Switching Careers to Cyber Security: Which Certificate to Earn and Why?

July 28, 2022

If you are exploring the cyber security job market because you are considering transitioning into the field, there is ample opportunity for cyber security professionals in all sectors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers will create jobs for ‘information security analysts’ — an umbrella term the BLS uses to refer to various cyber security roles — much more quickly than the average for all occupations. Cyber security employment will grow by 33% in the coming decade, potentially widening an already substantial cyber security skills gap.

 You don’t need a master’s degree or even a long list of cyber security certifications to launch a career in cyber security. San Diego State University’s Cyber Tech Academy certificate programs can help you launch a career in cyber security or upskill to qualify for higher-impact, higher-paying cyber security jobs.


The straightforward answer to this question is “to upskill quickly.” The aforementioned uptick in cyber crime has driven organizations to look for qualified cyber security professionals who have technical skills related to AI in cyber security, cloud security, cyber defense, cyber governance, incident response and risk management. Certificate programs typically do not have the same admissions requirements as bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, so you can transition into a cyber security career faster. They’re also shorter and less expensive than college degree programs and many bootcamps but teach the same technical skills. Certificate programs such as San Diego State University’s four 14-week cyber security certificate pathways focus on specific aspects of cyber security so students can learn what they need to know and start applying for related jobs. 


To determine which certificate programs support your goals, look for those that align with your interests, aptitudes and aspirations. Also consider whether the curriculum aligns with employer demand. SDSU’s online cyber security certificate program offers four concentration pathways focused on high-stakes areas of the field: 


Cloud storage and Cloud–based applications are now ubiquitous, but widespread Cloud migration has opened doors to hackers. Research by IDC and the Cloud infrastructure security company Ermetic found that 98% of organizations experienced at least one Cloud security breach in the 18 months studied. Many organizations are struggling to update their security governance practices in response to the risks associated with Cloud adoption.

SDSU’s Cloud Security and Governance Certificate teaches traditional cyber principles in the context of the Cloud and gives students insight into best practices for organizational compliance standards. Students explore new adaptations required to unlock the value of the Cloud while managing risk; learn about Cloud models, risk, response and mitigation strategies; and receive a strong foundation in theory and practice.

According to Burning Glass, demand for Cloud security skills is growing faster than for most other cyber security skills. Certificate completers can differentiate between fundamental characteristics of Cloud and other services, deployment and responsibility models; appraise Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM), Operational Resilience (OR) and the Incident Response (IR) in the Cloud; and distinguish how governance tools like risk registers, audits and pen testing operate differently in the Cloud and implement tools accordingly.


Integrated cyber security management is essential given how complex digital systems and databases have become. Cyber security governance encompasses the processes and policies organizations use to detect, prevent and respond to cyber incidents. Attackers are adept at exploiting existing and emerging vulnerabilities, but thoughtful, strategic and adaptable cyber governance ensures security practices are effective now and in the future.

The Cyber Governance and Risk Management Certificate program teaches strategies cyber security professionals use to protect assets in an evolving digital environment. It introduces real-world case studies like the SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline attacks and teachings from noted military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. Students develop the theoretical and practical knowledge to respond to cyber, kinetic, economic, and diplomatic threats and formulate security and governance frameworks. This is one of the broadest cyber security certificates available through SDSU. It provides the solid foundation cyber security professionals need to enter the field. 

Upon certificate completion, students can identify and navigate risk; evaluate and communicate the historical relationships between technology, human productivity and business; assess and respond to the global multidimensional environment of cyber, kinetic, economic and diplomatic threats; and apply course content in the present and adapt to changing technology without needing to retrain.


Artificial intelligence (AI) adoption has exploded in recent years, and organizations have struggled to understand the implications of widespread AI implementation. Enterprise-level companies and governments need to understand the growing role AI will play in cyber security governance and defense and how AI is fueling the emergence of new cyber security specializations. 

According to Capgemini, 69% of organizations believe they will not be able to respond to cyber attacks without AI. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers confirms that artificial intelligence in cyber security will be necessary to respond to emerging threats, battle increasingly sophisticated bots, secure a growing number of endpoints and more. 

SDSU’s Artificial Intelligence for Cyber Security familiarizes early-career cyber security professionals with the philosophical underpinnings of the fundamentals of using AI to secure against risks using case studies from disciplines such as healthcare, autonomous vehicles and process automation. The curriculum explores the role of AI in cyber attacks and defense and how to launch an AI program. Students complete the program able to define the scope of AI and synthesize the history of AI to project its future implications. 


Healthcare’s digital transformation benefits consumers and providers but also brings new security challenges. As more private health information goes online, healthcare organizations must invest in robust privacy and security infrastructure. Cyber security in healthcare environments is complex because so many regulations govern the use of information technology and how data is collected, stored and shared.

The Cyber Security in Healthcare Certificate is for entry-level healthcare and experienced cyber security professionals looking to develop secure digital infrastructure in medicine and adjacent fields. The program teaches students how to analyze, develop and implement security programs specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the healthcare industry. 

Graduates understand the healthcare delivery landscape, healthcare information regulation and risks specific to health organizations. They can assess the phases and effectiveness of incident response and understand the successful elements of managing privacy events; minimize the risk of cyber security incidents and breaches; and create successful information security programs that meet regulatory compliance standards.  


The right cyber security certificate program will support your career goals. Keep in mind that the “right” program might be multiple programs. Certificates — and certifications — are stackable. You shouldn’t think of any of the certificates above as terminal credentials. Cyber security is a field for lifelong learners. One certificate can help you switch careers today. Pursuing additional certificates in the future can help you upskill when employer demands or technologies change. At SDSU, the cyber security certificate curriculum is informed by relationships with professionals facing today’s cyber challenges who understand what techniques and tools are most useful.

Regardless of which branch of cyber security you enter, you’ll be doing meaningful work. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there is a new cyber attack every 11 seconds in the U.S. The frequency of brute-force cyber attacks averages out to one attempted hack every 39 seconds. There are 4,000 ransomware attacks targeting businesses daily, according to the FBI. And cyber security is increasingly a national security issue.


There has never been a better time to join the cyber security field. Opportunities abound for those with the right skills thanks to an ongoing cyber security talent shortage. According to Cyberseek, a tech job-tracking database created by the U.S. Commerce Department and CompTIA, there are more than 700,000 open jobs for cyber security professionals nationwide. 

Cyber Tech Academy, in affiliation with the Graduate Program in Homeland Security, provides immersive training and industry mentorship. Students spend between 15 and 20 hours per week on coursework, leaving time for professional and personal commitments, and have up to a year to finish the flexible, self-paced program. 

Completing a certificate program such as those offered by SDSU’s Cyber Tech Academy is a quick and efficient way to start navigating a career path in this field — no experience necessary. Some students in the program have backgrounds in computer science or have worked in cyber security jobs before, but many others come from non-technical backgrounds and enroll to prepare for career changes. SDSU empowers aspiring cyber security specialists from many academic and professional spheres to create a safer and more secure digital world.

If you are ready to join the cyber security industry, the time to enroll in one of SDSU’s certificate programs is now.