Everything you need to know about cyber security bootcamps
You've probably heard about bootcamps in some form or another within the past few years. These concise, alternative education courses teach students technical skills needed to enter a wide range of fields. Cyber security bootcamps are just one example, and they can be an incredibly advantageous way to gain the knowledge and skills needed to get an entry-level job or move up the career ladder.
Bootcamps are often highly regarded by employers, so long as you do your research and find one that is reputable and aligns with your professional aspirations. Although traditional cyber security degrees are still an option, attending a cyber security bootcamp is worth considering if you want to set yourself up for a successful career in the growing field of cybersecurity.
Cyber security bootcamps vs. bachelor's degree programs
If you're considering enrolling in a bootcamp, you may wonder why you shouldn't just get a bachelor's degree in cyber security instead. While bachelor's degrees can be a great option for some people, cyber security bootcamps may be a better route for others. These are some of the primary differences between cyber security bootcamps and a bachelor's degree:
Time to complete: Cyber security bootcamps can typically be completed in as little as a few weeks to a couple of months, many of which only require part-time participation. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. A bootcamp may be able to get you the skills you need and propel you into the workforce faster.
Cost: Because of their shorter timeframe, bootcamps usually cost much less than a formal degree program. This is especially true for online bootcamps which don't come with the additional expenses of a traditional college education, such as books, on-campus housing and more.
Curricular focus: Both bootcamps and bachelor's degrees are designed to give you the knowledge and skills to prepare students for entry-level cyber security jobs. That's the singular mission of bootcamps, whereas bachelor's degrees require students to take classes in other subjects for a more well-rounded education.
Admission requirements: Bootcamps tend to have fewer admission requirements than a bachelor's degree, though this varies from bootcamp to bootcamp. Many only require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent education, and others may also ask that you have some relevant work experience. Bachelor's degree programs, on the other hand, usually require an extensive application with personal essays, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores and more.
Understanding cyber security bootcamps
Cyber security bootcamps are concise training programs that prepare students with the skills needed to enter the field of cyber security. Some bootcamps are specifically designed for cyber security professionals who already have some experience, but most bootcamps are meant for people with very little to none. These programs can usually be completed in a few months and are becoming a popular alternative to college degree programs.
How cyber security bootcamps are structured
Every cyber security bootcamp is going to be a little different, so knowing what you need out of a bootcamp experience can help you narrow in on the bootcamp that is structured to meet your goals. Cyber security bootcamps can be structured differently based on the skill level, learning format, time commitment, schedule and prerequisite work, if any.
Benefits of attending a cybersecurity bootcamp
Even though you won't finish a cybersecurity bootcamp with a degree, there are numerous other benefits to reap from attending a cyber security bootcamp:
- They cost less and take less time to complete than most traditional college degrees
- Laser-focused curriculums means you get exactly the knowledge and skills needed to start a cyber security career
- They have the flexibility to meet your needs with several different learning formats and schedules to choose from
- Impressive hiring rates from many bootcamps could mean great chances of getting hired
- You get the chance to learn the latest tools and technological advancements in cybersecurity
The future of cyber security bootcamps and their potential impact on the industry
It's hard to say where cyber security bootcamps will be in a decade or more, but the outlook is certainly bright. Significant job growth projections in the field of cyber security means that more and more people will be needed to fill these roles, and bootcamps are becoming a popular way to train people to meet this demand.
For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of information security analysts is expected to grow 31.5% through 2032, which is seven times faster than the average across all occupations. That translates to about 19,500 openings each year, on average, over the decade.
Bootcamps at large are a growing market—for example, a 2022 global market analysis valued the coding bootcamp market at $1.36 billion in 2021 which is expected to reach 3.66 billion in 2027. Although cyber security bootcamps are not the same as coding bootcamps, this suggests that bootcamps are being seen as advantageous alternatives to traditional higher education.
Choosing the right cyber security bootcamp
Even if you've taken into account the types of bootcamp providers and the different ways bootcamps are structured, you may still wonder what else you should know to make an informed decision about the right cyber security bootcamp for you—or whether a cyber security bootcamp is right for you at all.
Return on investment (ROI)
The question remains: are cyber security boot camps worth it? Although there may be no precise metrical way to determine what is or isn't "worth it" to each individual, you may be able to roughly figure out the return on investment for cybersecurity bootcamps by examining the data of average salaries for cyber security bootcamp graduates.
