Certifications for Security Administrators


Updated October 3, 2022

Interested in a career as a certified security administrator? Read on to learn which certifications to pursue and how to maintain your credentials.

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Security administrators serve as key point people for cybersecurity teams. They stop computer hackers in their tracks to earn an average annual salary of $68,0800, according to Payscale data in August 2022.

Typically, a security administrator needs a computer science degree. They may also benefit from pursuing graduate education, cybersecurity bootcamps, or certification programs. According to the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2021, cybersecurity professionals with one certification earn an average of $33,000 more than individuals without certification.

Most security administrators have deep knowledge of IT security and infrastructure and skills in security auditing and policy development. With the right balance of practical experience and certification, these professionals can become security engineers and security managers.

Read on to explore certification options and recommendations for security administrators.

What Is Certification in Security Administration?

While state agencies provide licensure and colleges or universities offer certificates, industry organizations provide certifications. Certifications typically require applicants to pass rigorous examinations and may call for work experience or other specific backgrounds. Many agencies offer certification for security administrators, each with its own requirements.

Certification in security administration is a process by which a professional demonstrates their competence in the field. This process shows prospective employers that security administrators are qualified and possess the technical knowledge and problem-solving skills to protect sensitive assets.

Why Pursue Certifications for Security Administration?

Cybersecurity certifications help professionals stand out from the competition when applying for jobs by demonstrating their knowledge and skills in the field. Certification demands continuous learning, and most certifications require professional development to recertify. This ongoing development helps them remain relevant — no matter how technology changes over time.

Research published in The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals 2020 revealed the top two career development opportunities for security professionals — practical experience and certification. When combined with a mentor and a standardized career map, technical education through certification can be a ticket to the top of the cybersecurity world.

Some certifications are more popular than others. In the study above, 51% of respondents held certified information systems security professional (CISSP), and 48% believed it provided the most career value. However, trend analysis of the report indicates that the certified information systems auditor (CISA) and the CompTIA Security+ certifications are increasing in perceived value.

Consider how certifications for security administration might enhance the careers discussed in the links below:

What Are The Best Certifications for Security Administrators?

For security administrators, certain certifications stand out. These include the CISSP, the GIAC security essentials certification (GSEC), and the CompTIA security+ certification. What makes these certifications more valuable than their counterparts?

They primarily emphasize management over technology. While a security administrator needs a certain level of skill, their core function is managerial rather than technical. Security administrators should look for certifications that evaluate their administrative and leadership roles over those that emphasize tech skills.

Like other cybersecurity professionals, security administrators should look for recognized certifications that enjoy industry-wide credibility. Often, associations publish the number of professionals who hold their certifications and other relevant information. A quick look through job boards can also reveal the certifications most employers seek.

Several industry associations offer certifications relevant to security administrator careers. The following section covers common certifications and the organizations offering these credentials.


Founded in 1988 as a consortium of security organizations, (ISC)² now serves 168,000 members globally. The organization meets the certifying requirements of the ANSI/ISO/IEC Standard 17024, the first in the field to do so. Today, (ISC)² offers certifications based on the association's common body of knowledge.

In addition to certifications, (ISC)² provides ongoing educational opportunities to help security professionals hone their craft. These include events, webinars, newsletters, and access to cutting-edge research.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Among the top certifications for security administrators, CISSP demonstrates an experienced executive's knowledge across several subareas. The exam covers eight topics, including asset security, security architecture, and security operations.

To qualify for the CISSP exam, applicants need five years of paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains in the common body of knowledge. The CISSP may be ideal for government employees since it meets the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 8570.1.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner

SSCP credentials verify the holder's knowledge and skill in IT security infrastructure management. This certification serves managers and specialists with experience in operational security. The exam covers seven knowledge domains, including cryptography, asset controls, incident response and security, and security operations and administration.

Each applicant needs one year of paid work experience in one or more of the knowledge domains. Test-takers with bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity may qualify with a different experience level.

HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner

The HCISPP certification suits security professionals working in the healthcare industry. This certification exam covers seven domains. Each applicant needs at least two years of experience in one or more of these domains.


As an education and advocacy association in global security, CompTIA has issued more than 2.5 million certifications. The organization maintains the largest vendor-neutral credentialing program in the industry. Applicants can earn CompTIA certification in technology core, infrastructure, cybersecurity, data and analytics, and additional professional areas.

Prospective test-takers can sign up for individual or group training through CompTIA. Security professionals can also take advantage of continuing education opportunities, learning events, and access to publications.


As one of the best certifications for security administrators, CompTIA's Security+ certification validates baseline cybersecurity skills in architecture and design, attacks and vulnerabilities, and governance. This certification complies with ISO 17024 standards and U.S. Department of Defense directive 8140/8570.01-M, making it ideal for government employees.

