Predictions show us that by just 2021, there will be more than 3 million unfilled cybersecurity positions. It's not a secret that organizations are, now more than ever, facing challenges when it comes to forming and staffing their cybersecurity teams, and data regarding the notorious skills gap further supports that as it shows a need for cybersecurity workforce increase of 145%.
As those predictions might sound grim to organizations looking to protect their systems, networks and the growing attack surface against ever-evolving cyber threats, they are advantageous to those looking to enter the cybersecurity field. Many cybersecurity positions are in high demand in current job market, and some of the most sought after are:
Vulnerability Analyst/Penetration Tester
But this demand is not exclusively of great significance to those entering the cybersecurity job market; many IT roles are being redefined with the adoption of secure development practices and multi-layered approach of cybersecurity throughout the organization.
What was once the responsibility solely of CISOs, security engineers and analysts, has now shifted to the entire IT department: software developers, network and system engineers were usually unconcerned about cybersecurity, but are now in a way forced to adopt more secure practices. Organizations are pushing security to the beginning of the development process and place security at the center of all their operations.
When entering the field, or when looking to improve your skills, knowing which cybersecurity and infosec certifications are in highest demand and are respected the most is a good place to start in furthering and propelling your career. But, there are just so many of them out there! And we don't blame you if you get lost and confused in which ones to choose. Should you go for the conventional ones about which you hear everyone talking, or some that are more specialized, or just looking for a good deal as certifications do require an investment of time and money?
The current skill and expertise level, combined with future aspirations should also be taken into consideration when looking into infosec and cybersecurity certifications. Are you just looking to expand on your skills and add to your existing certs, or you've just entered the security industry, and are looking for a good place to start?
We've looked into both of these scenarios, and today, we have a list of the 5 best information security and cybersecurity certifications, all of which are well-respected, relevant and high paying! For this list we focused on more advanced and higher-paying certifications, but stay tuned for a list more suited to those just entering the field.
- CISM - Certified Information Security Manager
- CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- GSEC - The GIAC Security Essentials
- CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
- CSSLP - Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
- Additional certification to consider - CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor
CISM - Certified Information Security Manager
Estimated salary: $137,058 ¹
This one is aimed at those that want to validate their expertise in managing enterprise information security teams.
CISM, or Certified Information Security Manager, offers more career advancements, and in turn higher earning potential to those who earn the credentials. As the name implies, this is a certification designed for information security managers that wish to solidify their position as leaders of an enterprise security program and are already well-versed for this role as one of the requirements is a minimum of five years experience in information security, and three of those should be in a management role.
The credentials for this certification are from ISACA, a well respected organization. CISM will show to your employers that you are an expert in information security governance, information risk management, incident management and information security program development and management. Skills you will take with you are those needed to create, deploy and manage enterprise security architecture and this certification is best suited for those with a background as security consultants and managers, security auditors and architects, CISOs, risk officers and similar.
If you want to take your role away from the technical side of the industry, and into management, CISM is the certification to earn.
CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
Estimated salary: $125,466 ²
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) is one of the highest-earning and well respected cybersecurity certs out there, and it has been here for a long time. In addition to being recognized since 2003, it is supported by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)2, which makes this vendor-neutral credential highly respected in the industry.
Professionals that mostly go for this cybersecurity certification are those that want to handle more responsibilities over the development and management of security policies, procedures, and cybersecurity programs. There are quite a few requirements in order to be eligible to apply for this certification.
To attempt to take the CISSP exam and get certified, you would need to have at least a five-year experience in two or more of the (ISC)2's eight Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains, or four years of experience in two or more of CBK domains and a college degree or an approved credential. Those domains are:
- security and risk management
- asset security
- security architecture and engineering
- communications and network security
- identity and access management
- security assessment and testing
- security operations
- software development security
So, quite a bit of requirements. But what do you get when you earn CISSP certification?
Individuals that hold the CISSP certification are those who showcased knowledge in all domains of security of information systems and it's more of a management level credential, rather than a technical one. That isn't to say they don't possess said technical knowledge: they will be behind decision-making processes of organizational security protocols.
CISSP is a highly sought after information security certification and remains well recognized in the industry, and is a good next step in your career.
GSEC - The GIAC Security Essentials
Estimated salary: $79,733 ³
The GSEC is the one entry on this list that isn't as advanced as others like the CISSP certification, to which the GSEC is often compared. The GIAC Security Essentials credential is issued from the SANS Institute, a respected organization, which their infosec certification will certainly reflect.
