There is a growing segment within education centered around intensive, short-term training programs designed to provide the essential skills needed to obtain employment in a specific field. These concentrated educational programs take their name from military basic training schools called bootcamps.In this guide
In the field of cybersecurity, workforce accelerator programs have grown in popularity because of the combined shortfall in available cybersecurity workers and the skills gap in current cybersecurity professionals. As cyber threats increase, more trained employees are needed to protect businesses and critical IT infrastructure. Bootcamps are designed to fill the need for qualified employees quickly.
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While bootcamps provide students with the fundamental skills and knowledge to join the workforce as cybersecurity professionals, they do not include general education or elective courses. This guide will help you understand what bootcamps are and what they are not. Use this information to help evaluate whether or not a bootcamp is right for your situation.
Below you will find information to help you answer the following questions about cybersecurity bootcamps:
- Why attend a bootcamp?
- Who should attend?
- What should I expect?
- How long will a bootcamp take to complete?
- What are my employment prospects after graduation?
- Can a bootcamp help me get a cybersecurity certification?
- How can I find a cybersecurity bootcamp?
- How much will it cost?
- Can I get financial assistance?
Why attend a cybersecurity bootcamp?
One important and practical reason to consider attending a cybersecurity bootcamp is increased earning potential. Compared to other IT-related jobs, security professionals often earn more.
According to the CyberSeek cybersecurity interactive career pathway web page, cybersecurity average salaries range from $89,000 for a cybersecurity specialist/technician to $131,000 for a cybersecurity architect.
Other reasons students choose to attend a cybersecurity bootcamp include:
- Bootcamps are more affordable than a college degree.
- Bootcamps provide a fast direct path to a good job.
- Bootcamps often offer the flexibility needed by students that are employed full time.
- It is common for bootcamp curricula to be designed by cybersecurity professionals.
- The security tools and technologies studied in a bootcamp are current and relevant to the security industry.
For nearly a decade, colleges and universities have been criticized for adding “too many unnecessary degree requirements and remedial courses that keep students in school for much longer than needed,” according to a Washington Post article.
Attending a bootcamp can represent a streamlined path to the end goal of an excellent job in cybersecurity.
Who should attend?
Anyone that needs additional education to qualify for an entry-level cybersecurity job can benefit from the concentrated training provided by a beginner-level bootcamp. Self-taught techies and those with some cybersecurity education or experience will have the required foundational knowledge to succeed.
Intermediate and advanced bootcamps provide the necessary training for employees that want to advance their careers. Certification pre-test training will help some employees reach that next level. Becoming an in-house expert by attending a bootcamp that provides a deep dive into a particular area of cybersecurity can enhance career development.
A bootcamp is a good option for IT professionals who want to move to the more specialized cybersecurity domain. Bootcamps are also an excellent way to broaden your knowledge. If, for example, a cybersecurity analyst wants to understand pen testing or ethical hacking better.
If your educational purposes include gaining a broad, well-rounded education to unlock a career path leading to the heights of your chosen field, a college degree is your best choice. If your goal is to get an immediate foothold in cybersecurity by qualifying for a particular job, a bootcamp may be just what you need.
Because a bootcamp is intensely focused on the skills needed to work in the cybersecurity field, it will not provide the same breadth of classes as a college degree program. Many educational experts suggest that a bootcamp should be considered for students for whom a degree is not an option or as an extension to a college education, not in lieu of a degree if getting a degree is possible.
Online cybersecurity bootcamps
You can expect a bootcamp program to include lectures, mentoring, class discussions, practice labs, hands-on projects, real-world simulations, networking events, career preparation, and internships.
Some bootcamps are taught in-person (pre-COVID), some use a hybrid model where much of the study can be done remotely, and some are entirely online.
A bootcamp program may offer preparatory courses for those who want to increase or brush up on their fundamental technical skills before enrolling in the bootcamp. These courses can range from free online self-paced classes to a four-week cyber prep program.
