Leveling Up: How to Build Cybersecurity Skills

The Information Age has precipitated the explosive development of the cybersecurity industry. As the world conducts more and more of its economic, political, and social life online, the need to efficiently and reliably protect these activities has become an increasingly pressing one.

The growth in the cybersecurity industry is attributable to several factors, including the increasingly frequent activities of cybercrime actors, the larger percentage of daily activities that are now customarily completed online and the rapid pace of technological innovation. In 2022, market research company BrandEssence noted the global cybersecurity market to be valued at $176.50 billion in 2020, with a projected value of $403.01 billion by the year 2027.

The need for cybersecurity professionals is projected to grow robustly in the 2020s. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) projects that openings for information security analysts will grow 35 percent nationally between 2021 and 2031. This growth rate is seven times the average growth rate for all occupations during the same period (5 percent). This growth rate is unsurprising, considering how cybersecurity is now a significant concern across many industries. The ubiquitous nature of our online world suggests people with current cybersecurity skills will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

The ubiquitous nature of the online world means people of varied educational and professional backgrounds can advance their careers by learning cybersecurity skills. Those with more advanced skills and those who demonstrate a consistent commitment to continued professional development will be highly competitive within the labor force. Educational opportunities include traditional academic programs, certificate programs, and self-directed learning. This page profiles a selection of online cybersecurity academic programs and learning options more suited to people with restricted time and monetary resources.

Read on to learn about developing the cybersecurity skills necessary to advance your career across various jobs within this industry.

Please note that for the purposes of this page, the terms cybersecurity and information security are used synonymously.

Fast Facts: Cybersecurity

The globalized and technology-saturated world of the current century requires skilled information security professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) predictions, the employment of cybersecurity professionals is expected to explode in the coming decade.

When looking at a range of related occupations listed in the table below, the growth rate often ranges between approximately 10 and 20 percent.

OccupationPercentage of Predicted Growth Between 2021 and 2031 (BLS 2022)Numeric Employment Change
Computer and Information Research Scientists21 percent7,100
Computer and Information Systems Managers16 percent82,400
Computer Network Architects4 percent7,500
Computer Programmers-10 percent-17,800
Computer Support Specialists6 percent56,400
Computer Systems Analysts9 percent50,900
Database Administrators and Architects9 percent12,800
Network and Computer Systems Administrators3 percent11,300
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers25 percent411,400
Web Developers and Digital Designers23 percent45,400

Several positions within the cybersecurity industry rank among the best jobs in the U.S. According to Glassdoor (2023), several positions that utilize the skills typically held by cybersecurity professionals rank among the top 50 jobs in the U.S. These top jobs stand out due to their median salary, job satisfaction and the number of job openings. Information security engineers, who have a median salary of $116,919, a job satisfaction rating of 4.1 out of 5, and over 7,200 annual job openings, rank as the fifteenth-best position in the aforementioned Glassdoor jobs ranking. Data architects also appear in the list (#47).

U.S. News & World Report’s (2023) list of the 100 best jobs lists several jobs within the information security industry. These include information security analyst (#1), computer systems analyst (#27), web developer (#32), database administrator (#38), computer network architect (#48), computer systems administrator (#52), and computer support specialist (#68).

Featured Online Cybersecurity Degree Programs

Those looking to advance their skills in cybersecurity can consider enrolling in degree programs in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats. Working professionals, parents, and others with significant ongoing commitments may prefer earning their degree online as such an option can provide a higher degree of flexibility critical to their success.

Several higher education institutions offer additional training options such as certificate programs. Such programs are often also flexible and designed to enhance the skills of existing professionals who seek career advancement. Such certificate programs can often be found by researching offerings through an institution’s division or office of continuing education. Given the rapid pace of innovation within the cybersecurity field, prospective students must thoroughly research market trends and assess their own aspirations and available resources when deciding about their educational pursuits.

Champlain College – Burlington, VT

Since 2006, Champlain College has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the United States National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. It is also a National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence.

Named the best private online college by Intelligent.com (2022), Champlain College Online offers a 36-credit master of science degree in digital forensic science (MSDFS). The curriculum is designed for students to develop many competencies, including evidence management, forensic analysis, and independent research. This two-year program features a tuition rate of $795 per credit.

Students enrolling in this program who hold a variety of existing certifications and training may be able to obtain academic transfer credit.

