A Guide to the Best Online Cybersecurity Courses in 2020
Cybersecurity is a crucial part of the daily business routine for companies of all sizes, and it spans every industry from small retail shops to large financial and healthcare institutions. More importantly, as larger amounts of data are stored electronically and the use of apps, mobile devices, and IoT increases, the number of ways to hack, breach, and attack grows as well. The need to secure sensitive information is essential to a business's success, and as a result, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is skyrocketing in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for information security analysts is listed at 32% between 2018-2028. In computer design and related services, job growth is projected at 55%. The amount of cybersecurity jobs outnumbers the number of professionals available, and while this creates a positive job outlook for people with cybersecurity skills, it is also a cause of great concern for many companies.
Cybersecurity is a rewarding field to enter, especially considering the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals. However, since the field is constantly evolving, you should explore whether you have the background and interest to stay with it long-term before investing in the training and skills needed to enter the industry.
In this guide, we break down cybersecurity and everything you need to know about it, including what jobs are available and what skills you need to succeed. We also created a list of cybersecurity courses, which includes certification exam prep courses, free courses, courses for beginners, and courses offered by top-level universities.
Choosing the Best Online Cybersecurity Course
The cybersecurity course you take will depend on what area of cybersecurity you're interested in. Here are some questions that can help you discover which course can help you decide to pursue cybersecurity further or advance your skills:
- What are my ultimate career goals? (Think salary, position, or what skill level you'd like to achieve)
- What skills do I need to work as a cybersecurity professional, and do I have any of these skills already?
- How much money do I want to invest in new skills?
- How much time do I have to dedicate to cybersecurity courses?
- What courses best suit my learning style (e.g. scheduled or self-paced, live instructor or videos, available support community, hands-on practice, or challenges)?
Once you have your answers, look at our course guide for classes or platforms that meet your needs. The courses cover all levels, from beginners who need to learn the basics to industry professionals who are looking to advance their cybersecurity career.
If you have additional questions about cybersecurity, jump to our Cybersecurity FAQs at the end of our course list.
Guide to the Top Online Cybersecurity Courses in 2020
Certified Information Security offers multiple certification exam prep courses to trained cybersecurity professionals. Classes are either live and instructor-led or on-demand and pre-recorded, but they are all taught by industry professionals and online. Depending on which certification they are preparing for, students will complete training in areas such as information security management, fraud prevention, detection, and investigation, or enterprise risk management. Students can access one-on-one meetings and exam coaching sessions with their instructors by videoconference.
Certified Information Security's cybersecurity courses are:
- Exam prep in industry certification, including Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers free training courses in cybersecurity on their Virtual Learning Portal (VLP). As part of the Department of Homeland Security, CISA aims to inform and train individuals to understand, detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats through courses in cybersecurity best practices. All courses are delivered online in a self-paced format.
CISA VLP's cybersecurity courses are:
- Courses in specialized areas of cybersecurity, including information and infrastructure security, vulnerabilities, risk management, and IT defense.
In collaboration with leading universities and companies around the world, Coursera hosts a variety of courses in cybersecurity that are taught by professors and industry professionals. Online courses are offered individually or together in specialty area pathways. Topics of instruction include constructing secure systems, using encryption and cryptography, identifying vulnerabilities, preventing and responding to cyber threats and attacks, and penetration testing. Course lengths vary widely, from one week to eight months, and instruction is entirely self-paced. Most courses can be audited for free.
Coursera's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced, collegiate
- Specialized paths, including computer security and systems management, homeland security, system security design, and Google cloud platform security
- Free and paid
CyberVista offers a number of CompTIA certification prep courses for those who already have knowledge and training in the cybersecurity industry. Courses include content training videos, diagnostic exams, practice exams, and digital flashcards. Certification prep course areas include cloud security, ethical hacking, information systems security, and risk management. Students can also enroll in practice test courses, and all courses are offered online in a self-paced format.
CyberVista's cybersecurity courses are:
- Intermediate to advanced
- Exam prep courses for CompTIA certification in Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+), Cybersecurity Analyst+ (CySA+), PenTest+, Security+, and Network+
Cybrary offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced cybersecurity courses that may be taken individually or along a combined career path. Courses offer instruction in several specialized areas of cybersecurity knowledge and technologies, including ethical hacking, cyber threat intelligence, penetration testing, Python, and Kali Linux. Students seeking industry certification can enroll in exam prep courses, including areas of CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), and CompTIA CASP+.