The types of courses you can expect to take in a cybersecurity bootcamp are:
- Security foundations and fundamentals
- Threats and vulnerabilities
- Certification test preparation
- Network security and defense
- Penetration testing
- Principles of risk management
- Computer forensics
ASU’s website, for example, touts that their bootcamp provides “hands-on training in networking, systems, web technologies, databases, and defensive and offensive cybersecurity.”
Bootcamp curriculum and other expectations
bootcamps fall roughly into three categories or levels of training – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Let’s look at the characteristics of each:
Beginner — These programs are designed for students with little or no IT work experience or formal education. They may require a high school diploma as a prerequisite, but they often do not have any formal education prerequisites because there are so many self-taught techies.
To set a level playing field for all students, they may include networking and operating systems courses. These programs ensure that all graduates have at least a minimum understanding of general IT principles by including these courses.
Courses that are commonly taught in a beginner bootcamp include:
- Network foundations
- Maintaining computers and operating systems
- System administration
- Windows Server
- Introduction to Linux
Intermediate — This level of bootcamp expects students to come with some understanding of IT principles. They may require students to be familiar with networking and systems programming. They are often attended by students with a few years of work experience in an IT-related field.
Typical course titles include:
- Advanced systems
- SIEM admin
- Advanced SIEM
- Principles of ethical hacking
- Incident response
- Advanced Linux
- Security audits and security management.
An advanced pen testing bootcamp might include:
- Advanced infrastructure protection
- Wireless pen testing and exploitation
- Python programming for security
How long will a bootcamp take to complete?
Cybersecurity bootcamps can take from 10 weeks to 24 weeks to complete. Two examples are:
Ops 401 is a 10-week intense course offered at Code Fellows. Students are provided the minimum training and skills they need to work as cybersecurity professionals. These courses require prior experience in IT operations, whether through preceding Code Fellows courses, self-study, or on-the-job training.
ASU’s cybersecurity bootcamp is a 24-week program. This program includes hands-on training in networking, systems, web technologies, databases, and defensive and offensive cybersecurity. The classes are in-person at ASU’s Phoenix, AZ campus.
There are dozens of similar cybersecurity bootcamps offered across the country or online. The time to complete most of them will fall between these two examples.
What are my employment prospects after graduation?
Many US jobs are being lost due to automation and off-shoring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS), projections of industry employment 2016–2026 The US expects to see the most job losses in the following areas:
- Wired telecommunications carriers
- Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers
- Postal service
- Printing and related support activities
- Apparel, leather, and allied products manufacturing
Simultaneously, because of the massive cybersecurity skills gap, information security analysts and most other cybersecurity-related positions are expected to grow 31 percent from 2019 to 2029. This growth is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
According to CyberSeek, “From October 2019 through September 2020, there were 166,000 openings for Information Security Analysts, but only 125,570 workers currently employed in those positions – an annual talent shortfall of 40,430 workers for cybersecurity’s largest job.”
To find out which US states have the most significant demand for cybersecurity professionals, use this demand heatmap.
When it comes to the hiring rate of their graduates, one leading bootcamp provider, Evolve Academy, boasts:
- 94 percent of alumni actively seeking a cybersecurity position get hired within six months.
- Employed graduates experienced a median salary increase of 48%.
- Job-seeking graduates were employed within 63 days on average.
- Graduates’ median total compensation was $65,000.
- Statistics last updated August 2020.
Can a bootcamp help me get a cybersecurity certification?
For some cybersecurity jobs, a security industry certification is required. Some bootcamps include test-prep courses to help their graduates be fully prepared to get certified after graduation to address this need.
Additionally, bootcamps may partner with CompTIA. CompTIA provides “enrollees with a complimentary CertMaster test-prep tool and an exam voucher to take the CompTIA certification exam of their choice” under this arrangement. Enrollees will choose a cert that best aligns with their interests and career goals from the following: Security+, Network+, Linux+, Server+, or Cloud+.”
How can I find a cybersecurity bootcamp?