Johns Hopkins – Baltimore, MD

The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering offers a fully online master of science degree in cybersecurity. Ranked the #2 cybersecurity program by U.S. News & World Report, this program consists of ten courses. The ten-course requirement consists of three foundation courses, five courses specific to the cybersecurity program, and two elective courses. The program can typically be completed in two to three years and features a per-course tuition rate of $4,755.

Upon matriculation, students select one of four focus areas: analysis, assured autonomy, networks, or systems. Course topics include subject matter such as security engineering, applied machine learning, reverse engineering, and vulnerability analysis.

Students also have access to state-of-the-art computing facilities, virtual classrooms, and the option to complete a capstone project. In addition, incoming students who already hold relevant academic or related training may minimize time spent on prerequisite courses by taking proficiency exams.

University of California (UCB) – Berkeley, CA

UC Berkeley offers an online master’s degree in information and cybersecurity. Ranked the best cybersecurity master’s degree program by Fortune Magazine in 2022, this program features an interdisciplinary curriculum founded on a holistic approach to cybersecurity. The curriculum emphasizes hands-on practical experience, the legal regime associated with the field of cybersecurity, and the leadership skills necessary for graduates to effectively serve in a variety of roles in the public and private sectors.

A wealth of additional resources make this program one of the best in the nation.
These include the I School Community and the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC). I School is a graduate research and education community whose mission is to teach students the skills necessary to design the diverse systems that will form human living in the future. CLTC, founded in 2015, works to initiate and sustain dialogue among students, faculty, and other practitioners and focuses on the subject of a future-oriented conceptualization of cybersecurity. Graduates also benefit from a global alumni network spread throughout many states and countries of the world.

University of Central Florida (UCF) – Orlando, FL

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is located in Orlando and offers a 30-credit master of science in online digital forensics. The curriculum was created through a collaboration between several UCF departments and emphasizes skills in computer technology, problem-solving, and communication. In 2022, Intelligent.com rated this program the best online master’s degree in computer forensics in the United States. This two-year program features a per-credit-hour tuition of approximately $327 for residents and $1,152 for non-residents.

The UCF Division of Continuing Education offers preparatory training for industry certifications, including Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and Linux+.

Those wanting more robust training in content relevant to various industry-prized certifications may take an interest in the Cyber Defense Professional Certificate. This program combines theory and hands-on training in cybersecurity and programming. While not formally considered a certification-prep program, this 380-hour extended program provides training in skills applicable to the successful passage of some certification exams. Course content applies to the LPI Linux Essentials, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and (ISC)^2 SSCP certifications. Tuition for the full program is $17,800.

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) – Adelphi, MD

Located in the Washington, DC area, UMGC offers a 36-credit master of science degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation. The curriculum consists of one foundation course, four core courses, and one capstone course and is designed to provide graduates with the investigative, leadership, and executive skills necessary to become effective professionals. Coursework also trains students to successfully pass several industry certification exams, including CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Cloud+, and CompTIA Linux+.

Candidates who completed an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity technology at UGMC may use a vertical pathway to complete an accelerated master’s program. Such students may be able to reduce total coursework requirements by up to six credits. Program tuition is $694 per credit. This program can typically be completed in two years.

Utica University – Utica, NY

Recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CD), Utica University offers a 30-credit master of science degree in cybersecurity. Available specializations include, among others, digital forensics, cybersecurity operations, and cybercrime and fraud. Graduates may pursue various careers in issues such as incident response, organized crime, and financial fraud investigation.

Graduates of this program also have the training needed to complete various industry certifications, including CompTIA, A+, and Security+. This program offers a 10 percent tuition discount for online students and their spouses who are active duty, reserve, and National Guard service members. Tuition is $895 per credit. Students can generally complete this program in two years.

Common Cybersecurity Certifications

The ever-evolving field of cybersecurity features many educational opportunities beyond traditional academic programs. A common alternative or supplemental education option is certification. Such an option is typically a shorter time commitment than a degree program and is usually just as flexible, if not more so.

Professionals may pursue cybersecurity certifications to enhance their skills and knowledge, enhance their likelihood of securing an entry-level job and improve their marketability for advanced roles in this highly competitive industry. Some academic programs also allow students to use their certifications to obtain transfer credits, thereby reducing the time they must spend pursuing a formal degree. It is beyond the scope of this page to list every single industry certification. The listing below should thus not be considered exhaustive.