The GSEC is a more technical certification which indicates hands-on knowledge in a wide array of topics. And when we say wide, we really mean it: this certification covers 33 topics. They are:
- Access control and password management
- Active defense
- Contingency plans
- Critical controls
- Cryptography algorithms and deployment
- Cryptography application
- Defensible network architecture
- Endpoint security
- Enforcing Windows security policy
- Incident handling and response
- IT risk management
- Linux security: Structure, permissions and access
- Linux services: Hardening and securing
- Linux: Monitoring and attack detection
- Linux: Security utilities
- Log management and SIEM
- Malicious code and exploit mitigation
- Network device security
- Network security devices
- Networking and protocols
- Securing Windows network services
- Security policy
- Virtualization and cloud security
- Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing
- Web communication security
- Windows access controls
- Windows as a service
- Windows automation, auditing and forensics
- Windows security infrastructure
- Wireless network security
As you can see, this certification isn't specialized or directed at a specific group of security professionals. Rather, it shows that the individual is a technically-oriented infosec professional who can quickly solve most of the problems it addresses. Since this is an "essentials" certification, there are no true requirements; it's intended for anyone who is interested in information security and has at least some background knowledge as an IT engineer, auditor, pen tester, security administrator, etc.
While CISSP and GSEC certifications are often compared to each other, we can clearly see the difference: CISSP has more of a managerial focus, while GSEC is its technical counterpart. If you want to work in roles where it's expected to be more hands-on, the GSEC would be a better option.
CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
Estimated salary: $121,000 ⁴
CRISC, or Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control, is another ISACA certification on this list, and is equally as globally recognized and provides those that earn it with career and monetary benefits, and with an opportunity to showcase their skills in enterprise risk management and implementing information systems controls.
Professionals that go for this certification are those who are already associated in business risk management and controls, such as risk and control professionals, compliance analysts and managers, project managers and similar. And to even be able to apply to qualify for a CRISC certification, you are required to have three years of experience managing IT risk and designing and implementing controls. You also have to have experience across at least two of the four CRISC domains. Those domains are:
- IT risk assessment
- risk and control monitoring and reporting
- risk response and mitigation
- IT risk identification
CRISC is one of the most valued certificates when credential holders want to solidify their position in the real-world threat landscape, evaluate and manage enterprise risks using advanced security tools.
With career advancement opportunities and competitive advantage holding this certification has, if you are someone that wants to invest in their risk management career, this is the cybersecurity cert for you.
CSSLP - Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
Estimated salary: $104,000 ⁵
And yet again, an (ISC)2 certificate makes its way to our list. The Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional, or CSSLP for short, is there to help professionals officially show their AppSec skills and their knowledge of security problems that happen during the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC). Due to its domain, individuals that are pursuing this cert are mostly application security professionals, application designers, software engineering and security and network professionals, as well as software developers.
To qualify for the CSSLP, you are required to have four or more years of experience in one of the eight SDLC domains, that are also covered in the test for the cert, and they are as follows:
- secure software concepts
- secure software requirements
- secure software design
- secure software implementation and programming
- software testing
- secure lifecycle management
- software deployment, operations, and maintenance
- supply chain and software acquisition
The requirements are not so strict, as you can cut one year of experience by possessing a BA in CS, infosec or related field, or even pass the test prior to obtaining the certificate, and wait out while you gain the needed work experience.
CSSLP, once earned, will validate the candidate's expertise in application security, vulnerability management, how they handle app vulnerabilities during each part of the SDLC, and pinpoint threats that are targeting applications. As application security is (finally) becoming more and more important in the current organizational security environment, this is a valuable cybersecurity certification to earn.
Additional certification to consider - CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor
Estimated salary: $104,117 ⁶
We just had to have at least one honorable mention. CISA stands for Certified Information Systems Auditor and is globally recognised for security auditing professionals and those looking into this field. Certified individuals have proven knowledge in auditing, control and assurance of organization's information technology and systems.
Another ISACA certification, it is highly recognized at the job market and they have a cool catchphrase: "In a World Full of Auditors, be a CISA" which really accompanies what holding this cert means — expert level security auditor. And what skills do you gain and vouch for with the CISA cert? Several: Information systems auditing process, governance and management of information systems, as well as their operations, development and implementation and how to protect their assets.
As with plenty of other entries on this list you need a minimum of five years of experience in order to take the test, and that experience should be in information system auditing or security, however, there are ways to reduce that requirement with other notable professional and/or educational pursuits.
While a higher-level and well-paying cert, CISA can be a good choice even for an entry-level auditor, as you can pass the exam and wait to fulfill the work experience requirements. This certification will show employers that you possess knowledge for planning, executing and maintaining on audit operations.
There are plenty of cybersecurity and infosec certifications out there, and it can be daunting to choose which one to pursue, as many of them are investment in both and money. And should you go for the most popular ones, or more niche ones is up to you. But with this list in mind, we hope that those looking to further their career and skills in the industry have found one to add to their portfolio.
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