Self Paced Cybersecurity Degree

This is my custom list of courses, tools, and topics you should learn to supplement a cybersecurity degree. Some of the courses are paid to get the certification, but free to audit. The third-party certifications cost from $300-$1200.

Prerequisites: None! This list assumes you are starting without any prior knowledge.


Operating Systems

Administering Windows ServerMicrosoft Learn4wks20hrs/wkself-pacedExperience with Windows Server (projects, basic setup, etc)

The first step in building a strong foundation is learning the machines and tools you are using. Intimate knowledge of Windows, Linux, and server OSs’ is mandatory.

The A+ from CompTIA is a great starting place for someone with no experience. If you understand Windows, but are looking to get into Linux, I recommend throwing together a virtual machine and building a Linux box. Practical experience will always be more helpful than book knowledge. In saying that, the Linux+ is on this list because its been recommended as a great way to learn the nitty gritty of Linux so you are prepared no matter what.


Network+CompTIA1.5mo20hr/wkself-pacedCompTIA A+
CCNAITPro.tv4wks10hrs/wkself-pacedNetwork+ or experience with networking
Wireshark MasterclassChris Greer1wk10hrsself-pacednone

Knowledge of the machines you are working on is ultimately the first step, though I’d argue that networking, is just as important of a starting point. You may be able to break into the field, but you won’t go far without a solid understanding of TCP/IP, network protocols, DNS, packet sniffing, etc. It is very difficult to comprehend security threats, or even develop your own tools without knowing how computers talk to each other.

I listed both the Network+ and CCNA as an option. The CCNA is far more comprehensive than the Network+, but either should suffice to get a good handle on the basics. Wireshark is a very valuable tool for dissecting network packets, and Chris Greer’s tutorials are a great resource to learn it.

Programming & Scripting

Python for EveryoneUniversity of Michigan8mo4hrs/wkself-pacednone
OvertheWire (bash)Online Wargames2wks8hrs/wkself-pacednone
UndertheWire (powershell)Online Wargames2wks8hrs/wkself-pacednone
Linux Shell ScriptingITPro.tv2wks10hrs/wkself-pacednone
Powershell SkillsITPro.tv6wks10hrs/wkself-pacedUndertheWire

Ah yes, what everyone thinks of when you say you work in tech. Programming. The level of programming competence we are striving to be at is minimal at first. I recommend learning a language such as Python, great for scripting and automation, and a relatively easy language to pick up.

Powershell is also a very powerfull scripting language that is prevalent on all Windows machines, and can be installed on Linux machines. Knowing how to read and dissect basic scripts is the first step on your programming journey. With added time and dedication, you will have the ability to write custom scripts to aid you in your endeavors.

Labs & Projects

Active Directory Lab10hrs/wkCreate a working AD setup from home using virtualization. Start from scratch, build, configure, test, break, and learn how Active Directory worksNetwork+
Home Network60hrsDitch your ISP modem/router/ap and build your own network with your own equipment. Firewall, switch, aps, servers, DMZ, etc.Network+
Programming Projects5hrs/wkHone your programming skills using EONRaider’s list of 100 Redteam ProjectsPython for Everyone
TryHackMe8hrs/wkTest your abilities to think outside the box and crush challenges on TryHackMenone
PicoCTF4hrs/wkMake problem-solving second nature with hundreds of short challenges through PicoCTFnone
HacktheBox8hrs/wkStep up your CTF skills with some more challenging CTFsTryHackMe
Personal Blog6hr/wkBuild a blog/personal website to host walkthroughs, write-ups, and more to showcase your knowledge and investment in the cybersecurity communitynone

There is a lot to be said for labs and personal projects. Experience is the single best skill to build when getting into a new career or learning any new skill. Labs and projects will be that experience for you. Building your own AD environment, standing up a SIEM and honeypot, putting your knowledge into action in real-life scenarios with hackable VMs…these practices will cement your knowledge and highlight your weaknesses.

Programming projects gives you real experience in building solutions to problems; solutions that you can keep around to re-use or modify at your next challenge.


Advancing Beyond the Basics

At this point, you should have a very well rounded foundation in cybersecurity, with experience in networking, troubleshooting, programming, hacking, and building your own projects and solutions to problems. Those skills are invaluable.

This next section is the step beyond, moving more into the niche category of what you want to do. These are mostly certifications, which can cost a lot of money, if you’re taking a few at a time or one directly after the other. While I don’t think you necessarily need most or even many of these certifications, they will help your resume stand out, and get you that chance to show how much you know.


PNPTTCM Security4wks10hrs/wkself-pacedeJPT
OSCPOffensive Security1.5mo10hrs/wkself-pacedeCPPT

Security+ is usually a necessity for any cybersecurity job. It is a door opener for the beginner. Beyond that, there are Red team and Blue team certs (below) to pick through depending on what you want to do.

I really like INE Security’s certifications for penetration testing, so I listed several, as well as the infamously difficult OSCP.



These Blue team certs are a lot more diverse in subject matter; eCTHP (threat hunting), eCDFP (digital forensics), eCIR (incident response), and eEDA (defense administrator).

Both this section and the previous are dependant on what career path you wish to follow. I wouldn’t recommend getting multiple of each just to have them. Specializing in one area will gain you more value than having a shallow knowledge in each specific field.

Practical Experience

TraceLabs10hrs/wkDevelop your OSINT skills working in real-world scenarios, volunteering for a good causenone
Bugcrowd12hrs/wkLearn Web Application pentesting by diving into bug bounties. Theres a chance to earn some $ too if you’re goodnone

Enough cannot be said for practical experience. These are only two options, but internships are a great way to gain experience as well. If you are interested in web application pentesting, I highly recommend working on some bug bounty programs. Not for the money, but for the real-world knowledge you will gain from trying and failing, and trying harder. That is what learning is all about, and pentesting certainly requires a large amount of determination and refusal to quit.


This list is certainly not comprehensive, and is constantly changing with the times and your personal goals. It was created as a guide to keep myself in line with my goals, and hopefully encourage others in the same position to pursue their goals in a concise and efficient way.

You can find the entire list on my github here: Self Paced Cybersecurity Degree. Hopefully it is helpful to you, and please feel free to message me for any questions or insights on the subject.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.