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How to Jumpstart Your Cyber Security Career: The Best Courses and Resources
With a huge range of cyber security courses available online, it has never been easier to launch a career in infosec. If you have an interest in learning and a few free hours a week, you can easily gain a working knowledge and the qualifications you need to start looking for work.
But how do you get started? Read on, and we’ll look at how you can jumpstart your cybersecurity career.
Why take cyber security courses
A career in cyber security is a future-proof position that is only increasing in demand. It’s also a role that will provide you with constant opportunities for learning and self-growth, not to mention logic problems and fascinating challenges.
Right now, the average cyber security specialist earns $98,710 per year, with the highest earners on around $151,500. Hundreds of thousands of cyber security roles go unfulfilled every single year, so there is ample opportunity here for someone with these specialist skills.
More business is moving online than ever before, and this will continue to be the case. This presents a number of unique challenges. Chief among these is cyber security: how do you keep all of that user and internal data safe?
That’s where you come in as the information security specialist, the ethical hacker, the pentester, or the consultant.
As well as being highly in-demand, cyber security jobs are also very rewarding and challenging. You’ll be tasked with creative problem solving, often in a high-pressure environment, and you’ll continuously learn new skills and abilities as software and hardware progress.
If that all sounds good, then cyber security training might be for you!
Best free online cybersecurity courses for beginners
If it’s free cyber security training you’re after, then there are plenty of options available. Some of these could even lead to certification! Free cyber security training is also a great idea as a “taster.” This will give you an idea as to whether a career in cysec is right for you, before you invest a lot of time and money into it. This is a great starting point for most people then.
One example is Cyber Security Fundamentals from RIT. This online course is completely free, but you can add a certification at the end for $150. The course takes 8 weeks, and you’ll need to put in around 10-12 hours per week during that time.
Cyber Security Basics: A Hands-on Approach from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid is a 6-week course requiring 5-7 hours per week, that will teach you how to “think like a hacker, but behave as a security expert.” This course once again has an option to add certification for $50.
These are two of the best free online security courses for beginners.
You can also find a huge amount of information for free on blogs and YouTube, if you’re willing to hunt around. While this won’t get you certified, it can help to steer you in the right direction and give you a good idea of what cyber security courses might involve. A lot of the concepts and terms you’ll encounter will seem daunting at first, but by continuously exposing yourself to this kind of information, you’ll gradually become more accustomed to it.
A great place to start is with our own guide to ethical hacking. This post looks at some of the techniques that cyber security specialists use, and some of the terms you might need to familiarize yourself with. Even if you never pursue a cyber security career, this is some interesting stuff that’s well-worth exploring.
Do you need a degree to become a cyber security expert?
Now you have a better idea as to what a cyber security career entails, what is the next step? The first question many people will be asking is whether they need a college degree in order to land a job in the industry.
As a general rule, most companies looking to hire a cyber security specialist such as an information security analyst, will want to see some form of certification or qualification. This suggests that you have a broad understanding of the subject, though you will likely receive additional cyber security training on the job.
A college degree is particularly desirable, and some companies won’t interview anyone who doesn’t hold a degree in a related subject (such as computer science or cyber security specifically).
The good news is this isn’t true for all companies, so if you don’t have time for a college degree, there is still hope! It’s also possible to get a college degree online these days, should you decide you want more options.
Here are some great options:
Best paid online cyber security courses
More important though, and more specific to helping you learn cyber security, are the industry-recognized certifications that you can find online.
- Pentest+: Comptia Penetration Testing
- CYSA+: Cyber Security Analyst
- Security+: Comptia Security Analyst
- GIAC: Global Information Assurance Certification
- CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
Any of these will certifications will be widely recognized within the industry, and should help you to land relevant jobs. Getting a few under your belt will give you a huge advantage over the competition, although not all of them will be suitable for complete beginners. Most also include eLearning options, which you can use to prepare for the examinations.
For example, if you plan on taking PenTest+, then you can use their CompTIA CertMaster Learn for PenTest+. These are reasonably priced for the most part (this one costs just over £300 or around $360).
Many Universities also offer cybersecurity courses that include professional certificates, such as University of Washington offers a Professional Certificate in Essentials of Cybersecurity. This is a particularly good option for beginners and only requires a commitment of between 2-5 hours per week over the course of 6 months. At the end of it, you’ll have a broad understanding and a qualification that will help you land jobs.
Alternatively, you can find all kinds of great online courses that will teach you the basics for a small fee. Udemy has plenty of options for example, such as:
You could also try this deal as a great way to get a background understanding for just $39:
Cyber security courses like these will give you a good foundation and an idea of the kinds of skills you’ll need. It’s also a great “taster” so you can decide if this work is right for you! This Ethical Hacker Bootcamp Bundle is ideal cyber security training for beginners, and should serve as a great pwarm-up before taking something like CYSA+.
Where to go from here with cyber security training
You can take your learning further by learning specific, complementary skills that may be relevant to your work in future.
Python is a very useful language to learn for example (checkout this Ultimate Python Programmer’s Bootcamp). Learning how to use Linux and gaining an understanding of servers and networks can also be a useful option for beginners. Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level Up Your Career is a great choice.
You may at some point need to choose between specializing in a particular field within cyber security, or taking a broader approach that will make you suitable for a larger number of roles.
Once you have completed a few cyber security courses and feel confident in your skills, the next step is to begin looking for work. While you can land some freelance jobs on sites like UpWork (which is a good way to get some experience under your belt), these kinds of jobs are also less common. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the information you’ll be dealing with, many companies prefer for their security to be handled by an in-house employee or contractor. Browse job listings sites and you can begin applying that way.
And so begins your cyber security career! Good luck, and let us know which cyber security courses helped you most of all in the comments below.