Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners

Are you considering a career in cybersecurity? If so, you’ve picked a lucrative industry. Some analysts have gone so far as to estimate a 0% unemployment rate for the whole sector and the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 33% growth rate between 2020-2030 for Information Security Analysts jobs. 

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 Cybersecurity Professional

According to survey findings released by ESG Research, more than half of organizations with cybersecurity 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 has never set a mouse in a terminal before, there are options to meet your needs.

Cybersecurity Certifications

CompTIA is a non-profit trade association that issues professional certifications for the cybersecurity and information technology industries. The three important certifications you might consider pursuing from CompTIA are:

  • The CompTIA Network+ certification exam covers configuration, management, and troubleshooting of different network devices. It also tests familiarity and skills with new technologies, including cloud, mobile, virtualization, and communication tech.
  • The CompTIA Security+ certification covers a range of essential entry-level cybersecurity topics including networks, systems, penetration testing, and security administration. 
  • The CompTIA CySA+ certification tests your skills in intrusion detection, security analytics and cyberattack response, and data analysis for different threats, vulnerabilities, and risks. 

Other important industry certifications that you might want to sit for, depending on what role you want to pursue, include:

  • The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification tests your skills with Amazon Web Services Cloud infrastructure, security, and compliance issues. 
  • The Linux LPI Essentials certification exam assesses your knowledge of the Linux operating system. The exam also covers your management capabilities of users and groups, and skills in Linux command line, networking configuration, administration, and permissions.
  • The Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate certification covers the concepts and principles of security operations and the skills and knowledge necessary to work successfully in a Security Operations Center (SOC).

Keep in mind that you do not, by all means, need all the certifications above. We generally recommend that learners seek one or two certifications, according to their individual career goals.

Online Learning Options

Some providers offer introductory cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity 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, Start 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 cybersecurity 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.

These include:

  • 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 cybersecurity and getting certified without even stepping into a classroom. Just be sure to ask permission first!

Options Abound

Now is a great time to get into cybersecurity but getting certified is the key. Find out about the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp and be ready to take on certifications in less than a year.

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