Cybrary's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced
- Specialized areas, such as cybersecurity engineering, penetration testing, and security controls and exam prep in CompTIA, CISSP, and CISM
EdX hosts cybersecurity courses offered by leaders in higher education and from large corporations, including Microsoft, NYU, and the University of Washington. Courses may be instructor-led or self-paced. They range in length from 4-12 weeks. Course topics include cybersecurity basics, network security, vulnerability assessment, cyber-activism and cyberwar, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
EdX's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced, collegiate and professional
- Learning industry tools and practices, including cryptography, urban infrastructure security, and digital forensics
- Free and paid
The Cybersecurity Fundamentals course at Evolve Academy offers free, introductory instruction in the fundamentals of cybersecurity, providing a solid foundation for more advanced training in an immersive bootcamp. Students learn the basics of networking and securing data and gain experience in using the tools and technologies of the industry, including Linux, netcat, and Wireshark. Evolve Academy's CyberLAB simulation platform allows course participants the opportunity to apply their learning to real-world cybersecurity scenarios, and students can also learn how to create their own virtual lab on a home computer.
Evolve Academy's cybersecurity courses are:
- Bootcamp prep and specialization in Linux
Flatiron School's Hacking 101: Intro to Cybersecurity course is a free online course designed to introduce prospective bootcamp students to the discipline. Users gain an in-depth understanding of the major topics, tools, and techniques for protecting the hardware, software, and data of computer systems through instructional videos and practical exercise. The curriculum of the bootcamp prep course is open-source and live, providing students the most current and relevant cybersecurity information available. The exercises are performed in a virtual environment mirroring that which a professional cybersecurity analyst would use, allowing for real-world, hands-on learning.
Flatiron School's cybersecurity courses are:
- Bootcamp prep
Fullstack Academy's Linux Command Line for Beginners is a free online course introducing users to one of the most important tools in cybersecurity, the command line. The training video covers the first 25 hours of the Cybersecurity Bootcamp curriculum, with short lectures on the fundamentals of the command line delivered by one of Fullstack's instructors. The course also provides students resources and information on the language, concepts, and tools used in the industry. Course participants can practice applying what they have learned in the Capture the Flag game on Fullstack's CyberLab platform.
Fullstack Academy's cybersecurity courses are:
- Bootcamp prep programs
Heimdal Security offers a free, five-week Cybersecurity for Beginners course that provides a broad overview of the discipline. Students learn cybersecurity vocabulary, tools, technologies, viruses, and threat prevention measures. Students are also taught how to safeguard computer and network systems and data.
Heimdal Security's cybersecurity courses are:
- Cybersecurity overview course
LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, provides users a large number of courses and learning paths in cybersecurity. For a monthly subscription fee, users from beginner to advanced levels can access courses composed of content in a particular skill or knowledge area. Training videos provide instruction in a variety of modern cybersecurity topics, including constructing secure networks and identifying and mitigating cyber threats. Experienced professionals can also complete learning paths in preparation for industry exams in several certification areas, including CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+).
LinkedIn Learning's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced
- Courses in specialized areas and technologies of cybersecurity, including ethical hacking, cryptography, Linux, and Cisco
- One-month free trial, monthly and annual paid subscriptions, free for some library cardholders
Mission Critical Institute for Cybersecurity offers a seven-level online bootcamp in cybersecurity developed in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to exam prep courses. The goal of Mission Critical Institute is to provide students the advanced, career-aligned knowledge and training necessary to acquire industry certification. Completion of the bootcamp prepares students to take the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Authorization Personnel (CAP), and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification exams. Students seeking specific certification can choose, instead, to enroll in one or more of the individual CISSP, CAP, or CEH exam prep courses. Mission Critical Institute offers a free Cybersecurity Career Readiness Assessment, allowing students to determine their ability to successfully complete the bootcamp.
Mission Critical Institute's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to intermediate
- Exam prep bootcamp and courses for CISSP, CAP, and CEH certification
Open Security Training offers free, open-source cybersecurity courses in a variety of areas and levels. Users can choose from 29 courses at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels in highly specialized topics in cybersecurity. Courses include topics like secure coding, virtualization, hacking techniques, intrusion detection, vulnerability assessment, and malware analysis.
Open Security Training's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced
- Courses in specialized cybersecurity topics and tools, including reverse engineering software, hacking, cryptology, and network forensics
Pluralsight offers students the opportunity to begin or advance their careers with multiple cybersecurity courses and learning pathways. The curriculum includes security protocol design and implementation, ethical hacking, security event triage, and vulnerability management. Students choose from different cybersecurity courses depending on their level of knowledge and skill in the discipline, which is assessed through a free, five-minute test on the website. Courses can be combined into a learning pathway, providing in-depth and advanced instruction in a specific area of cybersecurity.
Pluralsight's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced
- Courses in specialized areas, including security architecture and engineering, cryptography, security operations, security software development
- Paid subscription, free trial
SANS offers self-paced and online cybersecurity courses in several specialized areas. Course topics include training and instruction in system vulnerability identification, networks, perimeters, and systems monitoring, data security law, incident response, threat detection, and reverse-engineering malware. Students have the opportunity to practice what they have learned about preventing and responding to cybersecurity threats in a safe environment with SANS' cyber range. Prospective students can also utilize SANS' Cyber Security Skills Roadmap to best determine their current level of experience and where best to begin their training.
