Choosing Your Certification Training Path

Are you pursuing a certification in cybersecurity, information technology, or any other professional certification?  Or are you making training arrangements for your employees?  Picking a training method that works for you is possibly one of the most important decisions you can make.  Today’s article will cover your options, and some of the positives and negatives of the available options.

Live instructor in a classroom – This method is often the most popular with both students and instructors.  It allows for more interaction between the students and the instructor, and the instructor can more easily determine how well the training is going from visual cues such as eye contact and body language.  Instruction in all these cases is most often guided by the use of prepared presentation slides.  With live instruction there is more opportunity to go off the slide deck, and engage in instruction on the white board, or to use hands-on activities and labs.  Because time has been set aside for training, there are fewer distractions and interruptions. Personally, this is my favorite method.

Drawbacks include the possibility of travel for the instructor or students, and the associated travel, hotel, and meal expenses.  These expenses can make live classroom instruction of the more expensive options.  This year, with the issues surrounding the Pandemic, live in classroom sessions have mostly be replaced by live-online classes.

Live instructor online – In 2020, this is probably one of the best alternatives.  Presentation using a slide show is easily facilitated.  Whiteboarding is more difficult, depending on the training platform.  So are hands-on labs and other physical learning activities.  Live interaction between students and the trainer is still available, allowing for live question and answer sessions, and via the built in chat functions that are available on online platforms such as Zoom.  Sharing handouts is facilitated by sharing links in the chat window.

Many off us will be learning from home, and your instructor may be working from a home office as well.  This unfortunately allows for many student distractions, and background noises from open microphones, including sounds of spouses, children, dogs barking, lawn mowing and even road construction. Then there are things like loss of Internet connectivity, and even the odd blackout and loss of power.  All of that has happened in sessions of mine this year.

Pre-recorded instructor online – If these types of audible distractions are annoying to you, then you may prefer pre-recorded online training sessions.  Often pre-recorded training is studio quality, with all the noises and mistakes edited out.  Some excellent alternatives can be found on Cybrary, Udemy, Khan Academy,, and YouTube.  A great alternative for students pursuing CompTIA’s A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications is Professor Messer’s excellent and free video training courses.  Many of these courses are provided free of charge or at prices that are significantly below the typical cost of live classroom or live online training sessions.

Self-study – Self-study is a good way to prepare for a certification.  Buy a book and a good practice exam, and just get busy.  I have used self-study myself to pass a few of my certifications, but there were two certifications I failed using nothing more than self-study, so this does not always work as you might hope.  It can be all you need if you already have years of experience, but need a certification to prove your proficiency and knowledge.  Self-study can work well when combined with some of the free or low cost video training options we listed above.  If you are planning to attend a training class or bootcamp, self-study is a great method to prepare for the classroom experience and ensure that you have all the skills and knowledge you need to pass your certification exam.

Self-study requires a lot of self discipline.  Without the structure of a classroom experience, it can be easy to put off your studies because of work or family pressures, or just because you feel “too tired.”

Private classes – A slightly different option can be taking a private class.  Private classes are can make sense if you are training the same certification subject to a group of your employees or co-workers.  In addition to learning what you need to pass the exam, it can be a team building event, and may come with a built-in after class study group.

Public classes – The popular alternative is taking a publicly available class offered by a training organization or a school.  There are many training organizations to choose from.  My employer, Infosec Institute, offers a wide variety of classes to the general public.  This is probably the most common way to get the training you need to pass your certification exam.

Bootcamps – Many certification classes are package in an intensive five or six day, 8 hours per day setting referred to as a “bootcamp.”  Many bootcamps come with some sort of exam pass guarantee, where you have the opportunity to test a second time if it is necessary.  Be prepared to spend not just the day time in class with the instructor, but also the evenings reading the text book, practice testing, and completing any homework that is assigned.

Longer term classes – If you are taking a class through  a school, college, or workforce development program, your class may be scheduled for two, three, or four hour daily or weekly sessions over a period of two to eight weeks.  This slower, more relaxed pace may be more suitable for someone who has less work experience in the field they are certifying.

What you will need

  • One or more text books.
  • Practice exam either book form or online in a simulated testing environment.
  • Smartphone learning apps are available for many popular certifications.
  • Video training is available from free and low cost providers.
  • If you sign up for a class or bootcamp, many of these materials will be provided as part of the tuition.

I have found that what works for me is to start training in a self-study mode reading the text book and working with a practice exam, over the course of a month or two.  Maybe I’ll add some free video training.  Then I couple that work with some sort of classroom experience. This process can take three months.  Then I take and pass the exam.  If you are pursuing a certification course, this method may work for you.

Let me hear about your certification and training experiences by leaving a comment or by email to


About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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