When choosing a cyber program to give your career a boost, first evaluate what skill level you are entering at. The journey to becoming a senior cybersecurity professional is a marathon of experiences—you need computer basics, sysadmin skills, ethical hacking practice, and more. Consider whether your next educational experience aligns with your background!
Furthermore, how will the cyber program best align you with the preferred job skills and qualifications listed by common entry-level cyber roles? Cybersecurity is a highly competitive field with many coveted roles; spend some time “reverse-engineering” your destination with resources like cyberseek.org. Fun fact: It is common for many CISOs to possess a masters in business administration in conjunction with various cyber qualifications.
Knowledge or skills?
Traditional academic programs such as four-year accredited universities will provide a strong foundation in knowledge of cybersecurity principles, whereas more hands-on, skill-intensive courses will provide a more immediate gain in practical cyber skills. Examples of more hands-on programs include workshops designed to prepare students to earn specific certifications such as the Offensive Security Certified Practitioner (OSCP) certification as well as intensive, modular programs like Code Fellows.
Quality of content and instruction
Cybersecurity is a field that thrives on knowing the latest threats and methodologies. Traditional educational institutions with four-year bachelor's programs may not deliver the most up-to-date content, as curriculum development from proposal to teaching is a time-intensive process. It is important to select a school or training program that is referencing the most up to date information in its content, so that a graduate can enter the workforce armed with modern, highly relevant tools and skills.
Consider the background of the institution and its instructors. A strictly-academic program may not align well with a learner seeking highly practical job skills that are relevant to the modern cyber workforce. Conversely, a technically-skilled and experienced professional seeking to augment their pedigree with credibility of knowledge may be better served by a more academically-inclined program and institution. Always view educational products from the lens of your background and current situation.
Return on investment
Education can be a costly endeavor, so consider your return on investment. Your investment will take the form of a time and fiscal commitment, which varies by institution and program. With longer programs there may be an “opportunity cost” to consider, i.e. what else could have been done with the time spent on a longer duration program?
Many professionals with busy careers and personal commitments have turned to more flexible education solutions. The long-held stigma against online-only institutions is quickly fading as busy professionals increasingly need educational programs that fit their lives and new work-from-home realities. This is not to say online institutions are objectively better; be sure to investigate teaching methodologies (pre-recorded video vs. live instructors?) and support structures (TA help vs solo efforts).
Consider what types of graduates the institution produces. What is the employment rate? Average starting salary? Do graduates speak highly of the curriculum, content, and learning experience? Word of mouth can be a powerful learning tool when evaluating an educational or training product
There you have it, five mission-critical items to consider when shopping for your next cyber education experience! If you are looking for the cyber skills that lead to a professional career, check out Code Fellows’ Ops and Cybersecurity program for a rigorous, hands-on, skill-intensive journey that will prepare graduates for a variety of roles in IT and cybersecurity.