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Best Online Cybersecurity Certificate Programs

Cybersecurity certificate programs provide students with credentials in software, programming languages, and web development, allowing them to begin or advance careers in their respective fields. Seasoned, midcareer professionals may also benefit from earning certificates.

Learners with computer science experience may kickstart a lucrative career by pursuing a cybersecurity certificate.

Holding a certificate in cybersecurity helps candidates stand out against their competition on the job market, potentially leading to new career opportunities.

Jobs in information security analysis continue to grow rapidly as demand for qualified professionals increases. This guide offers information about cybersecurity certificate programs for prospective learners, including expectations for online learning, selecting the best program, and a ranking of the top online cybersecurity programs.

Why Get an Online Certificate in Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity certificate programs provide a simple path to earning credentials in the field. Current cybersecurity professionals and those looking to enter the field can benefit from cybersecurity certificates. 

Certificate programs generally take less time to complete than associate degrees. These shorter programs offer learners and professionals a way to gain new skills, advance existing knowledge, and even test out new practice areas without committing to a full degree.

Employers may look favorably on candidates with certificates in the industry. As more companies move toward requiring bachelor's degrees for entry-level positions, a certificate can serve as a stepping stone toward a two- or four-year degree. As the cybersecurity field and other areas in information technology continue to grow and develop, professionals with skills relevant to those subjects enjoy increasing demand.

Consider these benefits to earning an online cybersecurity certificate.

Earn Additional Credentials
Seasoned professionals and new learners benefit from earning cybersecurity certificates. Many programs provide opportunities for certificates in specific programming languages and cybersecurity applications.
Career Advancement
Earning a cybersecurity certificate can provide the credentials you need to move up in your current career. With additional qualifications and the added experience of a certificate program, graduates may qualify for more advanced job roles.
Industry Growth
The IT and cybersecurity industries continue to grow more quickly than other industries in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a remarkable 33% growth in information security employment from 2020-30.

Top Online Programs

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Should You Get a Certificate or an Associate Degree?

Certificates and associate degrees in cybersecurity share many similarities. Choosing the best option depends on your career goals and the program that best serves them.

Learners seeking a more streamlined program featuring only courses in cybersecurity would benefit more from a certificate than an associate degree. Certificate programs emphasize key skills in a specific subject area, while associate degrees include general education courses outside the major field, extending the overall time to completion.

The table below compares cybersecurity certificates and associate degrees, featuring key elements of each option.

Comparing Certificate and Associate Programs

Cybersecurity CertificateCybersecurity Associate Degree
Program Length– Could range from one semester to a year

– Typically much shorter than an associate program
– Generally four semesters or two years

– Potentially completed faster with year-round enrollment
Course Requirements– Range from 9-30 credits

– Often includes 3-15 courses
Typically comprises at least 60 credits
CostCost depends on where courses are taken. Tuition per credit is likely the same for certificates and associate programs at most colleges– Varies widely depending on the institution

– Some free or discounted community college options in some states

– May ultimately cost more due to program length and credit requirements
FocusCourses specifically emphasize broad skills in cybersecurityCourse requirements include general education courses outside of the major area

Cybersecurity Certificates Versus Bootcamps

Bootcamps offer students a way to earn certificates or learn new cybersecurity skills in an intensive, accelerated learning workshop. Typically, bootcamps require a few months of study rather than a full semester or academic year. 

Cybersecurity bootcamps offer an efficient, effective method for learning new skills, softwares, or coding languages. These programs benefit seasoned professionals and new learners alike. Learners can choose programs that fit their specific goals based on their current experience levels.

Learn more about how bootcamps and cybersecurity certificate programs compare in the table below.

Comparing Certificate Programs and Bootcamps

Cybersecurity CertificateCybersecurity Bootcamp
Program Length– Typically 1-2 semesters

– Could take up to a year to complete
– Typically 3.5 months long or less

– Often takes less than one full semester
Cost– Cost varies by institution and credit requirements

– Could cost more than a bootcamp with tuition and fees
– Cost varies by program but typically ranges from $12,000-$20,000

– Some shorter bootcamps typically cost less (around $3,000)
Flexibility– Longer programs may require more time

– Can complete online, but may require some on campus work

– Enrollees can maintain their employment but may need to adjust enrollment
– Often fully online

– Shorter programs and less time commitment overall

– Continue working while enrolled
SpecializationCoursework covers broad cybersecurity foundationsHyperfocus on cybersecurity

What To Expect From an Online Cybersecurity Program

Online cybersecurity programs vary among schools, but many programs feature similar elements. A certificate program typically requires less time and fewer credits than an associate degree. Some students choose to earn certificates during their associate or bachelor's programs. Cybersecurity certificate programs generally require 3-30 credits. 