Many bootcamps compile data on their graduates to track both their job placement rates and the salaries of their graduates that found jobs. This can be helpful in determining whether the monetary investment is worth it for you.
...students that reported their salaries before and after completing their cyber security bootcamp had an average salary increase of $12,228...
For example, Flatiron School's 2022 Jobs Report stated that their cyber security bootcamp graduates who accepted full-time salaried roles within the reporting period had an average starting salary of just over $67,000. Springboard said in their cyber security Student Outcomes Report that students that reported their salaries before and after completing their cyber security bootcamp had an average salary increase of $12,228—a little more than the price of tuition itself.
Other factors to consider
- Testimonials: It's always a good idea to read reviews from people who have actually completed the bootcamp to find out more about what it's like and whether they recommend it. Take extra note of reviews from students who may have entered the program with a similar background and goals as you.
- Learning outcomes: The goal of any bootcamp is of course to increase your knowledge and skills in order to advance your career. Research each program's curriculum and their learning outcomes to find out exactly what kinds of skills you should have after completing the course, and if those skills align with your professional goals.
- Job placement rates: Many bootcamps have data on the hiring or job placement rates of their graduates, which can be a strong indicator of the bootcamp's success in training its students for the cybersecurity workforce.
- Career services: Some bootcamps offer free career support for students that provide career advice and help students' job search. This is a great asset that you may want to look for in a program if you desire this kind of extra support.
Popular online cyber security bootcamps
With so many bootcamps out there to choose from, it may be difficult narrowing in on the program that's right for you. Here is a sample of just a few popular online cyber security bootcamps to begin your search, in no particular order:
Some certifying bodies recommend rigorous training prior to taking the test. Very often they have qualified independent training facilities across the nation and world to help you prepare. You may also be able to train for your examination online. The online option often works best for working professionals who don't have the time or desire to travel or commute for in-person training.
|Course name(s)||Cybersecurity Analytics Bootcamp|
|Who it's for||Beginners, no experience necessary|
|Time to complete||12 weeks for full-time; 26 weeks for part-time|
|Schedule||32.5 hours/week in class for full-time; 9 hours/week in class for part-time|
|Course name(s)||Cybersecurity Bootcamp|
|Who it's for||All experience levels|
|Time to complete||15 weeks for full-time; 40 weeks or less for part-time|
|Schedule||40 hours/week for full-time; Learn at your own pace for part-time|
|Course name(s)||Cybersecurity Bootcamp|
|Who it's for||All experience levels|
|Time to complete||Self-paced, can be completed in six months if you work 15-20 hours/week|
|Schedule||Learn at your own pace|
|Course name(s)||Ops and Cybersecurity|
|Who it's for||All experience levels; individual courses allow students to test in to the level they're at, from beginner to advanced|
|Time to complete||Courses can range between one and 23 weeks to complete|
|Schedule||Mixture of self-paced, full-time and part-time schedules depending on the course|
|Price||Course prices range between $99-$12,000|
Evolve Security Academy
|Course name(s)||Cybersecurity Bootcamp|
|Who it's for||Beginners, no experience necessary|
|Time to complete||20 weeks|
|Schedule||Part-time only, 10 hours/week in class|
The Tech Academy
|Course name(s)||Cyber Security Bootcamp|
|Who it's for||All experience levels|
|Time to complete||20 weeks full-time; 38 weeks part-time|
|Schedule||Student-directed flexible scheduling|
|Price||$18,000 for full-time; $22,040 for part-time|
Applying to cybersecurity bootcamps
Applying to a cyber security bootcamp is often much simpler than applying to a college or university for a degree program, even if the bootcamp is offered by an academic provider. It's important to know what to expect from the bootcamp experience and how it differs from traditional postsecondary education.
Cyber security bootcamps don't have a standardized admissions process, so it's best to check with the bootcamp directly to find out what they require. Most bootcamps require submitting a simple online application. Some may also have students take a basic skills test or participate in an interview.
A bootcamp's curriculum is often more than just checking off that you've learned certain important topics. Most curriculums provide a holistic experience that may include career support, mentorship or a host of other benefits to make the most of your time and effort.
- Take a look at the topics covered in a bootcamp's courses as well as their learning outcomes. Make sure you select a bootcamp whose coursework makes sense for your career goals and meets your skill level.
