These 4 free data- and cybersecurity-focused courses from IBM take just 10 hours to complete

BY Sydney LakeDecember 21, 2022, 12:28 PM
The logo of International Business Machines (IBM) stands on the facade of the local headquarters, as seen in May 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

IBM’s long history as a tech industry leader includes inventing many technologies we use today—from the UPC bar code to the SQL programming language and its research and development in the industry also led to the development of personal computers. This Fortune 500 tech giant in recent years has focused on training the next generation of workers, introducing programs like IBM SkillsBuild

In 2021, IBM pledged to skill 30 million people worldwide by 2030, and through its SkillsBuild offering, learners can take free courses online in topics like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analysis, and more. 

“We are focused on reaching people who have traditionally been left out of the tech sector: women, veterans, refugees, neurodivergent people, underrepresented minorities, and economically disadvantaged people,” Lydia Logan, IBM global vice president for education and workforce development, tells Fortune.

Many of the foundational courses can be completed in less than 10 hours, which makes for a good starting point for learners who may be considering a career switch. This could mean a leg up for candidates looking to break into the tech industry—and cybersecurity in particular, where there’s more than 700,000 open positions in the U.S.

“Any time demand is high and supply is low, there are opportunities for individuals. We’re in an exciting time,” Logan says. “Companies like IBM are dropping the four-year degree requirement for a lot of positions. We’re looking at people who have talent and who have shown interest and ability.”

Upon completion of a SkillsBuild course, learners earn a digital credential for their work. Plus, the holidays can be a great time to learn a new skill, Logan says.

“It’s another way to signal to employers that even if you’ve never had that kind of a job before, what you know and are able to do,” she says. “It’s a way to give people a bite-sized experience and make them more attractive as potential employees.”

Logan recommends four foundation courses that provide a high-level overview of the topic, as well as information about the skills needed to succeed. In these courses, learners also have the opportunity to do real-world projects with IBM partners upon completion of a course. And the following courses can be useful for people who are looking to learn a new skill or to potentially make a career switch:

  1. Cybersecurity Fundamentals
  2. Artificial Intelligence Fundamentals
  3. Data Fundamentals
  4. Information Technology Fundamentals

1. Cybersecurity Fundamentals

Cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand fields; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the information security analyst role is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. Between 2021 and 2031, the number of information security analysts is projected to grow 35%, making it the eighth-fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. Plus, many entry-level cybersecurity roles offer six-figure salaries. 

“If you think about it, we have personal data everywhere,” Logan says. “It’s really important to have people in place who are working on the internal policies, education of employees, and making sure that they’re protected against potential bad actors.”

The Cybersecurity Fundamentals course offered by IBM teaches learners cybersecurity concepts, objectives, and practices and even includes information about the cyber job market. The course focuses on cyber attacks, cryptography, and security strategies and includes case studies. It takes six hours to complete.

2. Artificial Intelligence Fundamentals

The importance of artificial intelligence is growing. In fact, 94% of business leaders agree that AI is critical to success during the next five years, according to a Deloitte report published in October 2022. 

Some of the top jobs in AI are machine learning engineers, data scientists, and business intelligence developers. These workers make more than $100,000, on average, according to several job marketing platforms. 

IBM’s course focuses on AI concepts including natural language processing, computer vision, machine learning, deep learning, chatbots, and neural networks. Participants will also learn about the importance of ethical AI and its applications. The course takes about nine hours to complete.

3. Data Fundamentals 

This course can be a way for people to get a feel for the tech industry—and potentially pursue a job in data analytics, which are “low hanging fruit,” Logan says. “There are plenty of good-paying, entry-level jobs as data analysts.”

This seven-hour course focuses on data analytics, data science, programming languages, and the data ecosystem. Learners even get a chance to see how to clean, refine, and visualize data in IBM Watson Studio, which helps data scientists, developers, and analysts build, run, and manage AI models, according to IBM.

Participants also get an introduction to job outlooks in the field. Job growth for data scientists from 2021 to 2023 is much faster than other occupations at 36% growth, according to the U.S. BLS. These workers earn more than $100,000 median base salaries.

4. Information Technology Fundamentals 

This course focuses on IT basics, including troubleshooting and tools that IT professionals use. Learners also focus on computer basics, networking, hardware, software, and computer security. Participants practice helping a customer use a simulated remote connection tool.

Like the other courses, learners are also introduced to the job outlook for IT professionals. IT support salaries are roughly $60,000, according to the BLS. Many of these professionals also work to upskill and eventually move into data-focused roles, some of which are mentioned above. Learners can complete this course in just over 10 hours, and earn a credential upon completion. 

These digital credentials “help to beef up your resume if you don’t have experience on the job already,” Logan says. “This shows that you’ve taken initiative and it shows that you’re willing and ready to do what it takes to be a successful employee at a tech company.”

Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.