Wanted: A cybersecurity workforce, no experience needed

Have zero experience in cybersecurity? This free certification program may be right for you.

The threat of cyberattacks to governments and businesses is so pervasive that cybercrime and cyber insecurity rank among the top ten business risks around the globe, according to a just-released World Economic Forum report.

It’s estimated that 4.7 million people make up the cybersecurity global workforce, up 11% from a year ago and the highest level reached, according to (ISC)², an international nonprofit association that provides security training and certificates.

As governments and businesses work to keep their networks and systems secure, the cybersecurity workforce may be growing, but still cannot keep up with demand. 

Free Certification Program: No Experience Required

(ISC)² says there’s already a global workforce shortage of 3.4 million cybersecurity workers. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 760,000 open cybersecurity positions, according to, a government-funded site which tracks jobs and training opportunities.

To bridge that gap, (ISC)² collaborated with employers to find out the extents of their needs. 

Companies indicated a need to attract people with all levels of skills but also a willingness to hire for entry level positions. Once on board, the workers can begin to learn new cybersecurity skills.

As a result, (ISC)² developed the Certified in Cybersecurity (COC) certificate as a pathway into jobs for people who are new to the cybersecurity field. To further spark interest, (ISC)² is offering free online COC courses and exams to one million people in 2023. 

Clar Russo, CEO, (ISC)² (Photo: (ISC)²)

“It’s designed for somebody who has absolutely zero experience in cybersecurity and it covers the core domains within which the profession operates,” says Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)².

Those basics include everything from network security and security operations to disaster recovery. The idea, explains Rosso, is for people to show they can understand those technical skills and that they are trainable.

To also help employers find candidates, she explains that (ISC)² took a look at the qualities of cybersecurity professionals showing success in the field.

“In addition to technical expertise, there were some core personality and non-technical attributes that individuals in cybersecurity share that lead to successful careers,” explains Rosso. They include “the ability to communicate, the ability to work individually and in a team, and that the individuals, by nature, are interested in problem solving, that they are critical thinkers, analytical thinkers.”

Boosting Diversity in Cybersecurity 

Looking for those attributes beyond technical skills also fills another goal: diversifying the cybersecurity workforce. Of the one million free certificate training courses and exams, half are targeted for women and people in underrepresented communities.

“Organizations are really starting to embrace people from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of interest coming into the profession because the more diverse your team is, the better they are at solving problems,” adds Rosso. 

More than 110,000 people have applied for the certification program since it was announced in August of last year.

The courses are self-paced and they can take anywhere from 8 to 20 hours to complete depending on someone’s technical experience. 

To be eligible for the free courses and exam, participants can’t have completed any of the other cybersecurity certificates provided by (ISC)², including the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), the oldest cybersecurity certificate and one that is considered the gold standard.

The organization says the

The Certified in Cybersecurity entry-level certification is ideal for:

  • Current IT professionals without cybersecurity certification
  • Career changers
  • College students or recent graduates
  • Advanced high school students or recent graduates

If you’re interested, you can apply at the (ISC)² candidate website.

What’s in It for You?

With a foot in the door in the cybersecurity industry, there are many different roles – depending on your skill set – with pathways to good paying jobs.

Jobs in the computer support industry have starting salaries in the high $50,000 range. While many typically have required bachelor’s degrees, but more companies are dropping the degree requirement.

To get a sense of the kind of growth expected in cybersecurity, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 35% growth between 2021 and 2031 for information security analysts, with a mean salary of $102,600.

With cyber attacks posing a threat to just about everyone, Rosso makes the case for cybersecurity as a career choice because of its longevity.

“Technology is not going to replace the need for cybersecurity workers in the foreseeable future. That is something that we critically looked at and that is different than a lot of other professions where people are worried about their jobs being automated away.”

To learn more about cybersecurity jobs in your community, visit