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I want to thank everyone in this thread who offered advice and encouragement. I've landed an interview for the position of Graduate Data Analyst on Monday, the first opening I've applied for. They responded within hours of my email.
My search for Data Analysis/Science resources led me to kaggle.com which is an excellent place if you already know extremely bog-standard stats and programming. The free courses there vary in quality but there are some fantastic user-made tutorials as well. After a few patchy months of learning here and there, I buckled down and focused on publishing a full project on a dataset with all the bits and bobs. Exploratory analysis, data cleaning, creating maps, visualisation, imputation and predictive modelling all in a full write-up. I'd post it here but it has my real name on it.
I'm really chuffed but not pinning all my hopes on the preliminary 'informal chat' with the Head of Analysis. I fully expect to go in and find out my knowledge is severly lacking in ways that embarrass me. But they'll be lessons learned for next time, and if I can get called in for one such position why not a hundred more? There are plenty of openings across the country. This has been a real confidence booster so cheers lads. I hadn't resolved to this path before asking around here so you really did help - and the more I've learned about this field the more I find I enjoy it. It's the perfect combination of disciplines for me. For the first time in a long time I'm finding happiness in education.
Now I'd like to ask for some help in a rather different matter. Keeping my options open I've also been shopping around for one-year masters in various subjects that interest me and I've recieved an offer from a decent university for their Cybersecurity MSc. Having spoken face-to-face with the lecturers they're satisfied with my capabilities and are happy to bend the rules so they can take me on board. Even better, if I land a full-time job the course can be done part-time over two years instead which takes off the pressure.
But here's the thing. The course in many ways looks fantastic, and the lecturers I've spoken to are well accredited. A couple I haven't met yet were 'public sector' employees. The topics are cutting edge and cover everything from Advanced AI in Security to Digital Forensics. Every syllabus is updated yearly. It isn't a Mickey Mouse enterprise by any means. What concerns me is that the course doesn't require any specific programming of your own, nor any real mathematical expertise since it doesn't cover the nitty gritty of cryptography. Now, I like the idea of becoming a data analyst while studying a comprehensive primer to security principles. My instincts tell me that the combination would dovetail into rather specialist roles. But I suppose what I'm asking is, it worth doing when I don't come from a strictly CS background? In the tech sector, is such a Masters worth anything, or is it greeted with the certain derision that overly-specialised qualifications can sometimes expect? I'm sending an email that addresses my concerns to the main lecturer I spoke to, rather more delicately mind, but obviously bias comes into play so I thought I'd ask the resident techies here. Is someone with an excellent overall knowledge of security, but sans the ability to code these sorts of tools himself someone who'd be offered work?
As before, any help greatly appreciated.