If you are considering a switch to a career in cybersecurity and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a boot camp and another few hundred on a certification test just yet, there are a lot of different options to consider. Making a career switch can be scary, finding low-cost or free ways to make the changes can take some of the fear out of the change.

5 Free Ways to Make the Switch to a Cyber Career

If you want to dip your toe in the cyber waters, consider the following options.

1. Enroll in some free courses.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers no cost training through the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) online program found here. It has been available to military, veterans, federal (to include contractors) state and local employees in a more structured format, but there is now a block of training for the public. The specific site for government agency employees is here, and the public site here.

2. Selectively pick some social media time.

While I try to avoid places like 4chan, I find interaction on forum sites like Reddit really gives me guidance on teaching material, research, current events, and practical knowledge. For those unfamiliar with Reddit, once you join, you may search for and join a specific “sub-reddit” on your topic of choice. Some of the better ones for the beginner are Career Questions , Cyber Jobs and Cybersecurity General Discussion. There are multiple other sub-reddits depending on your interests. For example, I frequent those relating to Cyber Law, Threat Intelligence, and Open Source Intelligence. For the most part (absent a few wise-ass knuckleheads), readers are very helpful and the forum is not for posting pictures of your kids, yourself when you were in high school, or memes. Instead, it’s discussion in its purest form.

3. Listen to a podcast – or two.

A few weeks ago, I outlined my favorite podcasts relating to cybersecurity. What I didn’t mention is there are a few relating to cyber careers and basic knowledge. Your Cyber Path is a podcast produced by Kip Boyle in which twice a month, he looks at very basic cybersecurity subjects or offers career advice. For example, this fall he had an episode titled From Truck Driver to Cybersecurity Analyst with Mike Hillman. There are several others, but Boyle’s seems to be one of the best when tackling the subject of starting from scratch.

4. Read a guidebook put out by the private sector or a government agency.

Before you think anything about this, let me just say I realize how boring this may sound. However, a guidebook can be filled with data and other information that makes you proclaim, “that’s what I want to do” or “that sounds absolutely awful and would require money or effort that is not available from me”. For example, this report on cybercrime authored by the Department of Justice found here contains a large amount of detail on how specific cybercrimes were investigated, operational practices, and a chronology of events.

5. Talk to someone in the field.

I am happy to visit with anyone interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity. While I am in academia, I have a good idea of the career paths needed to get into a designated field. If not me, then find someone who works in an area that interests you, such as the public sector, specialized threat intelligence companies, or cyber defense businesses.

Find Your Starting Point

While the above does not nearly encompass every “free” opportunity available for you to learn about cybersecurity, it is a solid starting point. As always, if you have other suggestions, please let me know, and I will be sure to look at them.


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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.