If you’re struggling to advance in the field of cybersecurity, you probably need more than experience to set yourself apart from the competition for higher-level jobs. Thankfully, you can acquire many certifications to boost your resume and set you apart from the pack. Here are the seven top security certifications to help build real-world skills and prepare you for a career in cybersecurity.
1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The CISSP is the most sought-after certification from the cybersecurity organization (ISC)². Employers use the CISSP as a benchmark in the hiring process for upper-level positions. Passing the exam shows that you know the fundamentals of IT security and can be trusted to design and monitor a cybersecurity program. With that said, this prestigious certification has some hefty prerequisites. You must have/do the following:
- At least five years of experience in two or more (ISC)² Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains.
- Choose one of three CISSP concentrations: architecture, engineering, or management.
- Agree to the CISSP code of ethics.
- Pay an exam fee of $699 and a CISSP concentration fee of $599 ($1298 total).
- Recertify every three years.
- Maintain the CISSP credential with an annual fee of $85.
The exam has 250 multiple choice questions, each worth four points. You must score at least 70% within a three-hour time limit to pass.
The CISSP is, for lack of a better phrase, a rite of passage from skilled to professional. It’s a long-term financial and educational commitment. If you’re serious about a career in cybersecurity, plan on taking the CISSP in the future.
2. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
This top security certification comes from the IT organization ISACA, which specializes in cybersecurity auditing. The CISA is primarily used for mid-level IT workers looking to take the next career step. Passing the test demonstrates your ability to notice/fix security vulnerabilities and design controls that improve security.
Like the CISSP, this certification also has some requirements:
- At least five years of experience in IT security or IS audit, control, security or assurance.
- $575 fee for ISACA members.
- $760 fee for non-members.
- Agree to ISACA’s code of ethics.
- Renew certification every three years with an $85 fee.
The CISA allows some leeway for experience and education. A two-year Associate’s degree can replace one year of experience, and a four-year Bachelor’s degree replaces two years of experience. It has 150 questions, and you must reach a score of 450 out of 800 to pass within the four-hour time limit.
3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The CISM is another certification from ISACA that tests your managerial potential in a variety of IS subcategories, including governance, program development and risk management. If you want to advance into a high-ranking management position, the CISM is the test for you. Here are the prerequisites:
- Five years of experience in IS, with at least three years in a low-level management role.
- $575 fee for ISACA members
- $760 fee for non-members
- Agree to ISACA’s code of ethics
The exam consists of 200 questions and has a time limit of four hours. You can score anywhere between 200 and 800, with 450 being the lowest passing mark.
4. Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
This cloud security certification marks the transition from intermediate to advanced for IT employees. If you want to prove your skills in cloud security architecture, design and service, the CCSP is a popular stepping stone. Here’s what you need to take this exam:
- Five years of experience, including three years in IS and one year in a CCSP CBK domain.
- $549 fee for each attempt
- Agree to CCSP’s code of ethics
- Receive an endorsement from an (ICS) professional
- Renew certification every three years, with an annual fee of $100.
This test has 125 questions and a four-hour limit. You must score at least 700 out of 1000 points to pass.
5. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
This certification from the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC Council) tests your skills with ethical hacking, also known as white hat hacking or penetration testing. Ethical hacking involves legally breaching organizations’ security measures to find any bugs or vulnerabilities before real cyber attackers find them. To take the CEH, you must have/do the following:
- Two years of work experience in IS or official EC Council training.
- Non-refundable application fee of $100.
- $1,199 fee for the v11 exam, the latest version of the CEH.
- Submit an exam eligibility form.
- Renew the certification every three years with an $80 annual fee.
The CEH is one of the most challenging exams an IT professional can take, with 125 questions and a required passing score of 70%. You have four hours to complete the exam.
6. CompTIA Security+ (SY0-601)
If you’ve been looking for a top security certification for entry-level jobs, the Security+ is the exam for you. It covers many subjects in IT and is often the first step towards attaining more advanced certifications. Still, it has some prerequisites:
- CompTIA Network+ credentials preferred but not required.
- Two years of experience in systems management is preferred but not required.
- Exam fee of $339 or less with an SY0-601 voucher.
- Renew certification every three years with continued education or an online course.
Security+ is the most popular cybersecurity certification in the world, with over 600,000 holders, so if you want to stand out and advance from your entry-level position, this exam is a good start.
7. GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
The GSEC is another entry-level certification covering a wide range of skills, from active defense to network security to incident response. It’s also great for people with a background in IT who want to move into cybersecurity. There are no education or experience requirements for the GSEC, but you have to pay an expensive fee of $2499 for two practice tests and the actual third test.
Unlike other tests, you take the exam under a proctor’s supervision. It has 180 questions, takes five hours and the lowest passing grade is 73%.
Take Your Cybersecurity Career to the Next Level
If you feel stuck in your current job, one of these top security certifications can bolster your resume and give you the confidence to take the next step in your career. However, these exams are challenging commitments. Make sure you set aside the funds and take enough time out of your schedule to complete them without jeopardizing your current position. Slow and steady wins the race!
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