The Google Logo on a building in the company's main campus, the Googleplex.
Image: Sundry Photography/Adobe Stock

While cyberattacks increased last year, with the trend continuing into 2023, there are still far too few people in the cybersecurity workforce. This creates a challenge today and a bigger one later, when there will be fewer people to shift into more supervisory roles.

Cybersecurity Ventures reported there are 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions worldwide this year, and 750,000 of them are in the U.S. In an attempt to address this, as well as the lack of diversity in cybersecurity, Google is offering a Cybersecurity Professional Certificate training program for anyone, including those with no background in coding or computer science.

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What is the Google Cybersecurity Certificate?

The company said the Google Cybersecurity Certificate, which is part of the Google Career Certificates portfolio of Coursera classes, offers an alternative to high-ticket collegiate training in cybersecurity, which is a slow pipeline with a high cost of entry. Google’s programs include data analytics, IT support and business intelligence, according to the company.

The program, which will be hosted on the Coursera platform, was designed and is taught by Google cybersecurity experts, including Phil Venables, CISO of Google Cloud. It is designed to upskill workers for entry-level jobs in cybersecurity in less than six months.

The certificate will prepare people for entry-level cybersecurity roles by providing hands-on experience with industry-standard tools including Python, Linux and an array of security tools, including Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) programs.

It will also help prepare learners for the CompTIA Security+ exam, the industry-leading certification for cybersecurity roles. Learners will earn a dual credential when they complete both, improving their hireability.

Google is offering a seven-day free trial of the Google Cybersecurity Certificate, after which the fee is $49 per month. According to the Coursera site, the program includes eight courses, and can be completed in six months at seven hours per week.

University involvement but no degree required

Although the program doesn’t require college matriculation, Google said Purdue University, the University of Texas System, Syracuse University and Northern Virginia Community College will offer the Cybersecurity Certificate. The company also said that more than 400 educational institutions in the U.S. offer Google Career Certificates.

“We feel a potential for increasing the cybersecurity workforce exists in a couple of places and university systems are a go to point for that,” said MK Palmore, director in the office of the CISO at Google Cloud.

“But the challenge in those environments is having a curriculum that will gear students towards actual capabilities and jobs in cybersecurity fields. You also think about people early in their careers or mid-career who might be interested, and that’s where our partnerships with nonprofits and other institutions are important for conducting outreach to reach people, wherever they happen to be in their journey.”

Several options for online cybersecurity education

Several agencies, organizations, universities and private enterprises offer pathways to cybersecurity education:

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers several programs including its NICCS (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies) program.
  • The FedVTE (virtual training environment) offers free courses from beginner onward.
  • The CyberCorps program offers scholarships for cybersecurity undergrad and grad degrees.
  • National Cyber Security Alliance offers low-cost career resources.

For-profit cybersecurity education programs include:

  • PenTester Academy offers a range of certificates.
  • BugCrowd University offers training on finding critical vulnerabilities.
  • Hack the Box teaches white hat skills.
  • TAGCyber CEO Edward Amoroso teaches NYU’s Coursera program.

Demand for cyber experts likely to weather layoffs

The industry group (ISC)2 conducted a study on how cybersecurity would handle a recession, based on a December 2022 poll of non-security C-suite leaders in several countries. When asked how they would cut jobs if layoffs were deemed essential, and considering the areas of cybersecurity, finance, HR, IT, Marketing Operations, R&D and Sales, cybersecurity was least affected, with only 10% of respondents suggesting reductions in security staff.

The study indicated that, at least in the U.K. and U.S., leaders no longer view cybersecurity as frosting when budget is available, but rather an essential part of the cake; a critical asset that delivers value.

  • Just over half of respondents (51%) said cybersecurity professionals would be prioritized for hiring or rehiring.
  • Forty-nine percent said IT would be prioritized.
  • Forty-one percent said R&D would be the focus.
  • Marketing (35%), finance (34%), operations (31%), sales (30%) and HR (29%) followed.

The Google program joins a portfolio of Google Career Certificate courses in Data Analytics, Digital Marketing & E-commerce, IT Support, Project Management and UX Design. The company said 150,000 people have earned Google Career Certificates in the U.S.

Palmore said the Cybersecurity Certificate will teach common risks, threats and vulnerabilities and defensive postures, and that the curriculum includes immersion in coding focused on Python and Linux.

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“It’s not just for people with a background in computer science. This is a question that comes up often; part of the thought process that came up when we were designing this program is that we needed to make sure we were also building this program for people with essentially zero knowledge in cybersecurity,” said Palmore.

“Part of the first component of the course takes people through an initial exposure to the wider domains of cybersecurity. This is for people from a variety of backgrounds — someone who may have a humanities background in college but think they may have a place in cybersecurity. It’s for everyone who has an interest.”

Corporate involvement for employment potential

The Google Cybersecurity Certificate includes the involvement of a consortium of 150 employers, according to Google. They include American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, Google’s Mandiant security unit, T-Mobile, Walmart and Google.

“Even if you have baseline training or understanding of cyber, it doesn’t mean it will lead to a job,” said Palmore. “So we are meeting this challenge in part through an employer consortium that we put together — companies who have now committed to look at student folks and give them an opportunity to get into the hiring cycle.”

The program is also being offered through grantees to bring more diversity into the cybersecurity field: grantees like NPower and Hiring our Heroes, as well as nonprofits like Cyversity, Raices Cyber and Women in CyberSecurity, will offer the Cybersecurity Certificate as well as professional coaching, interview prep and job placement assistance, according to Google.

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