Earning a certificate from an accredited program allows students to easily transfer to other accredited institutions. Students can often apply these credits towards an associate or bachelor's degree in cybersecurity or related areas.

Cybersecurity certificate programs offer learners a way to test the waters of a new subject or skill area prior to committing to a full degree program. Online options provide a flexible alternative to on-campus tracks, with limited or no on-campus or in-person requirements. The shorter nature of certificate programs also contributes to a lower overall cost.

Admissions Process

Admission requirements for cybersecurity certificate programs generally vary based on the type of institution. For instance, certificate programs offered by two-year colleges may maintain different admission requirements than four-year schools.

Programs at two-year colleges typically require official transcripts demonstrating high school or undergraduate experience, along with SAT or ACT scores. Some schools and programs may also look for applicants with experience in cybersecurity, IT, or related areas. Applicants typically must have earned GPAs of at least 2.0 in previous coursework for consideration.

Different Certificate Types

Learners can choose from a variety of cybersecurity certificate programs, each with its own advantages and benefits.

Online cybersecurity programs allow students to learn and complete coursework from anywhere and on their own time. Often delivered asynchronously, online programs offer maximum flexibility, allowing enrollees to maintain full-time employment. Hybrid cybersecurity programs require some in-person elements, with most courses still fulfilled online.

In addition to undergraduate and entry-level certificate programs, students may also pursue graduate-level professional programs. A learner with more experience who already holds a bachelor's would benefit from these options.

Cybersecurity certificates differ from certifications. Certifications, typically offered by learning institutes or companies in the field, focus on one specific skill and culminate in a certification exam. Certificates take a broader approach to cybersecurity and feature more classes in multiple areas.

Certifications often benefit current professionals who need additional credentials for new professional roles. These programs provide preparatory materials for certification exams.

Popular Cybersecurity Certificate Courses

Cybersecurity certificate programs cover many different topics and skills. Depending on the specific focus of the program, enrollees may encounter courses in different fields. Typically, programs include required core courses and additional elective courses students can tailor to their interests. The courses below serve as examples of courses often featured in cybersecurity programs.

This course examines the tools and infrastructure in safeguarding networks, including firewalls, VPNs, and intrusion detection programs. Learners prepare to manage, build, and navigate network security systems to protect networks from threats and breaches.
This general introduction course explores new and evolving tools and cyberthreats, existing and newly developed systems and processes, methods for managing and protecting data, and examining software through a data protection lens. Students gain a basic, foundational understanding of key concepts in cybersecurity.
Coursework focuses on the process of criminal investigations in data and software. Students learn methods of investigation and how to use scientific processes to conduct inquiries for computers, cloud servers, and mobile devices.
Enrollees learn the current policies in place for cybersecurity investigations, along with protections for internet users, businesses, and merchants. The course covers intellectual property, risk mitigation, and handling threats and compromised data.
This course introduces the basics of cloud storage and computing, emphasizing privacy and security procedures for cloud-based data. Students consider foundational topics in cloud security, threats to cloud-based data, designing and implementing security frameworks for cloud networks, and various policy requirements for those frameworks.

How Much Do Cybersecurity Certificates Cost?

The cost of a cybersecurity certificate varies based on the type of institution, delivery method, location, and program length. The average annual cost for required tuition and fees at a public, two-year college for full-time students reached $3,564 for the 2018-19 academic year. Because certificates generally require around two semesters to complete, this cost can potentially serve as an approximate average for in-state students seeking certificates at these institutions.

Cybersecurity certifications offered by private learning institutions like CompTIA can range from $300-$1,000 for study materials and the required exam. Bootcamps typically cost more than $10,000 but offer a shortened, accelerated format.

Tuition costs generally exclude materials like devices, hardware, and textbooks. Students pursuing certificates at colleges or universities can take advantage of federal financial aid to help lower their financial burden.

