As the world's reliance on technology increases, cyber security is becoming one of the fastest-growing computer science fields. Learning cyber security has become vital for data scientists and other cyber security professionals. Cyber security boot camps are one of the educational pathways aspiring and experienced professionals can gain and expand the necessary skills and expertise to thrive in a cybersecurity job.

For those still on the fence about cybersecurity training bootcamps, we've summarized the pros and cons to help you get started.

Pros and Cons of Cybersecurity Bootcamps

Bootcamps are one of many cyber security training paths one can pursue to gain knowledge to become proficient in penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, ethical hacking, cyber attacks / cyber breaches & cyber risk management, network security threat identification, cyber security policies, security operations, and incident response planning. Whether a bootcamp is the best cybersecurity education path for you depends on your career goals, learning style, available commitment, and budget.

Here are several of the advantages of a cyber security bootcamp:

  • Cybersecurity bootcamps tend to be convenient to access. Most cyber security bootcamps are held partially or fully online, meaning you only need a computer and reliable internet connection to participate in one. These bootcamps often lack the stringent admission requirements (or professional experiences) when compared to that of a four-year degree.

  • A cybersecurity bootcamp typically requires a shorter time commitment when compared to a four-year degree. With bootcamps offering full-time immersion in cyber security, you may need about 12 weeks to complete the bootcamp, which also makes it more affordable due to fewer opportunity costs. The cost of attending a cybersecurity bootcamp can range from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the provider and support services offered (for example career guidance, certification, job placement support, etc).

  • Bootcamps tend to focus on providing practical cybersecurity skills, which is an added advantage when seeking employment in the cybersecurity industry.

  • The lead cyber security professionals hired by the bootcamp are trained to become skilled instructors which benefits you as you'll have a unique learning experience and opportunity to learn from the cybersecurity talent with practical, real-world industry experience.

  • Cybersecurity bootcamp curriculum is often more up-to-date thus exposing you to current trends, technologies, and the tools most current to the cybersecurity industry.

Despite being flexible and cost-effective, cybersecurity bootcamps may come with several disadvantages.

  • Not all are accredited in the same way as colleges or universities; therefore, it can be harder to measure the quality of instruction and brand reputation of the provider.

  • They are shorter and more condensed than four-year degrees which means they may not allow you to deeply explore enough disciplines with cybersecurity.

  • Cybersecurity bootcamps are often not eligible for students to leverage federal financial aid.

Despite knowing some of the pros and cons of a cyber security bootcamp, you still might not be confident about the best path to take forward. We encourage you to allow for your priorities to guide you in making the best possible decision.

Now, cybersecurity bootcamps tend to be shorter and more rigorous than a traditional university degree program; therefore, the bootcamp might require you to meet some admission requirements such as a certain professional experience level. If you are completely new to cybersecurity, selecting a cybersecurity boot camp with a curriculum designed for beginners is the best option for you.

If you meet the admission requirements, the next step is to check whether the bootcamp offers career services. Some bootcamps supplement their learning experience through the offering of career services to help their students land a job after graduation. Remember to always ask your admissions counselors about the graduation outcomes and job placement rates.

What Will You Learn in a Cybersecurity Bootcamp?

Cybersecurity boot camps teach a combination of technical and soft skills required to excel in the cybersecurity industry. The skills you learn in bootcamps will help you launch a career in different cybersecurity professional tracks such as a penetration tester, cybersecurity consultant, ethical hacker, cybersecurity manager, information security / network security/ cybersecurity analyst, or a cybersecurity engineer.

Before we explore what the curriculum looks like in a cybersecurity bootcamp program, let us look at the three common experience these bootcamps often provide students:

  • Beginner Bootcamps

Beginner bootcamps cater to learners with little to no experience in the IT or security field. Self-taught individuals or those with only a high-school diploma can benefit from beginner cybersecurity bootcamps. In these bootcamps, students are introduced to fundamental courses such as networking and operating systems.

  • Intermediate Bootcamps

Intermediate bootcamps are ideal for learners with some understanding of IT and cyber fundamentals such as networking, programming, systems, and perhaps have prior job experience in a related field. These bootcamps may prepare you to pass a certification exam.