CompTIA Certifications

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is the leading provider of vendor-neutral IT certifications. This association develops training and certification exams for various subjects, including computing support, networking, security, open-source development, cloud, and mobility.

Cybersecurity professionals can complete many certifications, including A+, CASP+, Network+, Security+, Cloud+, PenTest+ and Linux+. The A+ certification is a common one and is awarded to those who pass two separate exams. The skills assessed by these exams are necessary for entry-level IT positions. A+ certification is especially valued as it demonstrates a larger knowledge base and thus opens up more job opportunities to those holding it.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) is an advanced-level cybersecurity certification often held by security architects and senior security engineers. The CASP+ certification exam focuses on several technical skills in traditional, cloud, and hybrid environments, governance, risk, and compliance. Additional information regarding the variety of CompTIA certifications can be found on the association’s website.

Cisco Certified Network Associate Certification

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is an entry-level IT certification offered by the hardware company Cisco. This certification demonstrates proficiency in networking concepts typically needed by people working in IT jobs that include a networking role. This commonly sought IT certification requires passage of the 200-301 CCNA exam and costs $300, plus tax.

Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate Certification

This certification demonstrates the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy, configure, secure, manage, and monitor devices and client applications in an enterprise environment. This is one of many available Microsoft certifications.

Given the market saturation of Microsoft within the information technology industry, it is common for system administrators to find value in Microsoft certification. Whereas Microsoft previously emphasized product-based certification, it has recently shifted to a role-based certification model. Such a model prizes core technical skills above product knowledge.

Mentors – Cybersecurity Gurus to Know

Those considering any of the variety of cybersecurity industry education options available should take the time to research professors. Finding programs whose professors have research interests that overlap, and practical expertise in the student’s career of interest can significantly impact what a student ultimately learns and the career options that open up. Consider learning more about the cybersecurity industry professors profiled below.

Dr. Sharon Goldberg, PhD – Boston University

Dr. Sharon Goldberg is an associate professor in the Computer Science Department of Boston University. She teaches courses in network security and probability in computing. She is a network security researcher focused on using theoretical and networking tools to understand the challenges of new security technology deployment and develop effective solutions.

Dr. Goldberg has previously worked as a researcher for IBM’s crypto group, Cisco Research and Microsoft Research, New England. She has served on working groups of the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Dr. Goldberg completed her PhD and her master’s in electrical engineering at Princeton University. She also has a bachelor of engineering from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Richard Forno, PhD – University of Maryland (UMBC), Baltimore County

Dr. Richard Forno serves as director of the UMBC graduate cybersecurity program and assistant director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity. He is a principal lecturer in the UMBC Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department. He has previously lectured on the subjects of cybersecurity, information warfare, and infrastructure protection at American University and the National Defense University. From 2005-2012 he was a Visiting Scientist at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

His career spans the government, military, and private sectors. Noteworthy contributions include his work building the first formal cybersecurity program for the U.S. House of Representatives and co-founding the CyberMaryland conference. His research interests include information age conflict, cybersecurity, risk communication, and the social shaping of technology.

Forno holds a Ph.D. in Internet Studies from Curtin University of Technology in Australia and is a graduate of Salve Regina University, the Naval War College, American University, and Valley Forge Military College.

Andrew T. Campbell, PhD – Dartmouth College

Dr. Andrew Campbell is known for his vision of a world where mobile AI sustains human health. He currently serves as the Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century professor in computer science at Dartmouth College. He is a member of the Dartmouth College Center for Technology and Behavioral Health and co-directs the HealthX Lab. He also is a visiting research scientist at Verily, where he works on mental health.

Dr. Campbell has previously served as a tenured associate professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University and was a visiting professor at multiple institutions of higher education, including Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda, the University of Salamanca, and Cambridge University. He has worked in the software industry as a developer of wireless packet networks and worked in cardiovascular health as a member of the Google Android group. He has published over 400 papers on wireless networks, sensor networks, and mobile computing and has been awarded research grants totaling $42M from various agencies and companies.

Dr. Campbell received his PhD in computer science from Lancaster University in England.

DIY Cybersecurity Education

Formal cybersecurity education programs may ultimately prove inaccessible for various reasons. For professionals who prefer greater control over the pace of their education and those who wish to explore a new career field without making an expensive commitment, DIY methods listed below are of value.

