Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

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Updated January 31, 2023

Certificate programs in cybersecurity help learners develop knowledge and enhance their career prospects. Explore their key features with this student-focused guide.

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With a cybersecurity certificate, graduates can pursue entry-level roles and promotions in the field. Learners may spend less time and money completing certificate programs than cybersecurity degrees.

Certificate-seekers can also enhance their existing education with cybersecurity certificates for career advancement.

Cybersecurity dates back to the 1970s, to the first computer systems. Technological advancements in the following decades led to the creation of the internet, paving the way for cyberattacks.

The industry continues to grow as cyberthreats become more prominent and sophisticated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 35% growth for information security employment from 2021-2031.

Why Get a Cybersecurity Certificate?

The need for cybersecurity became clear in the 1970s and 1980s as computer systems advanced. With the internet, cyberattacks began to threaten computer and network security.

Since the 1987 birth of the first antivirus product, the cybersecurity industry has grown exponentially. Experts project a global market worth $345.4 billion by 2026.

The need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. The industry requires many positions specializing in different cybersecurity areas. For example, security analysts, penetration testers, and information security officers all fall within the cybersecurity umbrella.

These professionals work in various industries. Along with technology companies, manufacturing, healthcare, and government organizations hire cybersecurity experts.

A cybersecurity certificate can help prospective professionals pursue entry-level positions in the field.

A certificate may also bridge the gap between a degree's curriculum and specific job-required skills. Like coding bootcamps, cybersecurity certificate programs can be beneficial for career advancement.

The certificate's affordability compared to a degree can make it an attractive option. Certificates may also fulfill some employers' continuing education requirements with less of a time commitment than a degree.

  • Career Recognition: Whether they're entering the field or seeking promotions, certificates demonstrate professionals' knowledge and skills for cybersecurity positions. While not often required for employment, a cybersecurity certificate can help candidates stand out from their competition.
  • Specialized Skills: Cybersecurity degrees cover computing, security, and response topics. Some certificate programs concentrate on one focus area, like ethical hacking.
  • Time-Saving Education: A prospective professional can sometimes enter the field with a cybersecurity certificate. These programs often take less time to complete than a full degree. Some certificate credits may also transfer to a degree, saving time and money.

Careers for Certificate Holders

A cybersecurity certificate from a reputable school qualifies candidates for multiple entry-level roles. New cybersecurity professionals can climb the ladder with additional training and experience, and by obtaining professional certifications.

Many advanced cybersecurity roles offer high pay. For example, Payscale reports average annual salaries of $133,360 for security architects and $185,000 for cryptographers as of December 2022.

For most professionals, advancing into these roles — and their pay rates — takes time. Cybersecurity programs help ambitious candidates lay the foundations for future career development.

Graduates of certificate programs can begin their journey in junior positions, such as:

Computer Security Specialist


Computer security specialists tend to work in IT or cybersecurity departments. Their duties revolve around installing, maintaining, and updating system and network security tools. If a security incident occurs, computer security specialists may also participate in frontline efforts to neutralize the attack.

Required Education: Cybersecurity certificate or undergraduate cybersecurity degree

Job Outlook (2021-31): Not available

Average Annual Salary: $78,460

Penetration Tester


Penetration testers ("pen testers") evaluate computer systems and networks. They use specialized tools to probe for the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that hackers and cybercriminals exploit.

Required Education: Cybersecurity certificate plus knowledge of hacking tools and strategies, or a bachelor's degree in computer science or cybersecurity

Job Outlook (2021-31): +35%

Average Annual Salary: $90,140

Health Information Technician


Health information technicians and technologists specialize in safeguarding digital patient data. They analyze client or employer technology requirements, create and secure databases, and generate security reports. Some roles also involve analyzing patient data.

Required Education: Cybersecurity certificate or undergraduate cybersecurity degree, plus a relevant background in health informatics

Job Outlook (2021-31): +17%

Median Annual Salary: $55,560

The Best Cybersecurity Certificate Programs

Launch a cybersecurity career in 2023 with one of the five certificate programs listed below. These short programs can help prepare you for industry certifications, entry-level tech positions, or further education.

The following link explains how we ranked these cybersecurity certificate programs.

#1 Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

Everett Community College

  • Everett, WA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1941, EvCC serves a diverse student population in Snohomish County, Washington. The college's several locations include a university center for bachelor's and master's degree programs. 

