What Is an Online Cybersecurity Certificate Program? (Plus Advantages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Gain exposure to the technology field by pursuing a cybersecurity certificate from an online program. You can obtain firsthand knowledge of testing software applications and receive an endorsement of your hard work, which can help you find a job or secure a promotion. If you're considering this pursuit, it can be helpful to explore the purpose of the certificate and the steps for choosing a curriculum that aligns with your career goals and academic and financial interests. In this article, we define online cybersecurity certificate programs, explain the subjects you can learn and discuss the advantages of enrollment.

What is an online cybersecurity certificate program?

An online cybersecurity certificate program is a series of virtual coursework that teaches you how to protect computer networks in the digital space. It can boost your academic and professional qualifications for the technology industry. As a student, you can complete the assignments to learn various topics relevant to cybersecurity. When you're finished, you can receive a certificate, which represents that you've mastered the material and earned a satisfactory grade on the exams.

You can attach the endorsement to your resume to show employers that you're a qualified technology specialist. The programs can be useful for professionals who are entering the field for the first time or experienced employees aiming to pursue advanced roles.

What do you learn in an online cybersecurity certificate program?

Enrolling in virtual cybersecurity courses can expose you to the following topics:


Troubleshooting is a type of testing procedure that experiments with a system to ensure it works properly. In the workplace, technology specialists often troubleshoot as part of their computer maintenance responsibilities, where they identify malfunctioning with the software applications and strategize how to improve them. The cybersecurity program can teach you the basics of testing computer systems. You can learn how to appraise certain parts of the network and develop reports that explain your findings. The coursework can also teach you about troubleshooting to confirm that the security of the databases meets the company's standards.

Operating systems

An operating system is the overarching software application that shows the fundamental parts of a computer. It can be essential for professionals who work in cybersecurity to understand how to install and maintain the functions of operating systems. Use the curriculum to learn the basics of the software that enable it to respond to users' commands. The program may also provide opportunities to practice downloading operating systems and composing them to accomplish certain tasks.

Ethical hacking

Ethical hacking occurs when employees attempt to hack into their company's computer network to determine if they can breach the security measures. It channels the perspective of hackers and helps to identify vulnerable parts of the system. As a student in the cybersecurity program, you can learn how to identify when ethical hacking can be beneficial and the steps for practicing the procedure. You can also learn how to develop digital defense protocols for protecting confidential information inside databases. The curriculum may focus on using ethical hacking to protect particular programs and the entire computer system from unauthorized persons.

Cybersecurity measures

Cybersecurity measures can entail an assortment of protocols that authorize employees to access company data. An example includes login credentials, which are often designated usernames and passwords for visiting certain databases. The program can teach you how cybersecurity analysts track the usage of login details to determine what employee is accessing what information at certain times. You also learn authentication procedures, which refer to how the computer system approves users before displaying sensitive information. Other possible topics include ways to limit the availability of data and the steps of emergency response plans.

Related: Working in Cybersecurity: Definition, Careers and Skills

Why get a cybersecurity certificate?

Here are reasons that illustrate the advantages of obtaining a cybersecurity certificate online:

Transitioning from another industry

A certificate in cybersecurity can make you eligible for jobs in the technology industry, such as a cybersecurity analyst or information technology specialist. You can show employers you've undergone the proper training to protect sensitive company data. If you're aiming to transition from another field, then an online program can help you obtain the credentials your desired career may require.

It can also complement the educational background you may already have. For example, if you have a bachelor's degree in software engineering, then the cybersecurity certificate can represent your ability to safeguard the information on the computer applications that you built.

Related: Requirements for an Entry-Level Cybersecurity Job

Boosting your qualifications in less time

Another benefit of an online cybersecurity program is the smaller time commitment. The curriculums can span from one semester to one year, which is less time than what pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree requires. The virtual learning environment can also be convenient for you. Instead of traveling to a university campus to participate in the instruction, you can access the course content from the comfort of your own home.

The online aspect can widen your selection of programs. Since you don't have to worry about relocating to another city to attend the course in person, you can choose any certification training that's available and matches your interests.

Specializing your industry knowledge

The online curriculums specialize in cybersecurity, which means you can learn the exact topics that can help you acquire a new skill set. Associate and bachelor's degree programs often require courses outside of your chosen discipline, which may contribute to the longer time for you to graduate. The certification program is central to the technology field, allowing you to take part in relevant assignments immediately. You can also improve your abilities to reflect advancements in the industry, which may include new operating systems, programming languages and procedures against external threats.

Related: 11 Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners

How to choose a cybersecurity certificate program online

If you're interested in obtaining a cybersecurity certificate online, then consider following these steps to select a program that's right for you:

1. Identify your learning style

Your learning style is the ways you hear, comprehend and retain information, such as concepts from lectures and steps from video tutorials. It can be essential for you to enroll in a certificate program that exposes you to educational materials that cater to your preferences. Think about your availability to participate in assignments and prepare for the examination.

For example, if you prefer to learn the material at the same time as your classmates, then you might enroll in a program that delivers synchronous lessons. You can ask questions and receive immediate feedback from the instructor, and the times for class meetings can offer consistency in your schedule. If you want the flexibility to peruse the lessons when it's convenient for you, then a program with asynchronous lessons may be ideal for you. The instructor may post the course materials in advance, enabling you to access them and progress through the tasks whenever you deem fit.

2. Consider the length of the program

Contemplate the ideal time you would like to obtain your cybersecurity certificate. Once you find a program that interests you, access its website to find an estimate of how long it lasts. Then compare the estimate to your career aspirations to determine if you can commit to the material. It may be your objective to boost your qualifications quickly, so you search for a program that extends for six months. Another possibility can be that you want to enroll in a curriculum with a slower pace, so you choose a program that takes one year to finish.

Related: 10 Cybersecurity Analyst Certifications

3. Review your personal finances

It can also be important for you to evaluate how much your chosen program costs. Think about the amount of money you can reserve for funding your education. Every program may have different prices depending on the academic institution that oversees the courses and the extent of what you can learn. You can also consider how the program length can impact your finances, since the longer you're enrolled, the more money the curriculum may require you to spend.

Some employers may cover the costs of enrollment for their staff members, or reimburse the employees who pursued the certificate. If your organization offers a similar benefit, then you might a cybersecurity program that you know your position can fully fund.

4. Evaluate the coursework topics

When browsing the curriculums of different programs, pay attention to the learning topics to anticipate how the certificate can advance your career. Contemplate what you hope to gain from the coursework. For example, perhaps you want to acquire a specific skill to work as an administrator for an operating system, so you choose a curriculum that specializes in installing and maintaining systems software on computers.

Another prerogative may be to gain exposure to cybersecurity, which can help you find a career that aligns with your interests, so you select the program that has a broader selection of topics. Visualize the benefits of enrollment to discover a program that challenges you intellectually and professionally.

5. Check for transferrable credits

An additional advantage of enrolling in a cybersecurity program is acquiring course credits that can transfer to degree programs, such as two-year or four-year curriculums at universities. If you want to continue your education after receiving your certificate, then the transferable credits can save you time as you pursue the associate or bachelor's degrees. Contact the school you want to attend to find out if your credits are compatible with the advanced curriculum you want to enter, and choose the certificate coursework accordingly.

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