Through the use of online resources and courses, individuals will likely need approximately six months to a year to learn the basic cybersecurity skills necessary to advance in the workplace. Advanced study within a specialization may require up to an additional six months of self-guided study.

Cybersecurity Bootcamps

A bootcamp is a comprehensive, accelerated course of study that prepares you for a specific profession. Cybersecurity bootcamps offer intensive training composed of hands-on training designed to give students practical skills to solve real-world problems effectively. Students can complete a bootcamp on a part or full-time basis, with some bootcamps lasting as long as six months.

A good overview of some of the best cybersecurity bootcamps for beginners can be found on the Springboard site.


Udemy, characterized as a global destination for teaching and learning online, is a platform featuring over 200,000 courses, more than 6,000 on-demand courses and 71,000 instructors teaching in more than 75 languages. Its mission is to provide flexible, effective skill development to empower organizations and individuals.

Prospective students can choose a free seven-day trial subscription. New students can take a course for $14.99 for a limited time. All courses have a 30-day money-back guarantee. The site offers a selection of online cybersecurity courses provided by industry experts. The site’s sleek search functionality architecture makes the platform user-friendly.

Students seeking jobs where collaborating on a team is a significant aspect of their role may also take an interest in Udemy Business. Udemy Business offers integrated learning solutions designed to help businesses achieve their desired outcomes. With the team learning resources offered by Udemy Business, professionals seeking to work in a team environment may take particular interest in the client companies that use Udemy Business for their business operations and growth needs.


Several schools offer open courseware via online learning platforms. Coursera is one such popular platform. This convenient educational resource provides students with a high degree of flexibility as they develop knowledge of the key basic concepts of their study subjects. Coursera offers three different levels of completely online coursework developed by the nation’s top universities to help people learn new career skills.

Courses, the shortest of the three levels, are four to six weeks in length and cost anywhere from $29 to $99 per course. Specializations, more rigorous and hands-on than courses, are four to six months long and cost anywhere from $39 to $79 per month. Coursera also offers degree programs that take one to three years, and cost $15 to $25,000.

Coursera currently offers approximately 90 cybersecurity courses from top universities and companies. Examples of providers include NYU, the University of Maryland, the University of California, the University System of Georgia, the University of Oxford, IBM, and Google.


EdX offers users free registration and access to a searchable database of over 3,000 courses for students at beginner, intermediate, and advanced learning levels. The site offers stand-alone courses, entirely online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, bootcamp programs, and executive education curricula.

Students may complete an EdX course for free or pay a fee to receive a verified certificate of completion. The site’s search functionality allows prospective students to explore courses according to popularity and other criteria.

Many online courses in cybersecurity are offered by prestigious institutions and companies, including MIT, Harvard, NYU, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM, and the International Monetary Fund.

Bernd Geels
Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science, and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected].

Degrees Without Borders: Online Degree Programs in Business & Design

Earning a master’s of science or business administration in design gives students more than just a basic business education. The majority of these programs are interdisciplinary and work across multiple campus departments.

Degrees Without Borders: Online Degree Programs in Climate Science & Engineering

While professionals can enter climate science and engineering careers with a bachelor’s degree, most have earned a master’s degree or higher. The most commonly earned degrees include a master’s of science in environmental engineering or civil engineering. Aspiring professionals in this field should look for engineering programs that include a concentration in climate, natural resources, or sustainability.

Degrees Without Borders: Online Degrees in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is an allied health profession in which daily activities of living, or occupations, are pursued for a therapeutic purpose. The ultimate objective of occupational therapy is to improve a patient’s level of independence. Individuals seeking to enter the OT profession often will become occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants.

Degrees Without Borders: Online Pre-Veterinary Programs

Pre-vet programs can prepare graduates for various roles, including certified veterinary technicians (CVTs), veterinarians, laboratory technicians, fish and wildlife biologists, or zoologists.

Degrees Without Borders: Online Programs in Applied Statistics

Within the statistician field, several career and educational paths have evolved that focus especially on working well with Big Data. Some are in the area of data science, which generally deals with making sense of available information; and others focus on statistical analysis, which can involve creating the frameworks and parameters for effective qualitative and quantitative research, a field generally referred to as applied statistics. People with training in the latter area are in especially high demand.