Breaking into or advancing in the IT field requires hard work and the right certifications. People who love what they do naturally work hard, but often obtaining certifications can be frustrating and prohibitively expensive. Apart from exam fees, there's the cost of study materials, including everything from books to boot camps.
Earning an IT certification is always going to require hard work, but Cybrary, a Maryland start-up, is helping to mitigate some of the expense and financial worries. Cybrary offers the “World's First and Only Free” massive open online courses (MOOCs) for IT and cybersecurity training, in keeping with the motto: “IT training should be open, free and available to everyone across the globe.” (Click here to visit the Cybrary site.)
Cybrary’s passion is to help both beginners and experienced IT professionals learn valuable career skills free of charge, without the the burden of financial stress or high training fees.
CertMag recently exchanged e-mails with Ryan Corey, one of Cybrary’s co-founders, to learn more about the company and its mission.
Q: How did the idea for Cybrary come about?
Our backgrounds in IT have taught us that technology is constantly changing, and the primary source of learning for professionals in the field is IT training. Cybrary provides access to quality free IT and cybersecurity training without the financial strain. Free online education eliminates financial barriers, allowing anyone to potentially learn and engage with the IT community. In turn, this allows anyone possible entry into the field. More people entering the field results in new ideas and solutions, making the future brighter for IT innovation and cybersecurity.
Our main goal is to give EVERYONE the opportunity to access quality training; what they do with that opportunity is up to them. Access to training shouldn’t be based on whether you or your family can afford it. Cybrary makes access to high-quality, comprehensive IT and cybersecurity training the birthright of everyone.
Q: What is your target market and how are you pursuing it?
Cybrary’s main focus is providing comprehensive free IT and cybersecurity training options for the unserved, underserved, underprivileged and anyone else who may lack the means to break into the field or to advance in their current jobs. Too many people are held back due to a lack of financial resources — these are the ones we want to help.
Millennials are also a major focus. Because millennials have been raised on social networking and technology, they understand the need for and have an interest in cybersecurity. Demand for cybersecurity professionals is currently growing 3.5 times faster than the overall IT job market, and 12 times faster than the total labor market.
There is a huge gap in supply and demand for cybersecurity professionals. In 2013 alone there were more than 200,000 national postings for open cybersecurity positions. Compared to all other job postings combined, it took recruiters 36 percent longer to fill these positions.
Q: How many courses do you presently offer? What about in the future?
Right now we have 20 classes live; from entry-level courses like CompTIA A+ and Network+, to advanced courses like an Advanced Penetration Testing class. We currently have four more courses in production, and we will continually be adding new ones.
Q: Online learning presents its own challenges: students always have questions and may need extra help. How does Cybrary meet these challenges?
Our support staff consistently monitors all courses and rapidly addresses student’s questions and concerns. Cybrary is focused on addressing every member’s needs. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) interact with students via public and private messages and participate in discussion forums and groups. Peer interaction also aids in the learning model; members constantly volunteer their time to help with interactions, questions and solutions. I really appreciate the Cybrary community, our members love to contribute, and they’ve been doing it since the day we launched.
Q: Last year, 2014, is referred to as the “Year of the Security Breach.” In your opinion, how do career prospects in cybersecurity look?
As I mentioned above, cybersecurity is an incredibly fast growing job sector — the fastest growing of all IT job sectors. In the United States alone, there are currently more cybersecurity jobs than qualified people to fill them. Every business and nation that can is rushing to defend their infrastructure and defense networks. In 2014, global cybersecurity spending was more than $71 billion dollars, and it’s expected to continue increasing by about 8 percent annually through at least 2016!
Q: Free stuff is always good, but they say, “You get what you pay for.” How do customers know your courses and instructors are high-quality and applicable to IT certification?
We have nearly 15 years of experience understanding what people need to learn in IT and cybersecurity. We have some of the brightest minds in the industry preparing our classes and participating in the learning experiences of our members. Cybrary instructors have years of experience teaching and assisting students in their respective areas of expertise.
Cybrary’s SME peers expect high levels of quality from one another, and that helps us develop, improve and offer the correct courses containing the correct subject matter. Additionally, our rigorous peer review system ensures that our courses meet and strictly adhere to all content standards.
Q: Does completion of a Cybrary course guarantee certification, or employment and career advancement for users?
While Cybrary courses prepare members for certification, completion alone won’t get you a job. Course content is carefully designed to provide members with the skills to be of use to employers and — in many cases — the certification to back up that skill set. For example, a new student with no experience in the IT field, generally begins with CompTIA A+ and Network+. These courses provide fundamental knowledge about the IT, sys admin, networking and cybersecurity fields in general and the skill sets would make them eligible for many entry level IT jobs. Similarly, employers hiring for entry level IT jobs typically look for candidates with those certifications.
Q: How long does a typical course take to complete?
While Cybrary sets members up for success, each course varies, some of the topics are complex and may require extra backtracking and effort. A typical course can range from 5 to 30 hours and requires some individual study outside of class work. Cybrary provides study guides, books and other materials on the website. These tools, along with peer networking, SMEs and staff interaction, provide members the support needed to succeed in class, acquire valuable IT skills, and achieve certification.
Q: I’ve heard you mention the “True Student Value” of Cybrary’s approach. What do you mean by that?
People waste money on IT education all the time. I’ve personally seen it way too often. Certification can be expensive (upwards of $2,500). When a person makes the decision to take a class it can set them back financially for a period of time. In addition to money, they also invest a not insignificant amount of time and effort. Unfortunately, they have no real way of knowing if IT is a fit for them until they experience the curriculum. If it’s not a good fit, they’re out a bunch of money as well as time and effort.
With Cybrary’s free-courses, an individual doesn’t have to spend the money. They can experiment with the material before fully committing themselves to it. Students can make career decisions without wasting money.
Again, the true value is opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn and to develop an in-demand skill-set.
Q: The “Big Question,” how do you stay in business giving courses away for free?
Much of Cybrary’s initial course offerings were donated by TrainACE, one of the most highly-respected IT training organizations in the industry. We maintain a low overhead — we would rather offer comprehensive certification courses than show off a big building. Additionally, Cybrary is primarily an advertising model. So, in order to sustain our mission, we need members to participate and spend time on the website.
Q: How confident are you that Cybrary’s model is going to work?
Very confident! We already have more than 22,000 students participating with more signing up every day. I’m confident that the Cybrary model will ultimately reshape IT and cybersecurity training, bring more people with more ideas into the profession, and lead to a brighter future for the industry as a whole.