certifications and memberships can be detrimental.
One of the most common requirements in job descriptions is a degree. Whether or not a candidate possesses one is also the question most often asked by our clients. Not having one isn’t always a deal breaker. Rather, the dilemma that exists for people who chose the experience path vs. the university one is how to adequately reflect their life’s work in the industry when they’re faced with making a career change. This is especially true when candidates are up against others who possess a degree, or if the company they’d like to work for has a policy requiring one for the level of position being sought. Internal leveling for compensation grading is also a key driver for this.
A robust resume/CV is the most significant influencer to get you a call for an interview, even if the position requires a degree. An accurate and compelling portrayal of your background is essential, and we consistently place people whose impressive work credentials overcome their lack of a degree. However, this tends to be more common outside the U.S.
No ethical recruiter will write your resume for you in order to put you in front of a client, as it would be a conflict of interest. Rather, you should invest in having a professional resume writer work directly for you to structure one. Sketchy overviews that allude to credentials or experience won’t get you in front of a hiring company. A document that reflects your authentic experience will.