Certificate programs and certification programs in computer security are not the same. Certificate programs may be aimed at entry-level IT professionals, or they may be graduate-level programs for someone who already holds a degree.
Computer security certificate programs are commonly offered fully online, although some programs do require visits to campus for computer lab work. The length of these certificate programs vary, but all are fairly short. These courses may include cryptography, common security threats and methods of preventing cyber-attacks. Students can take courses as their schedules allow.
Certification programs are operated by companies and show that an individual is proficient in computer security software or equipment. Coursework is sometimes available online, but is optional. The individual must visit a testing center to take the exam. Experience in computer security may be required for certification.
Computer Security Certificates and Certifications
Both certificates and certifications validate an IT professional's knowledge and skills of information security practices and procedures. However, online certificate programs are usually offered by an educational institution and teach security skills, while certification programs are developed by industry organizations and validate the security knowledge of an IT professional.
Several universities and colleges in the U.S. offer online computer security certificates. On the certification side, some well-known credentials include the Security+, CISSP and GIAC certifications.
Information and Requirements
There are certificate and certification programs for entry-level and advanced security professionals. The depth of the technical skills and knowledge covered depends on the level of the program. To earn a certificate, individuals must complete and pass three to five security courses. Most computer security certificate programs can be completed online. However, there are some schools that require students to complete an on-campus lab.
Earning a security certification does not require any coursework, but requires an exam which is completed onsite at a testing center. To prepare for the test, some individuals choose to enroll in a classroom or e-learning course, or just purchase self-study materials. Additionally, requirements for earning a computer security certification may be certain number of years of experience or a prerequisite certification.
Courses for computer security certificates and certifications focus heavily on virus prevention. Class topics include intrusion detection, firewall configuration and software applications and coding. In addition to preventing cyber attacks, coursework covers how to handle a virus if one occurs.
Students learn how programming errors can create security 'holes' within code. The course focuses on teaching programmers how to prevent and fix application errors.
This online security course is designed to teach students about protocols, including SSL, IPSec and WEP. Coursework focuses on security vulnerabilities, such as design flaws. Individuals should have knowledge of cryptography before enrolling in this course.
Emerging Threats and Defenses
Coursework in this class focuses on threats such as phishing, online extortion, crimeware and mobile worms. Students learn how to secure VoIP applications, as well as Windows Vista.
Students learn the necessary techniques to ensure data integrity. Skills covered include database administration, concurrent processing and data distribution. Coursework covers basic SQL commands.
Job roles for computer security professionals include network engineer, analyst and database administrator. Information security is a fast-growing field, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and jobs for information security analysts are expected to increase by 18% between 2014-2024. The median wage for individuals in information security analysis job roles is $90,120 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Many times, a certificate or certification is considered continuing education, and candidates who enroll in these programs already hold a postsecondary degree. However, computer security professionals who do not already hold a bachelor's or master's degree should consider programs in Management Information Systems (MIS), network administration and computer science.
Fully online certificate programs in computer security are available to help IT professionals enhance their security skills. Meanwhile, computer security certification requires candidates to pass an in-person exam, though students can use online courses to prepare for it; course topics include virus prevention, software applications and coding.