Cybersecurity Analyst Certificate

Each of Everett Community College's four IT certificate options aligns with specific industry certifications. Students completing the cybersecurity analyst certificate can earn CompTIA's CySA+ and PenTest+ certifications. 

This certificate program includes three classes: digital forensics, network defense, and ethical hacking and countermeasures. Students explore topics like computer crime, intrusion detection, and wireless-based encryption.

The final lab-intensive class covers ethical hacking basics. Students begin exploring skills needed for EC-Council's certified ethical hacker credential. 

This advanced certificate program requires five prerequisite classes. Learners must complete courses in IT, networking, and server administration fundamentals before taking the network defense class. 

Applying to EvCC

Candidates complete a 10-minute online application, providing basic personal and educational information. EvCC does not charge an application fee.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Tuition: $118/credit (in state); $306/credit (out of state) 
  • Required Credits: 15
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,717
Out-of-state
$9,108
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
7,580
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#2 Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

Forsyth Technical Community College

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Forsyth Tech serves North Carolina's Stokes and Forsyth counties with nine campus locations and over 20 online programs. Students can select from 66 certificate programs, including several in information technology.

IT - Cybersecurity

Forsyth Technical Community College's IT certificate features several emphases, including systems security and network management security. The cybersecurity concentration aligns with Forsyth Tech's corresponding associate degree. 

This cybersecurity certificate program includes five courses covering topics like computer crime investigation, ethics and high technology, and cybercrime law. Students learn to identify cybercrime and investigate it ethically. 

Two courses include lab hours: computer crime investigation and data recovery techniques. Enrollees practice gathering information, preserving evidence, and recovering lost files. They learn to restore stolen data and collect evidence.

Applying to Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Tech does not require test scores or an application fee. Students complete a residency determination form before submitting an online application and high school or college transcripts. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $76/credit (in state); $268/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 16 credits
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$1,992
Out-of-state
$7,008
Retention Rate
59%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
7,587
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
87% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

Zane State College

  • Zanesville, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

ZSC combines stewardship, quality, and equity to support student success. The college's degree programs include transfer degrees for students pursuing a bachelor's at partner institutions. 

Cybersecurity Certificate Program

Zane State College's cybersecurity certificate prioritizes practical learning. Most of the program's five core classes align with industry certifications from CompTIA, EC Council, and Microsoft.

Enrollees choose a technical elective for their sixth class. They can select from three networking courses, including a class focused on the Cisco certified technician credential. 

Students interested in further education can continue with an online associate degree in cybersecurity. The school also offers a 3+1 pathway to a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity. Learners complete three years at ZSC before finishing the online degree at Franklin University.

Applying to ZSC

Students complete an online application and submit high school or college transcripts. ZSC uses ACT or Accuplacer scores to determine math and reading placement. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $189/credit (in state); $371/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 18 credits
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,370
Out-of-state
$10,530
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,223
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

Ferris State University

  • Big Rapids, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1884, FSU provides several educational paths, from undergraduate certificates to doctoral programs. Students can complete many of these programs online.

Cybersecurity Certificate

Ferris State University offers two cybersecurity certificate programs. One focuses on ethical hacking and helps prepare students for CompTIA's Security+ certification and EC Council's certified ethical hacker credential. The other takes a broader approach and equips learners with the skills to pursue several industry certifications.

This general cybersecurity certificate program includes four classes that cover topics like network security, digital forensics, and secure digital technologies. Before beginning these, students must complete a prerequisite course in digital security awareness.

Program graduates can continue their education with FSU's ABET-accredited bachelor's degree in information security and intelligence.

Applying to FSU

Students complete a free 15-minute online application and submit high school transcripts showing a 2.35 minimum GPA. FSU does not require test scores for applicants with 60 college credits or college-level English and math courses. Other applicants need a minimum score of 16 (ACT) or 900 (SAT).

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $467/credit
  • Required Credits: 12
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$12,768
Out-of-state
$12,768
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
11,165
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
81% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Certificates in Cybersecurity 2023

Wayne County Community College District

  • Detroit, MI
  • 2 years
  • Campus

WCCCD includes multiple campuses across Michigan's Wayne County. Since 1967, the district has delivered career-focused programs, including several associate degrees and certificates in computer science. 