Cybersecurity bootcamps are offered by private or public universities as well as private companies. In fact, in most cases, bootcamps offered by universities are provided by a partnership with private companies—sometimes called skills academies. Two companies that often provide training through public and private colleges and universities are HackerU and Trilogy Education Services.
How much will it cost?
The cost of a bootcamp is often compared to the price of a college degree. This guide will use this comparison to illustrate the comprehensive range of costs associated with getting an education. We are not suggesting that a bootcamp is a replacement for a college degree.
A cybersecurity bachelor’s degree can range anywhere between $23,000 and $61,000. A cybersecurity bootcamp will cost from $3,000 for a self-paced online program up to $20,000 for a months-long fully developed on-campus bootcamp.
As a cautionary note, we offer that you are likely to get what you pay for in a bootcamp like many things in life. Carefully examine each program to understand the value the cost represents. A $3,000 online self-paced program will not deliver the same quality experience and depth of learning of a more comprehensive instructor-led (synchronous or asynchronous) program.
Historically, tuition fees have been due upfront, but more and more, bootcamps are offering options to pay as you go with a monthly payment. This plan may be the best option for students that intend to work as they attend a bootcamp in the evenings or on weekends. The overall cost is usually more than if the tuition is paid in full. Still, this method may provide a reasonable value for students without access to the total amount. It may allow them to start working in the cybersecurity field sooner than if they waited to save the required amount of money.
Since private, for-profit organizations run many bootcamp programs, they often are not eligible for federal financial aid or student loans. However, financial assistance in the form of student loans, grants, and scholarships is available for bootcamp students under certain circumstances.
Independent companies can be Eligible Training Providers (ETP) for state-run employment programs under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). This landmark legislation is “designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers.”
Being an ETP opens the door for state grants and scholarships for adult learners and dislocated workers. The WIOA-Eligible Training Program Finder can help you locate Eligible Training Providers in your state.
Some programs offer scholarships for active-duty military, veterans, minorities, and women. In some cases, state and federal tuition aid are available. There may be some workforce development grants available, as well. More information about federal financial aid can be found here: https://studentaid.gov/.
For their $13,495 cybersecurity bootcamp, UCI offers a reduced cost for early registration and an extended payment plan at 0 percent interest. They also suggest working full time while taking bootcamp classes at night and on the weekends.
The UCI program is provided in partnership with Trilogy Education Services. The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) program is also a partnership with Trilogy, and Penn offers the same financial solutions as UCI.
To combat the nation’s workforce shortage and cybersecurity skills gap, state and federal programs have been developed to promote workforce accelerator programs. Private education and skills training companies have stepped up to provide intensive, short-term training programs to fill the employment gaps. These programs, often referred to as bootcamps, significantly increase the educational opportunities for thousands of students interested in cybersecurity.
Every day the news is filled with headlines about recent cyber attacks, identity theft, and credit card fraud. As these threats increase, the need for cybersecurity professionals intensifies. Free market principles dictate that any employment market or market segment experiencing a significant shortfall will command higher wages. These factors present a persuasive argument for students to enter the cybersecurity field.
While bootcamps offer an expedited pathway to the workplace, they do not provide the educational benefits traditionally associated with a college degree. They are best suited for students for whom attaining a college degree is not an option or for working professionals who want to cross-train or enhance their career opportunities.
Cybersecurity bootcamps are offered by traditional brick and mortar universities, virtual universities, and private companies. Most bootcamps are developed by private companies and are often provided through a partnership with a traditional college.
Few of the same financial aid mechanisms used for a college degree are available for bootcamps. However, some private companies have become Eligible Training Providers through the WIOA legislation. These state-run programs provide creative financial solutions to help private companies train the nation’s workforce.
Regardless of your circumstances, if you are interested in a career in cybersecurity, a bootcamp should be considered. It may be the best solution for your situation—or possibly it won’t be—but there’s only one way to find out. Take a look at a cybersecurity bootcamp program.