The exam includes 90 questions, and test-takers have 90 minutes to complete it. To qualify for the test, each applicant needs to hold the Network+ certification and two years of relevant experience.


This intermediate-level certification applies behavioral analytics to network security. Holders verify their knowledge of software and systems security, threat and vulnerability management, and security operations and monitoring.

Test-takers have 165 minutes to answer the exam's 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions. Each candidate should hold Security+ or Network+ and at least four years of information security experience.


Focused on validating a holder's penetration testing skills, PenTest+ evaluates test-takers on vulnerability scanning, legal and compliance requirements, and remediation techniques. Individuals have 165 minutes to pass this 85-question exam. Applicants should hold Network+ or Security+ and 3-4 years of information security experience.


Formed after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the EC-Council began as an information security training and certification organization. Today, the organization is the world's largest cybersecurity technical certification organization. The EC-Council operates in 145 countries and has certified more than 200,000 professionals.

The organization developed and now maintains several recognized certifications, including the certified ethical hacker (CEH), computer hacking forensics investigator (C|HFI), and certified security analyst (ECSA).

Certified Ethical Hacker

To earn the CEH certification, applicants must prove their mettle in the tools, methodologies, and techniques of ethical hacking. Specifically, test-takers demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in attack vectors, exploit technologies, and hacking challenges.

EC-Council offers online training. The exam includes 145 multiple-choice questions, and examinees have four hours to complete the test. Topics include cryptography, cloud computing, session hijacking, malware threats, and vulnerability analysis.

Certified Chief Information Security Officer

This certification builds on an applicant's real-world experience in security administration. Candidates can proceed through the official training program or attempt the exam without formal prep. The test requires five years of experience or more in all assessed domains.

Test-takers must complete 150 multiple-choice questions in 2.5 hours or less. Current security administrators looking to pursue chief executive positions could benefit from earning this credential.

Certified Network Defender

Network administrators can verify their skills in predicting threats, detecting breaches, and responding to attacks online. Test-takers should hold basic knowledge of networks, their components, and their security policies. The exam includes 100 multiple-choice questions and requires four hours or less to complete.

Additional Certifications for Security Administrators

Many security vendors and industry associations offer certifications for security administrators. These include ISACA and the global information assurance certification (GIAC), along with companies such as IBM and Microsoft.

Preparing for Certification Exams;

Most certification exams demand extensive preparation. Even a seasoned cybersecurity professional may not be able to answer 100-plus questions in the time allotted. Creating a study plan is essential to success. Consider these tips:

  • Take practice tests. These exams are the best way to get familiar with the format of the exam and the types of questions. On many exams, test-takers need to understand all the concepts and apply them in a practical way.
  • Enroll in training courses. Many industry associations offer online or in-person training experiences to help participants pass exams.
  • Identify areas for extra study. Associations often provide a breakdown of exam topics. By noting areas of relative weakness, prospective test-takers can shore up their knowledge before the exam.

Finally, consider going beyond a certification and exploring one of the best cybersecurity degrees in the list below:

Choosing Between Top Security Administrator Certifications

It can be difficult to decide which certification to pursue. Fortunately, a candidate can always earn more than one cybersecurity certification. Consider these tips for choosing from the top security administrator certifications:

  • Decide if you should pursue a vendor-neutral certification, such as the CISSP or the CEH, or if you need a vendor-specific certification from a company such as Cisco or Microsoft.
  • Research the different certification agencies and what they offer. Find one that aligns with your career goals and interests.
  • Check the requirements for each certification. Make sure you are eligible or willing to meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Look at the cost of each certification. Does it fit within your budget? Will your employer help cover these expenses?;
  • If you work for the government — or want to — make sure the certification you choose meets federal standards for your prospective role.

More Resources for Security Administrators

Discover what a security administrator job looks like, and learn more about the role these professionals play in cybersecurity teams. Do you need a degree to be a security administrator? What about a certification or license? Find out more here. What does a security administrator do all day? Learn how these professionals approach projects and their collaborators. How much does a security administrator earn? Can this career lead to an executive position? Find out more!

FAQ About Security Administrator Certifications

How long does it take to become a certified security administrator?

Generally, it takes a few months to a year to complete the process. The time it takes to become a certified security administrator varies depending on the agency and the level of certification.

Do security administrators need to be licensed?

Although security administrators do not need to hold state-issued licensure, many employers prefer to hire individuals who have been certified by industry-recognized organizations. Certification provides evidence of an individual's knowledge and skills and can give employers confidence that the administrator can perform the job.

What are the best certifications for a security administrator?

Many security professionals choose CISSP, CISM, CompTIA Security+, CISA, or CEH credentials, making these the most popular certifications. However, the best certification is the one that best aligns with a candidate's professional goals.

Can certifications in security administration increase your salary?

Many employers pay higher salaries for candidates with certification in security administration. Certification demonstrates that the candidate has the skills and knowledge necessary to perform the job well.

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