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Jobs You Can Get With a Cybersecurity Certificate

The information security analysis field continues to grow rapidly, demanding a constant flow of qualified professionals. The BLS projects that employment in the field will grow by 33% from 2020-2030, much faster than the average 8% growth rate.

Although the BLS lists many computer and cybersecurity professions that may require a bachelor's degree, many employers in these sectors may look just as favorably on experience and certificates. Information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020.

A cybersecurity certificate alone does not qualify candidates for roles requiring bachelor's degrees, but it can help bolster a resume in a competitive job market.

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts work within businesses and organizations to develop security frameworks and protect data. They investigate violations or security breaches, maintain firewalls and other data protection systems, and assist employees with computer and device security. These analysts work in many industries and sectors.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +33%
  • Median Annual Salary: $103,590

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists work for information technology and computer companies to provide assistance to users. They help customers troubleshoot and fix issues, install software, and learn to use device features. Some companies employ these specialists to assist company employees with computer training and software maintenance.

  • Required Education: Some postsecondary education or computer training
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $55,510

Web Developers

Web developers work with individuals and businesses to design and create websites. They must possess a strong working knowledge of coding languages and web development software, often with some knowledge in graphic design. They create and code websites, along with monitoring usage and traffic. They mend coding issues and handle malfunctions and crashes.

  • Required Education: Associate degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +13%
  • Median Annual Salary: $77,200

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer system analysts work with companies to increase the efficiency of their existing computer and network systems. They apply a foundational understanding of business to the principles of information technology.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $93,730

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and implement networks for use in business. They may create a system for a specific office or design systems and infrastructures used across multiple servers and locations. These professionals also create network security systems and monitor breaches.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
  • Median Annual Salary: $116,780

Selecting the Right Online Cybersecurity Certificate

Our list of the best online cybersecurity certificate programs offers a great place to begin your research. However, every student should also carefully consider the following factors when searching for their program:

Potential for Further Education
Consider whether you want to eventually build off of your certificate and work toward an associate or bachelor's degree and select a program that allows for this growth.
Type of Program
Think about whether you want to pursue a certificate or a more long-term program. This can help you decide whether to enroll in a program at a college, with a certifying organization, or in a bootcamp.
Cost and Available Aid
Certificate or diploma programs at community colleges may cost significantly less than bootcamp programs. Determine your budget and how much you want to spend, along with any available financial aid options for each program.
Admission Requirements
Some bootcamp or certificate programs may require prior knowledge or experience in cybersecurity or information technology. Choose a program that best accommodates your knowledge and experience level.
Job Requirements
If you have a specific career in mind, consider the education requirements for that career and choose a program based on that goal.

The Best Online Cybersecurity Certificate Programs

The rankings below feature the 15 best online cybersecurity certificate programs. We ranked these fully accredited programs based on factors like affordability, reputation, and overall academic excellence. Learn more about our methodology below.

Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Cybersecurity Certificates Have in Common

Although academic experiences vary by school, many top cybersecurity certificate programs share several similar characteristics.

  • They are accredited. All schools on our rankings list hold regional accreditation. Regional accrediting bodies assess the quality and rigor of each school's academic programs to ensure the institution meets strict quality standards. The regional accrediting bodies featured on this ranking list include:
    • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • They represent academic excellence. We rank our schools and programs based on proven academic rigor and excellence. This includes expert faculty, high retention and graduation rates, and proven graduate success in job placement. For instance, Champlain College offers the InSight Program, designed to help students succeed and focus on their career as they take courses.
  • They are reputable. The schools featured in our rankings have strong reputations and prestige. To determine a school's prestige, we examine factors like acceptance rate, admissions yield, and average earnings of graduates after six years. Kennesaw State University, for example, only accepts about half of its applicants each year, which indicates the competitive school's programs are highly sought-after.
  • They are affordable. When ranking the best cybersecurity programs, we looked for high-quality programs with affordable tuition rates. We measure affordability based on net price, the loan default rate for graduates, the percentage of students with scholarships or federal aid, and the average amount of aid awarded. Many schools offer great financial aid options for students to make their degree more affordable. At Elmhurst College, for example, 100% of students receive some form of financial aid.
#1

Champlain College

School Information
Location Burlington, Vermont
Admission Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 65%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The certificates and programs at Champlain College help professionals advance their careers and pursue new opportunities. The institution features on-campus programs and 60 online programs, including a cybersecurity fundamentals undergraduate certificate.

