Hicken graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor's degree in newspaper journalism, history, and political science. She went on to attend New York University, receiving a Master of Arts in business and economic reporting.  
Hicken and her longtime reporting partner, Blake Ellis's groundbreaking investigation into the secret world of government debt collectors won the prestigious Heywood Broun Award of Distinction and inspired lawmakers to take action with legislation aimed at closing the loophole highlighted in the stories.  
They were finalists for a Peabody Award for CNN's coverage of guns in America, and the two journalists have been honored by the International Association of Broadcasting, the National Press Club, the National Endowment for Financial Education, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Hicken regularly appears on CNN and other television and radio networks to discuss her investigations.