A growing number of popular cybersecurity certifications are now available online.
Oftentimes the online cybersecurity certification training is completed via specialize portals or platforms right from the certification provider. Here is a list of the most popular certifications as well as the most in-demand certifications.
Here’s a breakdown:
|Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||91,765|
|Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)||46,318|
|Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)||35,812|
|Certified Information Security Officer||20,300|
|Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)||13,652|
In addition to overall popularity of common cybersecurity certifications, it is also helpful to look at the demand for these certifications in the job market.
|Certification||Job openings by cert|
|Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||97,555|
|Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)||75,040|
|Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)||52,807|
|Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)||49,519|
|Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)||8,797|
This guide will dive into the most important aspects and considerations when pursuing an online cybersecurity certification.In this guide
- Professional vs academic certs
- Online versus campus certs
- How to find online certs
- Professional certs online
- Academic certs online
- Frequently asked questions
- List of online academic cert programs
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FEATURED CYBERSECURITY CERTIFICATIONS & BOOTCAMPS
|School Name||Program||More Info|
|University of Pennsylvania||Penn Cybersecurity Boot Camp||website|
|Springboard||Cybersecurity Bootcamp – Job Guaranteed||website|
|MITxPro||Professional Certificate in Cybersecurity||website|
|UC Berkeley||Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp||website|
|Boston University||Online Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate||website|
|Michigan State University||Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate||website|
|UT Austin||The Cybersecurity Boot Camp at UT Austin||website|
Professional certifications vs. academic certifications
Professional certifications are designed to expand on the skills and knowledge that already exist among industry pros. Typically, they are targeted at specialized topics within cybersecurity, or updating hands-on experience and technical knowledge already in place.
Current infosec employees utilize these certification programs, and the exams that often follow, to raise their level of expertise and help move their careers forward, as well to remain up to date in an ever-changing industry.
Academic cybersecurity certifications are targeted primarily at those trying to enter the infosec world, either from academia or another career. As such, academic certification programs tend to be more general in scope, and more introductory in nature. However, some academic programs can also serve as expedient and more affordable short-term substitutes for undergraduate and graduate college degrees.
These types of certification programs can give would-be cybersecurity pros earlier jump starts on their careers, or just provide a deeper insight into what life the infosec world is really like. The availability and selection of academic cybersecurity certification programs are wide and growing constantly, so be sure to research options thoroughly.
Online vs. campus-based cybersecurity certification programs
Campus-based, or real-life continuing education programs require a serious commitment in time. And they also may require compromises in which schools and programs are available due to geographic restrictions. Some people learn best in a traditional classroom, and for them, campus-based formats are usually best.
Today, however, there are hundreds of excellent educational choices available in an online format. The primary purpose of online courses is flexibility for students. Asynchronous online programs offer the greatest convenience, but synchronous programs also provide attractive advantages over campus-based programs. Lacking the commute of classroom-based courses, both types of online certification courses minimize the investment of time and hassle of fighting traffic.
Synchronous programs have set times for class instruction and often student discourse, so time and schedule flexibility are limited. Asynchronous programs, on the other hand, are largely without time restrictions and permit students to make their own schedule and progress at their own pace. And while online education has had a tarnished image in the past, high-quality courses from high-quality institutions are now readily available and quickly growing in number.
SANS Technology Institute is by far the world’s largest provider of cybersecurity training programs and certifications. SANS offers both synchronous and asynchronous online training, and has two options for each type. Everyone will have different needs and barriers to getting training, so each student/professional must choose the style of online coursework that best suits them and their lives.
What to look for in online cybersecurity certification programs
Information security careers necessitate professionals to be constantly changing, adapting, growing. The industry itself is constantly changing, because technology keeps moving forward and the threats posed to security are forever evolving. As in any technology-related field, the rule of thumb is to evolve or die.
Cybersecurity professionals must therefore adopt a career-long attitude of curiosity and education. Learning in this industry can never cease if professionals are to continue being successful.
Keeping up to date on technology and trends can be accomplished through a combination of multiple avenues. Industry associations provide an excellent opportunity for networking and discussing experiences with other professionals. They also often organize conventions, conferences, seminars and other gatherings that offer unique chances for education. But standardized certification programs provide tangible evidence of specific educational accomplishments that everyone in the industry can understand and identify.