Online learning allows students to work full time while earning their degrees. As an accredited school, the institution can distribute federal financial aid. A total of 2,301 online learners enroll at the school. Learners take core computer forensics courses and receive specialized training.

Champlain College Facts:

Certificate Programs Available: 19

Number of Certificate Programs Online: 19

Average Per-Credit Price: $329

Transfer Credits Permitted: No

The school features an undergraduate admission rate of 85% and reports a graduation rate of 65%. Champlain College is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

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#2

St. Petersburg College

School Information
Location Clearwater, Florida
Graduation Rate 33%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The certificates and programs at St. Petersburg College help professionals move into new careers or advance in their current field. The cybersecurity certificate is offered by the school to accommodate students interested in topics like auditing tools and information assurance.

Learners can access the institution's student support services online and in person. Professional tutoring helps learners excel academically. The school enrolls a total of 16,980 online learners. Program coursework teaches core information in network security basics.

St. Petersburg College Fast Facts:

Total Certificate Programs Offered: 54

Total Online Certificate Programs: 15

Offers Transfer Credits: No

The school reports that 33% of students graduate. St. Petersburg College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting agency.

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#3

Minnesota West Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Granite Falls, Minnesota
Graduation Rate 45%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Granite Falls-based Minnesota West Community and Technical College is a public school. The institution offers 23 online certificate programs, including an information security certificate.

The school’s affordability is a key factor in student enrollment. Applicants must send school transcripts for admission. The institution enrolls a total of 1,671 online students. Program curriculum teaches core information assurance topics and specialized training.

Minnesota West Community and Technical College At a Glance:

Total Certificate Programs Offered: 71

Number of Online Certificate Programs: 23

Price Per Credit: Unavailable

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

The institution reports that 45% of students graduate. Minnesota West Community and Technical College has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting agency.

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#4

Hinds Community College

School Information
Location Raymond, Mississippi
Graduation Rate 33%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Raymond-based Hinds Community College is a public institution. The cybersecurity technology certificate is offered by the school to accommodate students interested in secure information technology infrastructure.

The school offers an affordable education; admission requires students to submit school transcripts. Busy students and working adults benefit from the information assurance program's convenient format.

Hinds Community College Information:

Number of Certificate Programs Offered: 63

Number of Online Certificate Programs Offered: 11

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

The school reports that 33% of students graduate. Hinds Community College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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#5

Anne Arundel Community College

School Information
Location Arnold, Maryland
Graduation Rate 28%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Anne Arundel Community College offers certificates and programs that prepare graduates for new careers or advancement in their current field. The school offers on-campus programs and 12 online programs, including a cyber technology certificate.

Online learning allows degree-seekers to work full time while completing their studies. Since the institution holds accreditation, it can issue federal financial aid. Like on-campus students, online students work with advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff. The virtual classroom setting lets learners interact with faculty and peers through a distance-learning format.

Anne Arundel Community College Facts:

Total Certificate Programs Offered: 65

Number of Online Certificate Programs: 7

Awards Transfer Credits: No

The institution reports a 28% graduation rate. The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cybersecurity Certificates

Is cybersecurity a good career?

Yes. Employment in the field continues to grow rapidly, making right now an ideal time to earn your credentials and start a career. Professionals in this field also earn a generous median salary.

What's the difference between a cybersecurity certificate and certification?

Certifications generally highlight a specific skill, such as certain coding languages, and are bestowed by independent companies. Schools deliver certificate programs, which offer more broad knowledge of a field.

How much does a cybersecurity program cost?

Costs for cybersecurity programs vary widely based on factors like program type, school type, and program length. They range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand or more. Some programs offer financial aid options for students.

Can you get a job in cybersecurity with a certificate?

Yes. While some employers may specifically seek candidates with degrees, others may look for applicants with specific training developed in a certificate program and relevant experience. This varies from employer to employer.

Is a certificate in cybersecurity worth it?

Yes. Graduates can enter a rapidly growing industry and establish a background to eventually pursue higher degrees. Certificates provide pathways to the job field and further education.

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