SANS's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to advanced
- Specialized courses in cloud security, digital forensics, penetration testing, ethical hacking, and security management
Springboard's Introduction to Cybersecurity course offers instruction in the foundational fundamentals. No prior experience in the subject is required to enroll, and participants complete the course with the qualifications necessary to sit for the CompTIA Security+ certification exam. Students complete the 8-unit, self-paced course under the guidance of a mentor, gaining knowledge and skill in security architecture and technologies, threat identification, mitigation, and response, and network security tools and measures. Real-world, hands-on learning is supported through practice in identifying and mitigating system vulnerabilities in the network of a fictitious organization. The course takes an average of three months to complete.
Springboard's cybersecurity courses are:
- Certification prep in information security and risk management
Udemy offers over 300 online cybersecurity courses in a wide variety of specialized areas. Training videos range in length, the number of lectures, and experience levels. Courses include instruction in securing networks, identifying risks and vulnerabilities, preventing and responding to attacks, and training in the use of industry tools and technologies. Udemy also offers exam prep courses for industry certification, including Certified Information System Security Manager (CISSM), CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst+, CompTIA Security+, and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
Udemy's cybersecurity courses are:
- Beginner to expert
- Courses in specialized areas and how to use the cybersecurity tools, including ethical hacking, penetration testing, computer forensics, blockchain, Kali Linux, and Cisco CCNA
- Free and paid
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the process in which people and technology protect organizations, networks, devices, programs, and data from digital attacks. Some examples of ways security is compromised are malware, phishing, DNS tunneling, or man-in-the-middle attacks. These attacks can happen through mobile devices, gaming systems, websites, emails, and more. Because of the increasing frequency and range of ways that cyberattacks can occur, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand and are seen as a critical role for businesses.
Do I need a Cybersecurity Certification?
Cybersecurity professionals are usually required to have certifications, but the specific certification needed varies by company and position. There are many available, but the most in-demand professional certifications include:
- CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
- CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
- CompTIA Security+
- CISA (Certified Information Systems Monitor)
- CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
- CRISC (Certified Risk and Information Systems Control)
- SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner)
The cost and subject matter will be different for each certification, so it is important to think about which ones align with your career goals. With each certification you earn, you will become a stronger cybersecurity expert and will boost your credibility with potential employers.
Which cybersecurity certifications should I get?
The cybersecurity certifications you should get depends on your career route and specializations. However, there are many industry-standard certifications that can benefit entry-level cybersecurity professionals, such as Cisco CCNA, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA CySA+, and CompTIA Security+.
How do you become a cybersecurity professional?
There are several paths you can take to become a cybersecurity professional. The most traditional path is a degree program, but if you are looking for a faster and more affordable way, a cybersecurity bootcamp could be a great option. You can also take a certificate program, which is often offered by higher education institutions to gain professional skills. These courses are great for someone who already has a background in IT or programming.
What skills do you need in a cybersecurity job?
The skills cybersecurity professionals need will vary by job, but there are general skills that will help anyone in the field. It is important to know and understand IT fundamentals, databases, operating systems, and you should also be comfortable with programming languages such as C, Java, and Python, and communication, collaboration, analytical thinking, and persistence are important soft skills to have.
What Jobs Can You Get in Cybersecurity?
There are many jobs available in the cybersecurity field, and each requires a specific skill set. However, all require problem-solving and knowledge of hacking, fundamental computer forensics, and digital security. Here are some popular jobs in cybersecurity:
- Cybersecurity Engineer: Cybersecurity engineers design and implement security systems to defend against attacks, and they also track and monitor threats and develop a plan of defense. This is an intermediate to advanced-level position.
- Cybersecurity Consultant: Cybersecurity consultants are hired to attack the business's system to exploit the weaknesses and to create a security blueprint that defends it, preventing future hacks. This is typically a contract position.
- Cybersecurity Analyst: Cybersecurity analysts constantly monitor and track threats facing the business and look for any vulnerabilities in networks, apps, and devices. They use data to identify, analyze, and report on events. This is often an entry-level position.
- Cybersecurity Manager or Administrator: Cybersecurity managers or administrators oversee the implementation and monitoring of security for a focused area. They also deal with compliance, conduct audits, and build cybersecurity awareness within the company.
What is the average cybersecurity career salary?
Learn Cybersecurity Today
There are many cybersecurity courses available in 2020 and they are an excellent way to discover if the field is a good fit for you. They will also help you decide if you want to invest in a cybersecurity bootcamp, which will help you further develop your skills and expand your career options.