Cyber security risks have been increasing manifold and cyber attacks are on the rise world over. Now the magnitude of these attacks is unimaginable. Recently the whole citizen database of India was hacked. Similarly, Facebook also has recently disclosed that its 80 million records were compromised.
With this background, it is natural that demand for cyber security certifications has been on the rise. According to US Department of Labor the job growth for cyber security analysts is going to be 35 percent between 2021 to 2031, which is well above the average for other professions.
In fact, there are going to be millions of new information security job openings in the future. And people with one of these certifications will have clear head start over those who don’t.
The List of Top Cybersecurity Certifications
In this discussion, I will divide these cyber security certifications into two broader categories. Starting with entry level certifications, I will then discuss the gold standard and highest paying cyber security certificaitons.
Entry Level cyber security Certifications:
These cyber security certifications for beginners can help you land first entry level jobs in information security field. While you will not be able to land a job like information security consultant, or information security analyst, these entry level security certifications will give you edge in your other related jobs because of the increased focus towards information security almost throughout the enterprise.
Another advantage might be that these will provide you a good cybersecurity certification path for more advanced options.
This is a certification by CompTIA. Though it is not high on information security knowledge but it does cover network security concepts at basic level. It can help you land your initial jobs as network engineer or network designer, system administrator, IT manager etc where the HR is looking for someone with basic understanding of cyber security. Network+ exam cost is $319.
This is a dedicated cyber security certification from CompTIA. You will go through detailed concepts of information security like risk management and vulnerabilities etc while preparing for this exam. Some of the jobs where it can help you are system administrator, network engineer and entry level information security analyst. Security+ exam cost is $339.
If you are already working in networking, then a good entry level security certification is CCNA Security exam. However, CISCO will phase this out from Feb, 2020. And the new CCNA certification will have Security Fundamentals as part of it. CCNA Security exam fee is $300.
What are the best certifications to have for cyber security?
CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional and is arguably among the highest-paying cyber security certifications. This is the most popular certification for information security professionals. It covers detailed knowledge areas (eight domains) expected from a security professional.
You also need to have 5 years experience for CISSP certification. It is administered by (ISC)2 . CISSP exam is between 100-150 questions and the current CISSP exam cost is $699.
Certified Information Security Manager is one the trademark cyber security certification from ISACA, which also administers the CISA certification and is included among the top paying cyber security certifications. CISM is less detailed than CISSP and is more targeted towards managers.
Current CISM exam fee is $575.
3. Certified Ethical Hacker
This is perhaps one of the most famous certification because of the word hacker attached to it. However, I would rate it below CISM and CISA because its content is mostly web focus. It is not geared towards providing you a comprehensive understanding of the information security function from a manager’s perspective.
However, if you want to feel satisfaction from the word hacker being attached to your name, then this is a cyber security certification that you may like to pursue. CEH exam voucher is currently priced at $950.
This is also called SANS GIAC Security Essentials Certification. This is one of the top cyber security certifications that has made its mark in a short period of time. It is administered by SANS which is one the world’s top organization working in cyber security research and training.
SACS GIAC covers hot areas like defense in depth, Linux security, Windows security, cryptography, contingency planning and wireless security etc.
In fact this is the most pricey of all the cyber security certifications. GIAC exam cost is $1,899.
COMPTIA also offers an advanced cyber security certification called CASP+ which stands for COMPTIA Advanced Security Practitioner. The certification is aimed at serucity practioners and not on managers.
This certification prepares you for identifying and implementing security solutions that are required to implement inforamtion security policities and procedures at an entity. The certification covers both aspects: security engineering and seurity architecture. Therefore, those with CASP+ are certified professionals with skills to assess cyber readiness and identify, designg and implemention security solutions.
This is another cyber security certification from GIAC that is sharply focused on skills related to deteting cyber incidents, responding to them and resolving these according to best practices. Security incident management has become a serious business because of the rise in cyber attacks.
GCIH certified persons are valided to have necessary knowledge to manage information security incidents as they have studied attack vectors, tools used for such attacks and the most common techniques that rogue elements use. Therefore, they are qualified to build a good defense against such attacks and manage these incidents professionallly when youa are unlucky to be one compromised target.
System Security Certified Practioner is a cyber security certification focused on security of IT infrastructure and is targeted towards system adminsitrators, database administrators, security administrators, network enginners and network analysts.
SSCP certification validates your expertise and advanced technical knowledge to udnerstand, implement and monitor cyber security policies, practices and procedures in line with those developed by (ISC)² experts.
Though this certification called Certified Information Systems Auditor is focused toward auditors but a significatn portion of the domain knowledge is related to information security, therefore, I will also consider it a security certification.
It is one of the most respected certifications on information systems risks, controls and auditing. Therefore, if you will be performing a management level role in information security, then CISA may be a certification worth pursuing. It will teach you looking at security implementation with the eye of an information systems security auditor.
Is a cybersecurity certification worth IT?
Any certification is a testament to knowledge and experience of the person that has been certified by an independent body. Similary cyber security certification validate a person’s experience and exerptise in information security.
A good cyber security certification is very likely to increase job opportunies for you and possibly a raise or promotion at the existing work place. However, one should note that any certification without a real hands-on experience will be a piece of thin paper and employers will be able to see through it that you are not worth it to hire.
Can I learn cyber security in 6 months?
While it may be possible to have a basic understanding of cyber security in 6 months but it may not be feasible to consider yourself as an expert within this time frame. The body of knowledge that cyber security deal with is diverse, deep and constantly evolving.
Therefore, if you come from an IT background, you may be able to have a good understanding within 6 months and possibly you may even pass a cyber security certification but the real experitse will come from experience of working on cyber security projects on a practical level.
Is It Better To Get a Degree or Certification in Cybersecurity?
A certificaiton and a degree in cyber security are both valuable. However, obviously a degree will comprehesnively cover all aspects of cyber security, including a large chunk of theory and practical knowledge.
A degree is definitely desirable for those who are looking to start their careers in life and would like to chose cyber security as their profession. A degree will provide them a solid foundation and they will have a lot more options, for example becoming a researcher or completing higher education later.
This is not the case in case of a cyber security certificaiton, which is laser focused on precise and specific practical knowledge that is aimed at your professional development. Certifiations are useful for improving job prospects in a quick time or can help you transition into more specific niche career of cyber security. However, the best strategy might be to have a degree in cyber security coupled with a cyber security certification.