For students trying to enter the infosec community and professionals looking to jump careers into cybersecurity, certifications and training can be invaluable. Some criteria to consider when searching for and choosing online cybersecurity certification programs include:
- Synchronous or asynchronous format and how each fits the professional’s life
- The time required to complete certification
- Cost of the certification program
- Employer tuition reimbursement offers
- Availability of exam that can be taken ahead of the course for equivalency
- Applicability of subject to career path/desired entry point
- Availability of credits toward degree programs
Professional online cybersecurity certification programs
Professional cybersecurity certification programs are tailored to industry needs for skills and knowledge of experienced professionals, as well as the needs of professionals to improve their value and careers in the industry. Topics and curriculums are carefully crafted to achieve maximum positive impact. Certification programs can be found for individuals in all types of specialties, as well as general skills and knowledge certifications targeted at advanced, high-level professionals.
Keep in mind that, because technology and security threats are constantly evolving, professional certifications must be consistently renewed in order to be current and valid. Whatever the specialty within cybersecurity, infosec professionals can find certification programs to update and improve their knowledge. There are several research and education institutions serving the needs of the industry for certifications, as well as industry trade associations.
Some of the most well-known and highly regarded professional cybersecurity certification providers available online are:
Academic online cybersecurity certification programs
Academic cybersecurity certification programs vary tremendously, in scope, in purpose, and in impact. Many of these programs are offered by individual colleges, and the programs are as individual as the schools themselves. But some are offered by industry continuing education organizations and other stakeholders interested in advancing cybersecurity awareness and increasing the workforce census. There are a few categories to be aware of in academic online certification programs.
- Introductory/training certification programs
- Undergraduate certification programs
- Graduate certification programs
Introductory/training certification programs
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has developed a certification training series it calls the Cybersecurity MicroMasters Program. Beginning with an introductory course called Cybersecurity Fundamentals, RIT offers students a view into the infosec world, network and system administration, information assurance concepts, and basic cryptography. And there is a path to certification after course completion. The MicroMasters Program has much more in the way of courses and certifications for more advanced training as well, including network security, forensics and risk management.
Undergraduate certification programs
Obviously, students can get a full bachelor-of-science degree in cybersecurity online. Our discussion here, however, is about training and certification programs not leading to degrees. An added bonus to the cybersecurity programs is that most credits earned would be transferrable toward a degree if students later decide to extend their education.
Some examples of undergraduate cybersecurity certification programs available online follow. There are many other online undergraduate certificate programs available. See the bottom of this page for a more extensive list.
- Utica College Cyber Technologies Certificate
- CSU Global undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
- American Military University undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
- Thomas Edison State University undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
- Champlain College online cybersecurity certificate
Frequently asked questions
Online cybersecurity certifications are credentials earned through online courses and examinations that validate a person’s knowledge and skills in various areas of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity certifications are important because they validate a professional’s knowledge and skills, increase employment opportunities, potentially enhance salary, and ensure that professionals stay current with trends and technologies in the ever-evolving cybersecurity field.
Prerequisites vary by certification. They can range from having a specific degree, a certain amount of work experience in IT or cybersecurity, to none at all for some entry-level certifications.
Some popular online cybersecurity certifications include Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).
The time it takes to complete a cybersecurity certification can vary widely depending on the specific certification and the learner’s background. However, it typically ranges from a few weeks to several months.
Most cybersecurity certifications can be studied for and obtained completely online. Some may require in-person exams, but many certification bodies now offer online proctored exams.
Online cybersecurity certifications are generally considered equivalent to in-person certifications as long as they are from an accredited and recognized institution. The credibility comes from the certification body, not the mode of study.
Most cybersecurity certifications require professionals to earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits to maintain their certification. The exact number and activities that count towards these credits vary by certification.
The costs for obtaining an online cybersecurity certification can vary greatly, usually between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the certification. Some organizations may offer financial aid or scholarships, and many employers also have tuition assistance programs.
Graduate certification programs
As with undergraduate cybersecurity certification programs, graduate programs typically gain the student credits that can be used toward a graduate degree. And as with undergraduate options, these programs vary widely in focus, scope, amount of time required, and cost.
Just a few examples of graduate cybersecurity certification programs available online by some of the country’s most highly-regarded colleges follow. There are many more available. See below for a more extensive list.
- George Washington University Master’s of Engineering in cybersecurity
- Boston University Certificate in Cybercrime Investigation Cybersecrity
- University of Maryland offers three graduate certificates in cybersecurity
- Purdue University graduate certificate in cybersecurity
A list of online academic cybersecurity certification programs
The following list of certification programs includes up-to-date information. It is not a ranking of any sort. It is instead offered to provide training and certification options to those interested, and to give a basis of comparison amongst the choices.