Cyber Security Certifications for Beginners
Are you considering a career in cyber security? If so, you’ve picked a lucrative industry. According to estimates, experts peg the industry’s annual job growth at 37%, and there will be 3.5 million high-paying positions available within three years.
If you’re thinking about joining the industry, the even better news is that the skills gap shows no signs of slowing down.
There Has Never Been a Better Time to Become a Cyber Security Pro
According to survey findings released by ESG Research, more than half of organizations with cyber security openings report that the skills shortage will mean that they will be unable to fill their openings.
Thankfully, in this candidates’ market, not having a computer science degree poses no obstacle to getting your foot in the door. While a traditional university computer science degree may not be required, you will certainly need to hold certifications to prove your job competence.
If you’re looking for a certification to prove that you know what you’re doing, there are also plenty of options.
Whether you’re a Kali Linux enthusiast who has been conducting white-hat hacking on your family members’ websites for years or have never set a mouse in a terminal before, there are options to meet your needs.
This article will explore some of the cyber security certifications that can enable you to gain a foothold in this exciting and lucrative tech specialty.
The Self-Directed Approach
The approach focuses on one of the entry-level credentials that allow you to study on your own and take an exam that attests to your knowledge.
The main options in this category include:
CEH Ethical Hacker Certification
The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification provides an entry-level certification for white-hat penetration testers and white-hat cyber security professionals.
It also offers a progression structure through the ECSA (Certified Security Analyst) and LPT (Licensed Penetration Tester) qualifications. It is also a popular certification for generic systems administrators who want to certify a cyber security specialty.
It’s a four-hour-long test comprised of 125 questions and administered by the European Council.
Since it is a vendor-neutral certification, it's suitable for cyber security entrants who have not yet decided on an operating system (OS), if any, that they want to focus on defending.
In addition to technical skills, students have to learn security laws and standards and demonstrate knowledge of the latest widely-exploited vulnerabilities and viruses.
Another popular vendor-neutral self-study option is the CompTIA Security+ certification. Security+ is for those with some background in networking. If users pass, they hold a credential approved by the U.S. Department of Defense to satisfy the requirements of Directive 8140/8570.01-M.
CompTIA Security+ is an excellent choice for IT professionals who want to demonstrate their broad cyber command.
Security topics covered in this certification include encryption standards and products, common network attack strategies (and the most appropriate defenses), and disaster recovery from a major breach.
Online Learning Options
Some providers offer introductory cyber security courses that are delivered entirely online.
These courses are usually delivered by video, although the instructor may also provide exercises for students to complete as virtual "homework."
While these courses may lay down the foundations for understanding basic networking topics, they are unlikely to contain enough comprehensive information to pass certification on their own.
These courses can be great for picking up some cyber security fundamentals from the comfort of your home.
Some online-only courses are generally not able to offer real-world laboratories, which simulate common attack scenarios, such as Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks or SQL injections.
However, if you want a quick introduction from the convenience of your home, online learning provides the perfect basis from which you can springboard into more in-depth courses.
Classroom-Based Learning Options
If a teaching environment is more your style — even if it’s delivered online rather than in a traditional classroom environment — then there are also plenty of options.
These include on-site training that coach students towards completing one of a variety of certifications, such as the CompTIA Security+ Certifications or the Microsoft Technology Association Security Certification.
In-class instruction can tend to prepare students for passing the target certifications; however, on-site classes do require a commitment to a specific time and place, which might not suit everyone.
Start Small Now
If you're still not sure if you're ready for a full-on course, there are small steps you can take to begin your cyber security learning journey.
Start by installing Kali Linux, a Linux distribution that comes installed with an entire suite of penetration-testing tools. Playing with tools like this is perfect for learning basic offensive techniques.
- Aircrack-ng for brute-forcing wireless passwords.
- The Metasploit Framework for creating security environments for vulnerability testing.
- Nmap (commonly known as "the network mapper") for mapping networks and identifying vulnerabilities.
If you can find a friend or family member who will agree to let you try entering their network, you'll have taken the first step towards learning cyber security and getting certified without even stepping into a classroom. Just be sure to ask permission first!
Now is a great time to get into cyber security but getting certified is the key. Find out about the University of Miami Cybersecurity Bootcamp and be ready to take on certifications in less than a year.