Some of the top colleges and universities in the world offer massive open online courses (MOOCs). These free classes cover many topics relevant to cybersecurity professionals, including networking, operating systems, database management, and security.
Most MOOCs require students to interact with other participants through message boards or forums. While many MOOCs do not offer college credit and are not geared toward postgraduate study, they can be useful tools for anyone interested in learning more about cybersecurity.
This guide explores the top free online cybersecurity courses and who should take them.
What to Expect From Free Online Cybersecurity Courses
Students in MOOCs typically rely on video-based lessons rather than textbooks or other supplemental materials. Some free online cybersecurity courses incorporate discussion boards, quizzes, and projects. MOOCs typically require less time than a conventional class and can be accessed on demand.
Prerecorded lectures usually cover foundational topics like cryptography and cyberattacks, but may also include more specialized information about areas such as mobile security and cloud computing. For an additional fee, some classes offer a graded version of the course.
MOOCs can accommodate beginning, intermediate, or experienced students. Usually, the course's promotional material describes the target student, course requirements, and topics covered.
Pros and Cons of Free Online Courses in Cybersecurity
The main benefit of free online cybersecurity training is cost. Because MOOCs are usually free, students can use them to explore topics relevant to degrees in cybersecurity or related fields without incurring high tuition bills. The main drawback is that most free online courses do not provide the hands-on experience of an in-person classroom.
Consider these other pros and cons of cybersecurity MOOCs:
Pros of Free Online Cybersecurity Classes
- Students can learn at their own pace.
- No admission requirements like minimum GPA or standardized test scores.
- Often, professors at prominent schools prepare MOOC content.
Cons of Free Online Cybersecurity Classes
- While some free courses lead to certificates, those certificates often require tuition.
- According to a study published in Science, many students don't complete the MOOCs in which they enroll. In the 2017-18 school year, only 3.13% of learners completed their courses.
- Students receive little or no personalized attention or courseware.
Who Benefits From Free Cybersecurity Classes?
Students looking to enter the cybersecurity field from a variety of educational backgrounds can benefit from free online courses.
For students with no prior experience, free cybersecurity training can teach them about the basics of information security. Professionals who already work in the field but want to enhance their skills can benefit from classes that focus on current trends in cybersecurity. Organizations sometimes use free cybersecurity training courses for career development and employee training.
Free Online Cybersecurity Courses
Students can access all courses below for free, though our list is not exhaustive. Organizations such as edX and Coursera charge tuition for learners who want the graded class option and a certificate of completion. These companies also assess a fee for students who want to stack their courses to complete credentials like a MicroMasters® program.
Resources for Learning More About Cybersecurity
Questions About Free Classes in Cybersecurity
Can I take cybersecurity courses online?
Yes. Colleges and universities offer for-credit and noncredit courses in cybersecurity. To take for-credit courses, students may need to enroll in an academic program. Non-credit courses may simply require signing up to do the work.
How can I get cybersecurity training for free?
Students can take free cybersecurity courses online from many organizations, including some of the top educational institutions in the U.S. These courses may cover cybersecurity basics or focus on specific topics such as cryptography, hardware security, or cybersecurity and human rights.
What are the best cybersecurity classes for beginners?
Beginners may want to enroll in introductory-level MOOCS. Courses such as foundations of cybersecurity or introduction to cybersecurity can introduce learners to the discipline and prepare them for future learning.
Are free online courses in cybersecurity legitimate?
Free online cybersecurity classes may not provide college credit, but that does not diminish the legitimacy or value of their content. A study from the American Educational Research Association shows employers value applicants with MOOC credentials over those without them.