Cybersecurity Certificate

Wayne County Community College District's cybersecurity programs follow the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education's framework. Learners can choose a one-year cybersecurity certificate program or one of three short-term certificate programs that require 10-16 credits. The latter align with industry certifications from CompTIA and EC Council.

The longer cybersecurity certificate program combines coursework from the shorter options into a comprehensive curriculum. Learners also take two general education English courses, plus a computer applications in business class. 

Students practice learned skills with virtual simulations and cybersecurity video games. Upon completion, learners can continue with WCCCD's associate degree in cybersecurity or pursue careers in areas like digital forensics, incident response coordination, and vulnerability assessment. 

Applying to WCCCD

WCCD offers open admission. Students complete an online application and orientation process before attending a cybersecurity program information session. Applicants must also submit a reference letter and complete placement tests. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $109/credit (in district); $118/credit (in state); $149/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 32
  • Program Length: 1 year
Average Tuition
In-state
$2,839
Out-of-state
$3,574
Retention Rate
47%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
10,748
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

What to Expect From a Certificate Program in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity certificates can help bridge gaps in industry knowledge. Entry-level professionals often pursue certificates to gain skills to begin or change careers.

In other cases, cybersecurity certificate programs build on existing, specialized skill sets. Enrollees may choose these programs to increase their earning potential or qualify for career advancement.

Certificate programs often take between 6-18 months to complete, depending on the program's scope and intensity. Entry-level programs and coding bootcamps tend to have the shortest durations.

Enrollees should expect to complete the equivalent of about 12-40 credit hours. Certificate-holders may be able to transfer their earned credits to an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree program.

Students pursuing cybersecurity certificates can expect to gain data analytics, network security, and ethical hacking skills. Some graduate-level programs also dive into legal principles and advanced threat defense tactics.

Programs are available online, on-campus, and in hybrid formats. Various delivery options, like synchronous and asynchronous classes, allow certificate-seekers to choose educational pathways that fit their needs.

Admissions Process

The cybersecurity certificate admissions process differs among schools and certificate levels. Entry-level certificate programs often do not require prerequisite courses or experience.

Some institutions offer cybersecurity certificate programs for undergraduate or graduate students.

These programs build on fundamental computing skills and prior knowledge of programming languages like Python and Java, and have varying prerequisites.

Some schools are open to candidates with college-level computer science or technology credits. Others require a computer science degree or the equivalent, and/or professional experience.

Certificate program enrollees may need to submit transcripts or test scores, like the GMAT or GRE. Many certificate programs, especially at the graduate level, require a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Different Certificate Types

Computer science certifications demonstrate that a candidate's knowledge and skills meet industry standards. Certification students often prove this proficiency by passing an exam.

In contrast, a certificate program demonstrates a learner's industry-specific educational background.

Online learning perks include flexible scheduling and convenient course delivery. Online students can attend synchronous courses with their peers at scheduled times. Asynchronous classes allow enrollees to complete coursework at their convenience.

In-person programs work best for students who prefer face-to-face learning. Certificate-seekers who desire practical experiences and self-paced coursework might prefer hybrid programs, which blend online and in-person formats.

Schools also provide certificates at different educational levels. Entry-level certificates often accept students without prior industry experience or education.

Degree-holders and current professionals can pursue graduate certificates in other fields or advanced roles in their current careers.

Popular Cybersecurity Certificate Courses

Cybersecurity certificate programs cover topics including security fundamentals, risk management, principles of incident response, and cyberattack containment techniques. They often begin with introductory computing topics before transitioning to more advanced theory and principles.

Cybersecurity certificate students commonly encounter the following courses:

  • Security Essentials: Learners explore and build proficiency with fundamental cybersecurity tools and techniques. This course may include hands-on instruction in a computer lab environment.
  • Ethical Hacking: This course teaches students to identify security vulnerabilities in computer systems and software. Cybersecurity professionals use these skills to improve organizations' network security.
  • Risk Management: Professionals reduce risk for organizations by identifying cybersecurity threats and providing solutions. Risk management courses guide learners to recognize and respond to common threats.

How Much Do Cybersecurity Certificates Cost?

Schools often charge a per-credit or per-course fee for cybersecurity certificate programs. Students can expect to pay $6,000-$15,000 for a cybersecurity certificate.

Tuition depends on the program's length, number of courses, and education level. Rates also vary among public and private schools, in-state and out-of-state status, and online vs. in-person format.

