The Google Cybersecurity Certificate (GCC) is an entry-level credential found in the company’s “Grow with Google” IT certification program. The GCC credential is aimed at technology novices who are looking to start on a path potentially leading to an beginner job in cybersecurity.
Alternatively, the GCC could be viewed as an introduction-level cybersecurity education offering for people who are only interested in learning more about the subject. Anyone who simply wants to be more grounded in the basics of cybersecurity, but is not necessarily planning a career change, will find what they're looking for.
That said, the GCC offering comes with an interesting twist: It has been designed to help prepare candidates to take the Security+ exam offered tech industry association and global IT certification provider CompTIA. Not only that, but candidates who successfully complete the GCC certificate program can “access the CompTIA Security+ exam and additional training at a discounted price,” according to the GCC web page.
The GCC slots into Google’s current lineup of Career Certificates, which includes:
Digital Marketing & eCommerce
The GCC credential is an interesting collaboration between Google and CompTIA, a joint effort that was likely motivated by a higher-level goal to increase the number of people entering the cybersecurity field. While there are varying statistical claims from different industry sources, the current message from IT industry analysts is there is a significant shortage of trained cybersecurity personnel in the workforce.
The content on the GCC web page emphasizes this message, as it touts the number of open cybersecurity jobs (213,000) and the median entry-level salary (roughly $100,000) for cybersecurity professionals in the United States.
There are other aspects of the GCC program that further hint at its larger goal of growing the nation’s cybersecurity worker pool. We’ll look at these items in a moment. First though, let’s take a closer look at the nuts and bolts of GCC.
GCC up close
Similar to other Google Certificate credentials, the GCC curriculum is being offered through Coursera. Coursera is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider founded in 2012 by two Stanford University computer science professors. The startup has gone on to become a publicly-traded education company with many partnerships with colleges and corporations around the world.
The Google Cybersecurity Certificate program is delivered as an eight-course buffet of self-paced online training. The eight courses — which Google recommends that candidates take in the order provided — are listed below, along with the number of hours dedicated to each course:
Foundations of Cybersecurity (14 hours)
Play It Safe: Manage Security Risks (12 hours)
Connect and Protect: Networks and Network Security (14 hours)
Tools of the Trade: Linux and SQL (27 hours)
Assets, Threats, and Vulnerabilities (25 hours)
Sound the Alarm: Detection and Response (24 hours)
Automate Cybersecurity Tasks with Python (29 hours)
Put It to Work: Prepare for Cybersecurity Jobs (18 hours)
The GCC curriculum adds up to 163 hours of English-based online instruction. Google estimates that the average student should be able to complete the program in less than six months, based on an estimate of ten hours per week of part-time study.
The time it takes to complete the program also factors into the total cost, due to Coursera’s subscription-based pricing model. As of this writing, Coursera offers a startup seven-day free trial which then converts to a $49 monthly subscription. The company also offers Coursera Plus, a more comprehensive monthly (or annual) subscription that gives students unlimited access to the bulk of the platform’s content.
The prerequisites for enrolling in the Google Cybersecurity Certificate program are simple: There aren’t any. Both Google and Coursera emphatically state that no prior IT experience is necessary to take the GCC courses.
In Google’s GCC FAQ, the company reassures potential candidates that, “No prior cybersecurity experience or specific knowledge is required. All you need is an interest in solving problems, investigating, and helping others.”
This may be a little optimistic given the GCC program’s stated goal of teaching candidates with no prior IT experience how to build SQL queries and write Python scripts. That said, it’s possible the internet search giant has built some of its recently created AI helpers into the courseware to help students do the heavy lifting of code creation.
Get some knowledge, get a job (maybe)
There are two significant differences between the GCC and other entry-level certificate programs. The first difference, which we noted above, is the tie-in with CompTIA, and how completing the GCC also prepares candidates to take the Security+ exam.
The second difference is that once students have earned the GCC, they are given access to Google’s Talent Match portal. Talent Match offers career development services to Google-certified job seekers, including mock job interviews, one-on-one coaching sessions, and resume creation assistance.
Talent Match also gives certificate earners access to a unique job board that features companies enrolled in the Google Career Certificates Employer Consortium. This industry group consists of employers that have partnered with Google in order to identify skilled candidates to fill entry-level positions.
Again, Google is going the extra mile to encourage more people to enter the field of cybersecurity. It's rare to find an IT credential program that includes such significant career development resources, as well as a gateway to adding a second credential (through GCC's tie-in with CompTIA Security+).
From the very beginning, Google has positioned its Grow With Google and Career Certificate programs as a way for young people and career switchers to learn the skills necessary to enter the tech industry, while also giving employers a more targeted method for finding ideal IT job candidates.
The Google Cybersecurity Certificate matches this profile. Its design and added features, however, are meant to encourage people with little-to-no previous IT experience to become viable entry-level cybersecurity workers who can help fill the existing shortage of candidates for this job role.
It’s an interesting strategy, but one that begs the question: How many “foot in the door” cybersecurity jobs are actually out there? Furthermore, will programs like the GCC result in a glut of educated (but largely inexperienced) certified workers overflowing the associated job market?
Practical considerations notwithstanding, the Google Cybersecurity Certificate has a lot to recommend it. GCC is relatively affordable to attain, it includes some key career development services, and it serves as a gateway to a higher-profile cybersecurity certification. Overall there’s a lot to like in this new addition to the Grow With Google program.