There are many IT certifications and it becomes a challenge to pinpoint which will be best for your career. Some of the most challenging and respectable information security certifications are offered by GIAC.
However, two gold standard IT certifications that have a lot of market respect are CISA or CISSP.
But it is important to prioritize if you want to achieve both CISA or CISSP. If you are not an auditor and are looking for an IT certification then probably you should compare CISM vs CISSP because CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) is more follows what CISSP covers. The focus of this article is to specifically discuss CISA vs CISSP and which you should prefer.
Is CISA for You?
ISACA offers many professional certifications but CISA certification and CISM have been their top performing designations. To begin with CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) is a certification for information systems auditing. It is the gold standard when it comes to the profession of auditing IT systems.
Though CIA is widely recognized as an internal audit standard certification but it lacks the depth and knowledge that is required for IT audit, even while performing IT audits while working as an internal auditor. The content and exam of CISA are administered by ISACA which is an independent non-profit organization.
It is ideally suitable for auditors who are either in the information systems auditing field or want to branch into IS audits. The certification exam is quite rigorous and it also has five years experience requirement for certification.
The content on the CISA examination is a mix of audit, IT operations, IT governance, and information security. In fact the biggest weightage in the CISA exam is given to the Protection of Information Assets domain which is actually another name for information security.
But having said that CISA is definitely not a security certification. So, when your job is auditing in an IT system environment, then it is recommended that you go for CISA certification.
This is so because accounting and audit community clearly understands CISA designation and it places you in a position where the employers understand that you are someone who can be entrusted with IS audit of their systems. CISA is also quite well branded as a certification for IT professionals whose work relates to software development etc.
However, as I said earlier it is not a cyber security designation. In that case, you may want to explore cism certification, which is ISACA’s offering for cybersecurity professionals. You can read more about CISM exam and other details.
CISA certification was inaugurated in 1978 and there are more than 115000 certified practitioners, most of whom are auditors.
Is CISSP for You?
On the other hand, CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), is a certification which is focused on the cybersecurity. CISSP exam is administered by (ISC)² which is also a non-profit organization. It is different from CISA because it is targeted towards IT professionals whose work is associated with information security.
CISSP is a cybersecurity certification which is ideal for you if your work mainly involves technical system administration, security solutions designs, information security management, network security management, security analyst or designing security requirements of applications etc. It is not laser focused towards certifying you as an information systems auditor.
But having said that CISSP is a cyber security certification that is far more technical in its content that CISA. Though you can apply the knowledge learned in CISSP certification while auditing information systems but the certification itself does not cover the auditing domain and it is more appropriate for roles like security consultant, security engineer or professionals involved with core work of information security assessment.
Some other highly technical jobs like security architect, penetration testing, designing information security architecture and security control or managing security operations also are more appropriate for CISSP information security certification.
For CISSP certification, you also need to pass the exam and get 5 years experience in one of the 8 domains of CISSP.
There is a very active reddit CISSP community where you can learn and seek help for your exam preparation.
You may also like to read our comparison between CISM and CISSP.
There are currently more than 131,180 certified CISSP designation holders in 171 countries.
SSCP vs CISSP
Interestingly ISC2 also offers another certification called SSCP. This stands for Systems Security Certified Practitioner. Though, there is a clear overlap between the content of SCCP and CISSP, but the latter is more targeted towards leadership positions whereas SSCP is meant for IT practitioners at the base level.
A more relevant comparison can be between CISM and CISSP because both are targeted towards cybersecurity managers and leadership roles. I will try to cover the comparison between the two in a separate post.
But having gone through the contents of both, I would rate that CISM ecam is easier though it has established itself as one of the top information technology certifications. CISSP is broader, covers more domains and therefore will require more effort and training than CISM.
CISA vs CISSP – Final Verdict
So, briefly, when it comes to CISA vs CISSP, it all depends on your objective and career path. If you are in the auditing field, then you should definitely go for CISA. It will definitely help with your career in audit.
But if you are working in core IT management or IT security administration, then CISSP will be more beneficial for you. If you want to know about salary, then the difference is not much.