Some programs may charge fees for books, technology, and applications. In contrast, cybersecurity bootcamps may roll all costs into one price that often compares to a cybersecurity certificate's tuition.

Federal financial aid may cover some certificate programs through loans and grants. Learners eligible for veterans' education benefits may apply their funds toward approved programs.

Certificate-seekers should also check with prospective schools to discuss financing options, which may include monthly payments, discounts, or tuition deferment.

Choosing the Right Cybersecurity Certificate for You

Many quality schools offer campus-based and online cybersecurity education. Choosing the right certificate program demands careful evaluation of the factors most important to you.

Every student faces a different journey, but examples of common considerations include:

  • The school or program's reputation
  • Job placement rates for graduates
  • Program length, location, and delivery format
  • Whether the certificate qualifies the learner for entry or advanced standing in cybersecurity degree programs

Learners should also investigate the accreditation status of certificate programs hosted at degree-granting institutions. In addition to institutional accreditation, candidates can seek programs with optional endorsements.

Examples include ABET accreditation and standing with the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity.

Should You Get Your Cybersecurity Education Online?

A cybersecurity online education blends flexibility with in-demand skills training. Fully online cybersecurity certificates can benefit learners with careers and personal responsibilities.

While the online experience works for some students, others may prefer in-person learning. These classes allow for direct peer-to-peer and instructor interaction.

Certificate-seekers should also decide if an online program's cost, class schedules, and curriculum quality align with their schedules and goals. Students with strong self-discipline, motivation, and technology skills can excel in online programs.

Should You Pursue a Cybersecurity Degree, Certificate, or Bootcamp Program?

Cybersecurity certificates, associate degrees, and bootcamps have many similarities, making it challenging to decide on the best option. Knowing each program's differences can help prospective enrollees identify their ideal pathway.

An associate degree offers a general cybersecurity curriculum. In contrast, a certificate concentrates on a specific area. Meanwhile, a coding bootcamp can provide more intensive skills in a shorter time period.

The following table compares certificates, associate degrees, and bootcamps.

Comparing Certificate, Associate, and Bootcamp Programs
Comparison Point Cybersecurity Certificates Cybersecurity Associate Degrees Bootcamp Programs

Program Length

6-18 months

Two years

A few months

Course Load

12-40 credits

60 credits

Typically a few courses on focused topics like ethical hacking or network security

Types of Classes

All cybersecurity-focused courses, like security fundamentals and response techniques

General curriculum courses, like writing and algebra, plus cybersecurity classes

Introductory to intermediate cybersecurity courses designed to advance beginner knowledge; may also include a mix of programming and networking topics

Program Goal

Target a key area of cybersecurity to build fundamental skills or fill in knowledge gaps

Provide a foundational skill set to transfer to a bachelor's degree or secure entry-level employment

Allow learners to gain practical and technical skills to begin a cybersecurity career

Average Cost

$6,000-$15,000

$18,000-$26,000

$11,000-$18,000

Alternate Paths for Studying Cybersecurity

Bachelor's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Bachelor's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Master's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Master's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Doctoral Degrees in Cybersecurity

Doctoral Degrees in Cybersecurity

Bootcamp Programs in Cybersecurity

Bootcamp Programs in Cybersecurity

FAQ About Certificate Programs in Cybersecurity

  • Is a cybersecurity certificate worth it?

    Yes, depending on your goals. A cybersecurity certificate can help candidates transition to higher degree levels. It can also lead to career advancement and higher salaries by delivering specialized knowledge in the field.

  • Is a certificate in cybersecurity hard to get?

    Cybersecurity certificates may cover advanced topics that build on current computing knowledge. However, these programs do not include general subjects, like math and writing.

  • Can you get a job with a cybersecurity certificate?

    Some employers may hire certificate-holders who do not possess degrees, especially if the candidate has prior cybersecurity experience. Graduate-level certificates can also lead to advanced opportunities and higher salaries. Undergraduate certificates allow candidates to pursue entry-level jobs.

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

    A cybersecurity certificate indicates the holder's successful completion of an academic program. Cybersecurity certifications are professional credentials bestowed by third-party agencies. They endorse the certified individual's advanced skills in a targeted area of cybersecurity practice.



Page last reviewed on Jan 3, 2023

The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by ComputerScience.org.

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