- Lab exercises:
- Labs are an essential part of applying your knowledge and practicing your skills. Research how many hours of lab exercises are included in a bootcamp's curriculum to make sure you're getting enough hands-on practice.
- Capstone project:
- Many bootcamps provide a chance to synthesize what you've learned into a final project and/or into a portfolio of work, such as a structured penetration test walkthrough. Having something like this to show to a future employer could be a great asset when looking for jobs later on.
- Career support:
- Ask a program whether they offer any career support services to students. Many bootcamps provide up-to-date, industry specific career guidance to students or some kind of mentorship program for one-on-one support.
- Certification prep:
- Research whether the bootcamps you are interested in include preparation for certain certification(s) as part of their program. Having a professional certification could expand your job prospects even more.
Although many bootcamps have similar courses that touch on the same topics, each bootcamp has its own unique sequential coursework. These courses may go by other names, but in general you can expect to find the following courses or topics within most cyber security bootcamps:
- Cyber security basics
- Network security
- Identity and access management
- Application security
- Security assessment and testing
- Security scripting
- Job and/or certification preparation
- Capstone/final project
If you're considering an online program, you should throughly research what that online experience entails. After all, not all online learning is the exact same.
- Delivery format:
- Online bootcamps may require that you tune in to live classes at specific times (synchronous learning) or have you access course materials independently at your own pace (asynchronous learning). Some may be a combination of both.
- Ask whether the bootcamp involves group projects or other opportunities to work with your peers, and whether there is a way to stay in touch with classmates after graduation.
- Many programs have a mentorship service and/or access to personal instruction or guidance from an instructor or teaching assistant.
- Practice labs:
- Research what the practice labs are like in an online bootcamp—are they conducted in an online browser or are they hands-on? Will you get to practice the skills you'll actually need to succeed?
Some cyber security bootcamps partner with certifying organizations so that their students graduate with a particular certification, such as a CompTIA Security+ Certification. Others may not include this certification as part of their curriculum, but they may state that their course prepares you with the knowledge and skills needed to obtain a particular certification on your own after you graduate.
Certifications are an excellent way to boost up your resume on top of completing a bootcamp alone. Bootcamps that offer certifications may be worth extra consideration when deciding which bootcamp is right for you.
Financing your cyber security bootcamp education
Even though cyber security bootcamps typically cost less than most college degrees, they are still a sizeable investment in your future. To make matters a little more complicated, you cannot use federal financial aid such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to pay for bootcamps in nearly all cases since they aren't accredited programs like traditional degrees. Luckily, there are still many different financial aid options out there to help you pay for your cyber security bootcamp education, including scholarships, grants, payment plans and loans.
Cyber security bootcamps have the potential to advance your career substantially. Although graduating from a cyber security bootcamp does not guarantee employment, many bootcamps have impressive hiring rates for their students. Additional education such as a cyber security degree can make you a particularly competitive job candidate—it all depends on the types of roles and organizations that interest you.
Hiring rates of cybersecurity bootcamp graduates
Cybersecurity bootcamps can be an excellent way to propel you directly into a rewarding cybersecurity career, and many bootcamps have the numbers to prove it. When searching for a bootcamp, see if they have any data on the hiring rates of their graduates. Many bootcamps display this information openly. Check out the hiring rates for some popular cybersecurity bootcamps below:
Flatiron School: Of their 187 cybersecurity graduates in 2022 who completed a job search cycle, 71% accepted a job offer within 180 days
Springboard: 92.4% of their job-qualified individuals received a job offer within 12 months of graduation (82.5% within six months)
Cyber security careers for bootcamp graduates
If you choose to complete a cyber security bootcamp, you may qualify for numerous entry-level cyber security roles. Although each employer is going to determine the qualifications for their positions, you might consider the following career paths after graduating from a cyber security bootcamp:
- Cyber security analyst:
- In this role, you'll be performing a wide range of cyber security duties. These duties center around developing, implementing, testing and maintaining the digital security of the company or organization you work for.
- Vulnerability assessor:
- Vulnerability assessors specifically seek out flaws in networks, computer systems applications and more to prevent cybersecurity attacks.
- Incident responder:
- As the name implies, incident responders respond to security incidents or cybersecurity attacks. Their goal is to contain and eliminate the threat, as well as determine how to prevent future incidents.
- Cyber security consultant:
- Consultants typically work for several companies or work for a company for a short period of time to analyze their digital security and then apply their expertise where needed. They may choose to specialize in areas such as network security, developing and hiring competent cyber security teams, risk assessment and more.
