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Cyber ​​boot camps fail for some students

Kyle Kingery longed for a change after four years working for an organic food company. Lured by a cybersecurity boot camp announcement from the University of Oregon, he decided to go down the cyber path with a $10,000 part-time course in 2020.

Mr. Kingery learned skills ranging from the basics of network security to ethical hacking and penetration testing during the 24-week program. Still, he found it was not easy to enter the booming cybersecurity industry, even as companies face a huge talent shortage.

“Entry-level cybersecurity jobs are kind of a myth,” said Mr Kingery, 30. “You can’t really get a job in cybersecurity without having any experience.”

He now works as a teaching assistant for the training camp he attended.

The University of Oregon, which offers the boot camp through a partnership with for-profit education company 2U Inc., said employment assistance is available for graduates. . “Each learner has the opportunity to use 2U career readiness resources for up to six months after the end of boot camp,” including support with resume writing and industry interview skills technology, said a university official.

Globally, an estimated 2.7 million cybersecurity professionals are needed, but not available, to defend organizations, according to the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, a trade association known as (ISC)² . The gap has narrowed from 3.1 million in 2020, but still leaves many businesses understaffed, the group said.

Many cybersecurity boot camps, often aimed at people changing careers, have sprung up in recent years. Among about 170 such programs in the United States, tuition ranges from free to $19,000, according to Course Report, a website that matches students with boot camps. Unlike industry-approved certificate programs that focus on a specific cyber topic, boot camps typically cover a range of concepts over a few months.

Fullstack Academy, based in New York, offers a full-time cyber boot camp that lasts 13 weeks. Flatiron School, also in New York, offers a full-time, 15-week program covering skills ranging from Python scripting to applied cryptography.

“We stay away from a lot of the theory, even though we do get into that, but we try to do it all through applied learning,” said Peter Barth, director of product at the Flatiron School. He said his program was built around employer demand.

Nasdaq-listed 2U, based in Lanham, Maryland, runs more than 200 full-time or part-time boot camps in eight disciplines, including cybersecurity, under more than 150 university brands. They include Columbia University, University of Oregon, and Northwestern University.

ThriveDX, based in Coral Gables, Florida, and formerly known as HackerU, works with over 50 educational institutions worldwide to provide boot camps. “It really prepares you for a variety of different roles in cybersecurity that you can do the day after you graduate,” said Dan Vigdor, Founder and Co-CEO of ThriveDX.

Cybersecurity boot camp operators are often primarily responsible for curriculum development and marketing materials, with oversight from universities.


Dominic Lipinski/Zuma Press

The for-profit operators of these boot camps are often primarily responsible for developing the curriculum and marketing materials, as well as recruiting instructors and students, under the supervision of universities. The study programs are similar in all university-branded programs.

The government offers free cybersecurity training to federal, state, and local government employees, federal contractors, and veterans, with some courses open to the public.

Some recruiters and corporate security chiefs say completing boot camp means little unless students earn industry-recognized certifications from training organizations like CompTIA or Isaca. .

A boot camp isn’t useful on its own except to show a candidate’s interest in the field, said Shaun Marion, chief information security officer at McDonald’s. Corp.

The programs often don’t offer much help to candidates landing jobs, Marion said. “Training camps can be hit or miss,” he added.

People typically enter the cybersecurity field by moving on from other information technology jobs or by majoring in cybersecurity in college and gaining skills through internships.

For those new to cybersecurity, a job search can take six to 12 months, said Deidre Diamond, founder and CEO of cybersecurity recruiter CyberSN. That’s partly because organizations are often understaffed and lack the capacity to hire inexperienced people and train them, she said.

Boot camps can provide hands-on learning, Ms. Diamond said, but some programs are too general to satisfy employers looking to fill specialized positions.

“A lot of boot camps are hitting the right skills,” she said, “and a lot aren’t, in terms of job demand.”

Even junior cybersecurity positions often require years of experience and professional certifications, researchers have found.

“There just aren’t enough entry-level jobs out there,” said Jonathan Brandt, director of professional practices and innovation at Isaca. “Without these [beginner job openings]we will continue to see program graduates unable to find employment.

Mitch, a 62-year-old former database programmer who wouldn’t disclose his last name, said in 2020 he spent about $12,000 on Columbia Engineering Cybersecurity Boot Camp, an online program offered by Columbia University and 2U. He had been laid off from his job in technology and worked at a Trader Joe’s store in New York.

Mitch said he was told by program recruiters that most graduates could get jobs in cybersecurity. As he attended classes, he realized that most of his classmates already had jobs and were there to develop their skills.

“I took time off to do this program and it didn’t get me very far,” said Mitch, who remains at Trader Joe’s.

Corey Mueller landed a cybersecurity job after boot camp.



Columbia University did not respond to a request for comment. 2U did not comment on Mitch’s situation but said it helps graduates. “In 2021 alone, 2U’s workforce engagement team made more than 39,000 student referrals for positions at more than 450 companies and hosted more than 540 labor-related events and webinars. employment with hundreds of employer partners,” a company representative said.

There are success stories.

Corey Mueller, 44, of Davison, Michigan, was a medical imaging technician before attending a University of Michigan boot camp run by ThriveDX. After graduating in 2021, Mueller landed a job as a security operations center analyst at a cybersecurity firm.

The lab sessions at boot camp on network security and configuration were helpful in his new job, he said.

“Free, dear, wherever you go, you’re the one who has to put in boot camp as much as you want out of it,” Mueller said.

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