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November 29, 2021

How veterans can start a cybersecurity career

kendall upton

Written by:

Kendall Upton

Staff Writer

professional wearing dog tags sits in dark server room at computer

Our global society continues to grow more technologically advanced in ways that could have seldom been predicted half a century ago. Information and communication systems have gone almost completely digital, which means there is always a risk that they can be damaged or exploited. Enter the field of cybersecurity, whose mission is to protect digital data and systems.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its affiliate cybersecurity organizations are advocating for veterans to enter this booming field.

In this Article

Employment of information security analysts, one type of cybersecurity position, is expected to grow a whopping 31.5% through 2032 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the average across all occupations—seven times faster, to be exact. Veterans are excellent candidates to fill this demand which is why there are so many resources out there to help veterans transition to a cybersecurity career.

Why veterans are great for cybersecurity

Military veterans are a valuable candidate pool for cybersecurity jobs because they may already have experience with information security and general security protocols. They may also have a desirable security clearance or the ability to obtain one.

In addition, cybersecurity can be a natural next step for military personnel because it’s a service-oriented career that involves protecting the digital integrity of the nation. People in the military also usually possess certain qualities that are essential in the field of cybersecurity—discipline, dedication, and the ability to work as a team and in high-pressure scenarios, to name a few.

Starting your cybersecurity education

The education you’ll need to start a career in cybersecurity depends on the type of job you eventually want, so there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what you should do. Even so, there are some options to get your education started no matter what kind of role you’re going for.  


Veterans that want to enter the field of cybersecurity have a unique educational resource available only to government employees and military veterans: the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE). This free, online cybersecurity training center has over 60 training courses for beginners to advanced cybersecurity professionals. You can take courses at your own pace and will receive FedVTE course completion certificates when you successfully finish them.

FedVTE courses are aligned with the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, so you know you are learning real-world skills that will be useful to any cybersecurity career. Furthermore, the courses are designed to prepare you to successfully earn numerous cybersecurity certifications, such as ones offered by CompTIA. Although FedVTE does not administer these certifications themselves, their courses can give you the foundational knowledge needed to start adding some certifications to your resume.

FedVTE is not meant to replace other, more traditional education options like boot camps or a college degree. It is designed to be supplementary and get you started on your educational path.

Do I need to know coding?

You naturally may be wondering whether coding skills are essential to have in the tech-driven field of cybersecurity. Although coding knowledge could be valuable and may be required for some positions, many cybersecurity careers do not require you to know how to code or program.    

Cybersecurity boot camps for veterans

Training boot camps are a popular choice nowadays to learn trade-specific skills, particularly in technology fields. They are intensive training programs that can take anywhere from a few weeks to two years to complete. Cybersecurity boot camps are a great option for someone who wants to learn the foundations of cybersecurity without investing in a college degree.

Boot camps are offered by formal colleges or universities as well as online schools that have a variety of boot camp and/or certification programs. Boot camps may be held in-person, entirely online or in a hybrid learning format.

Boot camps don’t usually have any academic prerequisites, making them a great choice for military personnel who may not have any postsecondary education under their belt. They can also be a great resume booster to substantiate any existing education you do have with additional knowledge and skills.

The cost of cybersecurity boot camps depends on the institution and the length of the program, but typically cost between $5,000-20,000. Many programs have flexible payment plans to make them more financially viable, but can really pay off given the salary potential for cybersecurity professionals and other IT careers.

Cybersecurity degrees

Some people may prefer a more traditional education route. Lots of colleges and universities offer degrees in cybersecurity, from associate to master’s programs. Although a focus on cybersecurity is great, there are some related subject areas that could benefit someone going into a cybersecurity career, such as:

  • Computer science
  • Information technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

One thing to consider about getting a college degree is that you’ll likely take general education courses in addition to your major or discipline. This may include introductory and/or intermediate courses in subjects such as English, social and natural sciences, math, communications and more. College degrees can be wonderfully well-rounded because of this, but it’s important to be aware of if you are someone that prefers the more direct learning route of a boot camp.

How veterans can pay for their cybersecurity education

Veterans have several unique financial resources at their disposal to help make an education more affordable, or even possibly cost nothing at all.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

If you served on active duty for at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, then you may qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This newer iteration of the GI Bill, which has been around since 1944, provides financial assistance to veterans for school or job training programs. It can cover up to 36 months of education, though some people may qualify for up to 48 months. Not only does it give you money for tuition and fees, you can also receive money for housing, books, supplies and moving expenses if you are moving from a rural area to attend school.

The amount that you are awarded depends on which school you go to, how much active-duty service you’ve had since Sept. 10, 2001, and how many credits or training hours you’re taking. It’s not just for college degrees—the GI Bill can be used towards boot camps and other vocational/technical trainings. 

You can use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to find out what benefits are available at approved schools and other educational programs.


For some people, the GI Bill may not cover 100% of your educational expenses. Luckily there are numerous scholarships out there to take advantage of, and many are available only to veterans.

One important cybersecurity scholarship to be aware of is the CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program. This scholarship provides funding for a cybersecurity-related degree in return for working a cybersecurity role within the U.S. government. The length of service you must commit to in your role is equal to the length of the scholarship. The scholarship can be used for up to three years and provides academic stipends of $25,000 per year for undergraduate students and $34,000 per year for graduate students.

Some other scholarships open to veterans that you might consider include:

American Veterans (AMVETS) scholarships:
Numerous scholarships are available and designed to fulfill a financial gap after federal and state grants and/or scholarships have been exhausted.
Army Women’s Foundation scholarships:
Multiple awards of varying amounts are awarded annually to women soldiers, past and present.
Hill & Ponton Veteran Scholarship:
This group of disability attorneys offers four $1000 scholarships to former military personnel pursuing higher education.

Finding a job

Once you’re ready to start looking for a job, you might consider checking out Cyberseek.org. This website, in partnership with NICE, provides data and information about supply and demand of the cybersecurity job market across the U.S. It can also be used to find cybersecurity jobs in your area. According to their website, there is a dangerous shortage of cybersecurity workers in the U.S., which they hope to remedy. If you’re a veteran, you could help fill the workforce gap and start your journey to a rewarding cybersecurity career.