So, you want to learn about cybersecurity. Maybe we’re biased, but we think this is a great idea! Not just because cybersecurity education is our chosen field, either–the cybersecurity job market is very healthy right now, and it’s still growing. With some 700,000+ job listings available right now, getting into cybersecurity could be a very good career move. And the market isn’t slowing down, either: with so many aspects of society and the economy now dependent on information networks, the need for cybersecurity professionals is only growing.

In addition, cybersecurity is an engaging career that allows professionals to solve real-world problems with real-world impact. You’re preventing the leakage of people’s personal information–a soldier on the information frontlines.

The only problem, of course, is that cybersecurity has a relatively high barrier of entry compared to most professions. You need to acquire a lot of knowledge in order to function effectively as a professional in this field–from basic encyclopedic knowledge of various types of network systems, to highly specialized knowledge of different attack methods and how to effectively defend against them.

So how do you get this knowledge? Well, it’s not an easy question to answer–there are a daunting number of educational routes into cybersecurity, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.

Ultimately, to answer the question of which educational option is the best fit for you, you should first take into account your circumstances.

What are your circumstances?

Of course, the most common road to cybersecurity begins with a four-year degree program, either in-person or online. If you’re a new high school graduate, or you’re otherwise prepared to sacrifice 4 years of your life to obtain a college degree, this is most likely the right choice for you. Not only will a college degree open doors for you in cybersecurity, it’ll also open doors in other careers, granting you a flexibility in the workforce that other options may not lead to.

However, there are many people for whom an on-campus 4-year degree is unrealistic. For example, a relevant program may require you to move if it’s not already near you. It will eat up most of your time during weekdays, rendering you unable to work to support yourself. It will likely be very expensive, in the thousands of dollars per year if not tens of thousands.

Considering these factors, it’s no wonder that people are increasingly choosing online degree programs for their cybersecurity education.

Online programs

But even within online programs, there are still a multitude of options that may seem daunting to a beginner to the field. Let’s take a look at some of the online options available to you.

An online degree program is most likely the first option that comes to mind. These programs are superficially similar to in-person degree programs in some ways, and radically different in others. In fact, many of them are quite different from each other, so it’s important to do research to know what you’re getting.

An online degree program, relative to an in-person one, comes with various advantages and drawbacks. We’ll start with the advantages.

First of all, these programs are, of course, much more flexible in terms of scheduling. Of course, you’ll still need to put in the hours, but you can determine (in some cases) when to take your courses and absorb material. This means you may be able to hold a part-time or even a full-time job while studying, greatly contributing to the affordability of a program.

This brings us to our next point: online degree programs are often much cheaper than their in-person counterparts. Of course, this isn’t always the case–some degree programs (especially those from private universities) are more expensive than an equivalent program at, for example, a community college. But in general, online degree programs are cheaper because they’re less resource-intensive to operate.

Increased time flexibility, decreased price–but all this does come with a cost. Most online degree programs will have faculty available for office hours and discussion, but with less in-person time, this kind of interaction is less accessible in an online program. In addition, in-person programs are taught in real time, meaning the material is consistently updated, while online programs are comparatively slow to update. In an area like cybersecurity, where knowledge of the latest technology is tremendously important, this is a big issue.

Another major type of online cybersecurity is the certificate program. These programs are similar to degree programs, but they grant you a certificate instead of a degree. The major advantage of these programs is that they’re more specialized, they cost less, and they take less time to complete. Think along the scale of a few months for a certificate program, versus a few years for a degree program.

If you’re just looking to get your feet wet with cybersecurity, the advantages of this kind of program are clear–it’s a smaller investment, with a smaller return, but it may be enough to get you an entry-level job.

However, don’t count on it. Most online cybersecurity programs are not going to be sufficient alone to get you a job in cybersecurity. Why? Well, they’re often slow to update, similar to online degree programs. In addition, they often fail to prepare you to earn the most desirable certifications, instead spending the entire time teaching you fundamentals.

The most considerable weakness of online programs, though, is lack of hands-on experience. Employers often disregard certificates earned from online programs for this exact reason–though the programs can help students get a handle on fundamental-level knowledge, it often leaves them unprepared for the real-world issues they might face on the job. And if you’re a cybersecurity professional, it’s absolutely essential that you have the ability to react in real time to potential threats and attacks.

Why Cybrary?

Our goal at Cybrary is to mitigate some of these issues, which is why our program is structured radically differently from most online certificate programs, despite the fact that it can teach you the same knowledge.

As the name implies, Cybrary offers a huge variety of online courses and directories of knowledge that is completely open for learners. With a Cybrary subscription, you immediately gain access to all of this knowledge. While there are set paths you can take, those who desire less structure are able to browse at their leisure.

You can get started with our IT Foundations Learning Path or Cybersecurity Foundations Learning Path as an alternative to a traditional program. These online programs from certificates to help showcase a proficiency is fundamental concepts in the industry.

Most importantly, Cybrary offers dedicated courses on topics that many certificate programs (and even degree programs!) miss out on. For example, our free certification prep courses (and our paid practice test options) will help you get the certifications that are absolutely essential to finding employment in cybersecurity.

Most importantly, Cybrary can give you hands-on experience with many of the problems you’ll face on the job via our Threat Actors Campaign and Common Threats and Exposures Series. These crucial libraries of information are updated regularly, meaning you’ll get a hands-on approach to picking up the latest knowledge in the field.

All in all, Cybrary offers a far more flexible approach than most online certificate programs or degree programs. But the knowledge it can grant you is equally valuable, and it’ll take you equally far into a potential career.

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