Cybersecurity bootcamps are a relatively new concept, the idea is that you condense a huge amount of learning into a short period (4-8 weeks typically) in order to get your candidates up to speed and at a certain level of proficiency in a short amount of time. Cybersecurity bootcamps have gotten more popular as people have realized the huge demand for Cybersecurity professionals globally. However, these bootcamps can be very expensive and you don’t want to waste money on something that doesn’t put you in a good position to get into the industry. The question becomes “Are Cybersecurity bootcamps worth it?”. The answer depends on a few different factors, to help you tell the difference between a good Cybersecurity bootcamp and those that aren’t worth the investment I put together a list of 6 things to look for in a good Cybersecurity bootcamp:
Given that a Cybersecurity bootcamp is a few weeks to a few months maximum you can’t expect to become an expert in all areas of Cybersecurity. A good Cybersecurity bootcamp will prepare you for a specific aspect of Cybersecurity, such as Incident Response, SOC analyst, Information Systems Analyst etc. If a bootcamp is preparing you with the skillset for a specific job role, firstly it’s a much more realistic and obtainable goal. Secondly, you will be much more marketable to employers because you will have a functioning skillset that meets their needs. Someone that completed a Cybersecurity bootcamp with no training in a specific area won’t really be a good fit for any jobs, but someone that was specifically trained in malware analysis for example will be a good fit for any job posting with malware analysis involved. You want to look for bootcamps that will put you in a specific stream of Cybersecurity and then you can branch out from there once you get into the industry.
One of the most common questions during a Cybersecurity interview is asking if you have experience working with the software that the hiring company uses. You want a bootcamp that will give you experience using some of the popular tools within the industry so that your skills will be transferable to the job market. You also want to make sure that this experience will be practical not just learning the theory or performing basic exercises that don’t translate to real world experience.
The next thing you want to look at after examining the material you will be learning is what type of support you get for getting into the industry. The goal of a bootcamp is to get into the industry quickly and this will be influenced by the connections your bootcamp has in the industry. Ideally, you want to get into a bootcamp that has companies who will hire the graduates directly once the bootcamp is completed. Some bootcamps can guarantee you that a certain percentage of their candidates will get job offers or interviews upon the completion of the bootcamp. If this is the case then all you need to do is be one of the best in the bootcamp, which isn’t hard if you focus for those 6-8 weeks and you are almost guaranteed a job. At the very least they should have dedicated counsellors that will help prepare you for interviews and help you once you graduate.
Alumni Track Record
Another important aspect of a bootcamp’s ability to get you placed is their track record. You want to know what percentage of their alumni are working within the industry, salary ranges, time it took to find placement and any other metric that they can provide. If possible, you may want to contact some of them and see what they had to say about the program, if they would recommend it or if they would recommend a different bootcamp if they could do it all over again. As an added benefit you may want to find out how they were able to finance it, some people may have tips on getting grants, scholarships or other government financing based on your situation and it may save you some money to talk to someone else who went through the same process.
Some bootcamp allow you to get industry recognized certifications as part of your learning. I would argue this is very valuable for giving your resume some legitimacy to employers that may not be familiar with your bootcamp. This can help you get an initial job after the bootcamp by giving employers confidence that what you learned was legitimate. Even as your career progresses that certification may still be valuable for years to come.
One of the most important aspects of career success is location. Getting a job, especially when you are new and inexperienced is really a numbers game, you want to be in an area where the demand for Cybersecurity professionals will be high. A couple good places to consider are San Francisco, New York city and Washington DC. You want to look for Cybersecurity bootcamps in areas like this so that upon graduation you will have many different jobs to apply for. If you do a bootcamp in a small market, even if the education is high quality it doesn’t do you much good if there are little or no jobs.
Cybersecurity bootcamps can be a good investment but it really depends on if you get a good one in the right location. If you follow the tips outlined in this article, ask questions, and use common sense you will give yourself a good chance to find a quality cybersecurity bootcamp that will advance your career. However, it’s important to understand that the pace at good and bad cybersecurity bootcamps will be very quick and to give yourself the best chance to break into the industry you need to be working hard. By working hard I mean in addition to the 8 hours of studying in the bootcamp, you should be doing 2-4 hours of studying at home to make sure you at in the top 10% of candidates at the bootcamp. Even at the best bootcamps everyone won’t be getting a job but the top 10% of candidates in most reputable bootcamps will get a job offer and you need to be in that 10% to make sure this investment works out for you.