  • Advanced Bootcamps

Advanced bootcamps are ideal for people in the cybersecurity industry who want to learn a specialized skill such as penetration testing, ethical hacking, or application security testing. As an advanced student, you can seek specialized tracks such as:

  • Penetration testing and hacking bootcamps

  • CISM certification

  • Offensive security certification

In terms of the typical cybersecurity bootcamp learning experience, you should expect a combination of lectures, labs, and discussions with peers and instructors. The coursework covered in cybersecurity bootcamps tends to overlap. In most cases, you can expect to study:

  • Security fundamentals (CIA triad, governance, risk analysis and mitigation, business continuity planning, compliance, disaster recovery)

  • Networks and network security (email security, network architecture, operations and security, wireless security, port scanning, cryptography and encryption, cloud security, and virtualization)

  • Defensive security (monitoring and logging, incident response, data extraction, and recovery, forensics)

  • Offensive Security (burp suite, SQL injection, XSS vulnerabilities and payloads, webshells, penetration testing execution standard, Zenmap, Metasploit, file inclusion, injection vulnerabilities, pivoting networks)

  • Risk assessment (principles of cybersecurity, components of risk management, risk analysis)

  • Risk management

  • Cryptography

  • Computer forensics

  • Systems administration (Linux server configuration, logging, Bach scripting and programming, active directory, windows server configuration)

  • Ethical hacking

  • Security audits and cybersecurity management

  • Incident handling and response

  • Wireless pen testing and exploration

  • Vulnerability scanning

How to Choose a Cybersecurity Bootcamp?

Cybersecurity boot camps vary. They have different structures for their curriculum and even varied modes of delivery, which can make it harder to settle on the best fit program for you. Some boot camps are offered at universities, some by non-profits, though most are offered by private for-profit education companies.

Your life and career goals should be a significant factor when you are selecting a cybersecurity bootcamp. First, decide on the job you seek to secure after graduating from the program. Your career path might change in the future, but you should have a strong idea of what the first step is.

As you know, your career path is highly dependent on your skills, interests, and strengths, for example, if you were inclined towards identifying patterns in data, analysis, and statistics, a data science career path could be ideal. If you are more interested in protecting data and developing systems that support data security, then a career in cybersecurity is for you.

Next, you can determine your finances and the time you can commit to a cybersecurity bootcamp. What learning environment would you prefer (online or in-person, or a combination)? Once you know your time commitment and your preferred learning environment, you can begin to narrow down to identify some of the best cybersecurity bootcamps.

As you form your list, for each of these programs, begin to rank the bootcamps on factors such as the prerequisites, curriculum offered, the cost of attending the program, career services provided, instructor backgrounds and bios, and graduation outcomes (for example, graduation rates, average starting salaries, employers hiring graduates, time to secure employment after graduation, etc).

Different boot camps have different focus areas. For instance, a beginner's bootcamp is designed to provide the basics of cybersecurity to help you get entry-level cybersecurity jobs, while an advanced bootcamp focuses on adding to your existing cybersecurity expertise to help you command even higher rates or narrow your focus on one area of cybersecurity.

Where Cybersecurity Bootcamp Classes are Held?

Cybersecurity bootcamps come in different modalities. Classes are provided online, on-campus, or as a combination of both. Since COVID, more bootcamps have moved to 100% online offerings. Online classes have become an easier way for learners to learn introductory and advanced cybersecurity skills to help them start or expand their careers.

Some are also part-time while others are full-time. BrainStation is a provider which offers live online cybersecurity bootcamps to learners seeking to upskill. According to Crunchbase, BrainStation was founded in 2012 and was acquired by the Konrad Group in 2014. In 2021, Brainstation acquired Wyncode, a 10-week coding bootcamp provider.

The online courses at BrainStation train individuals to manage online risks through threat identification and mitigation strategies, business analysis, and strategic planning. The course covers:

  • Security and technology fundamentals

  • Threats and defense

  • Risk management and business analysis

  • Strategy and incidence management

In-person or on-campus courses at BrainStation require you to attend the class in person which are typically held during regular business hours. Commitment can be part-time or full-time.

Evolve Security Academy is an example of an institution that offers both online and in-person cybersecurity bootcamps.

Depending on the provider, an online bootcamp can have strict schedules while others may be self-paced. Most require at least 12 weeks and can require as long as 6 months. These courses also cover labs where the learners handle projects and real-world exercises to prepare them for a career in cybersecurity.

Some courses also require pre and prerequisite work through another short course that introduces you to basics such as:

  • What is cybersecurity?