- Cyber security engineer:
- Cyber security engineers develop, implement and maintain the digital security infrastructure for a company or organization.
Explore degree programs in cyber security
Perhaps you've decided that you ultimately would like to get a formal cyber security degree instead of completing a bootcamp, or maybe you want to supplement what you learned in a bootcamp with a more traditional education. Either way, numerous schools offer cyber security degrees at practically every level of postsecondary education.
Associate degrees in cyber security
Time to complete: About two years
Associate degrees in cyber security are meant to prepare students for entry-level positions such as security technicians by teaching technology and cyber security basics. An associate degree can be an efficient and cost-effective way to enter the workforce, and can be an excellent stepping stone to a bachelor's degree later on.
Bachelor's degrees in cyber security
Time to complete: About four years
For many employers, bachelor's degrees are considered the educational entry-point into cyber security and other technology careers. Because they take longer to complete, they typically provide a more in-depth education compared to an associate degree. However, their length also reflects the additional classes that you'll have to take in other sciences and the humanities.
Master's degrees in cyber security
Time to complete: About two to three years
Getting a master's degree in cyber security could open up more advanced employment opportunities for a cyber security professional in this ever-growing field and make you a more competitive candidate for cyber security roles. In addition, people with master's degrees on average make more money that people who hold just a bachelor's. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree already and possibly some relevant work experience to qualify for graduate level programs.
Doctoral degrees in cyber security
Time to complete: Typically four to six years
For those who wish to take their academic foundation in cyber security to the highest level, a doctoral degree in cyber security may be right for you. In a doctoral program, you'll conduct research in state of the art cyber security methods and techniques. Although some professionals in senior and highly advanced roles may benefit from a doctoral degree, these are typically meant for people who are more interested in research and academia.
Computer science degree programs
Since cyber security is a discipline within the larger field of computer science, a computer science degree can be an excellent degree for cyber security professionals. In a computer science degree, you learn about many facets of computer and information technology such as computer software and hardware, programming, networks and security—all essential topics for a cyber security professional.
Frequently asked questions about cyber security bootcamps
How do I know if a cyber security bootcamp is right for me?
It depends on your personal and professional goals. If you know you want to work in cyber security or a related field, a bootcamp could be all you need to learn the skills needed to land an entry-level position. Bootcamps are also great options for people who may already have a degree in another field but don't want to invest the time and money into another one. You should consider your goals, existing education, available time and financial budget to determine if a cyber security bootcamp is right for you.
What is the typical duration of a cyber security bootcamp?
Cyber security bootcamps can usually be completed in approximately three to nine months.
Can I enroll in a cyber security bootcamp if I have no prior technical experience?
Absolutely. Many—if not most—cyber security bootcamps are designed for beginners with no prior technical experience unless they explicitly state that they are for people with some prior education and/or experience.
How much hands-on experience will I get in a cyber security bootcamp?
The amount of hands-on experience you get in a cyber security bootcamp depends on the provider, but you can rest assured that hands-on activities, projects and exercises are an essential part of cyber security bootcamp curriculums. Research programs' curriculums to find out more about what hands-on experience you can expect out of their bootcamp.
Can I work while attending a cyber security bootcamp?
This depends on the individual bootcamp. Most part-time bootcamps are meant to accommodate a professional life outside of the course.
What's the impact of cyber security bootcamps on diversity and inclusion in the field?
Cyber security bootcamps have the potential to make the field of cyber security more diverse and inclusive. Many bootcamps, for example, offer need-based scholarships specifically for historically underrepresented groups in cyber security, such as women, persons of color and LGBTQ+ individuals, in an effort to make the field more accessible and representative of the communities it serves. In addition, cyber security bootcamps usually have fewer prerequisites than a college degree and typically cost less and take less time to complete. This can make bootcamps much more accessible to a wider range of people than traditional postsecondary education.
Wrapping it up
Cyber security bootcamps are a growing alternative education option to train cyber security professionals. By having a more focused curriculum, taking less time to complete and costing less than most college degrees, many people are taking advantage of the benefits of cyber security bootcamps. Employers too are recognizing the value of cyber security bootcamps, meaning a successful career in cyber security may only be a few months away. Take the next step towards your future today by researching which cyber security bootcamps may be right for you.
Published: May 23, 2023