  • Fundamentals of networks and systems

  • Bash

  • Networking

  • Computer hardware components

Providers such as Cybint provide learners with a path to connect to different cybersecurity educators. According to TechCrunch, HackerU acquired Cybint in August 2021 for $50m and the combined entity will rebrand as ThriveDX.

Cybint worked with academic partners across North America, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America. Academic institutions are also a good place to find both online and in-person cybersecurity bootcamps. Partners include: Plymouth State University, JALC, Kettering University, and HBU.

Similar to Cybint, Trilogy Education (acquired by 2U, Inc. for $750m) partners with leading academic institutions such as Columbia, Vanderbilt University, Berkeley Extension, and Northwestern offer Trilogy's cybersecurity boot camps.

Some of the best cybersecurity bootcamps we've researched which you could consider applying to include:

  • The New Jersey Institute of Technology Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp is an online program designed for beginners in the cybersecurity field. The program covers areas such as cloud security, computer networking, ethical hacking, Linux security, and digital forensics. Learners also attend a career services workshop to help with their job search efforts.

  • Ironhack offers an online and in-person cybersecurity bootcamp in partnership with Cybint. The bootcamp is available across different cities in North America and Europe.

  • The MIT xPRO Professional Certificate in Cybersecurity program is designed for early-career professionals, career builders, and career-switchers. This program is offered in partnership with Emeritus.

Conducting searches online will help you discover other cyber security bootcamps. Once you have a narrowed list of choices, you can begin prioritizing the list by programs that match your current skillsets, preferred learning style, and budget.

You will find that some skillsets from your current career can be transferred onto a cybersecurity career. For example, data science skills like programming can be transferred to a cybersecurity career.

If you love self-teaching, then a self-paced online program would work best for you, while an in-person or interactive online bootcamp program may work better for those who prefer structured lessons.

We always recommend that you read the student testimonials and reviews from learners who have attended the bootcamp so that you can learn more about their experience. Make sure to ask the admissions counselors if you can speak with current students or former graduates as a referral. Referencing employer portals such as Glassdoor and Linkedin to explore where graduates have gained employment is also worth your time.

How to Apply for a Cybersecurity Bootcamp?

Now that you have found the best bootcamp for you, the next step is to complete your application, a necessary step in most programs prior to enrollment. Before you start the application, you should have a full understanding of the requirements to fulfill.

The Prerequisites and Prep Work

Prerequisites vary by cybersecurity bootcamps. Beginner bootcamps usually have little to no prerequisites for formal technical education or work experience. They cater to learners with a high school diploma as well as self-taught individuals.

In some cases, beginner bootcamps may require you to attend a prep course to improve your skills before attending the full bootcamp.

Intermediate bootcamps expect you to be at least familiar with basic cybersecurity principles. You may need to have a basic understanding of networking and systems programming in addition to a few years of working experience in a related technical field or profession.

Advanced bootcamps are focused on attracting more senior or more skilled professionals who are seeking to gain specific skills such as ethical hacking, penetration testing or cryptography.

Interview Process

Advanced cybersecurity bootcamp programs can be selective. They come with different requirements, but most of them have an application and interview process. The application process involves filling out an application form and submitting it to the enrollment admissions department.

The bootcamp's admissions team decides whether you qualify for attendance. If you qualify, the bootcamp admissions team will arrange an interview with you.

The interview process is meant to further evaluate your suitability for the program. They will also examine your skills, especially for intermediate and advanced bootcamps. You may expect to receive a basic coding test during the interview.

Some tips to help you improve your application and standout from other cybersecurity boot camp professionals.

  • Research the bootcamps requirements before you apply

  • Work on any technical weaknesses that could disqualify you from joining the program before you apply

  • Highlight any certifications and cybersecurity skills you have taken before

  • Apply in programs in which you are alumni (some bootcamps prioritize their alumni over new applicants.)

Closing Thoughts About Cyber Security Bootcamp Programs

Modern technology has become critical in organizations of different sizes. As technology expands, the demand for cybersecurity and information management professionals will continue to grow.

With this growth, more education providers and universities have introduced academic programs to prepare the next generation of professionals. At the same time, cybersecurity bootcamps have become a more accepted option by employers who seek to fill in the shortages of cybersecurity professionals that are not being filled through traditional graduate programs.

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