Best Certifications for Security Directors


Updated February 21, 2023

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Security directors keep their organizations' information, employees, and facilities safe. If this job sounds like a good fit for you, consider these security director certifications. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Safety is a basic human need in both personal and professional spheres. When it comes to the business world, security directors manage this essential consideration.

Security directors oversee systems and procedures that keep people, products, and data safe. These professionals implement safety measures, conduct inspections and risk assessments, and report on security breaches. Security directors may also coordinate with authorities such as law enforcement when needed.

Professionals in this field rely on both technical and managerial knowledge and skills. Security director certifications can help you develop and showcase this expertise. Explore these valuable credentials with our guide.

What Does Certification Mean for Security Directors?

Security director certifications add to existing knowledge about information and organizational security. Many certifications also build and validate analytical and leadership skills. Each certification has its own focus.

For example, GIAC Certifications' Certified Project Manager credential emphasizes new security technologies and tools. Similarly, GIAC's Security Leadership certification (GSLC), provides insight into the field's management and legal aspects.

Why Pursue Certification as a Security Director?

Security directors with certifications demonstrate that they have mastered their role's essential tools, technologies, and techniques. Pursuing a certification as a security director can improve job prospects and create opportunities for career advancement. While certification is not mandatory for security directors, it can help these professionals stand out in the job market.

Security director certifications can help security analysts qualify for higher-paid director positions. According to Payscale, security analysts earned an average annual salary of $70,600 as of November 2022, while security directors took home $92,830 per year on average.

What the Best Certifications Have in Common

The best certifications for security directors come from security industry leaders. Organizations like GIAC and International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) offer programs for professionals in diverse sectors. These certifications adhere to industry-standard guidelines.

Professional organizations such as ISACA also offer security certifications. ISACA's mandate to promote effective security across industries guides its credentialing, training, and enterprise offerings.

Researching what credentials current professionals hold can help job-seekers identify the best security director certifications for their goals. Which technologies and tools are essential to master may depend on a security director's target industry.

The certifications featured below highlight some of the top offerings available. While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides a clear look at options available to aspiring security directors.


Founded in 1999, GIAC offers more than 40 cybersecurity certifications. Focus areas include security management, offensive operations, industrial control systems, and digital forensics and incident response.

GIAC's vendor-neutral programs align with SANS Institute training and accommodate military, business, and government workers. The organization also provides workforce development programs and informational resources.

GIAC Security Leadership

GSLC certification focuses on strategic and technical controls for security management. Areas covered include the following.

  • Conceptual and applied cryptography
  • Networking and monitoring practices
  • Security operations center management
  • Security awareness and policy
  • System security
  • Risk and vulnerability management
  • Incident response

The exam includes 115 questions. GSLC certification requires renewal every four years.

GIAC Certified Project Manager

This IT project management certification caters to security professionals and current project managers. The GSLC exam comprises 115 questions. Topics include the following.

  • Structures and frameworks for project management
  • Time and cost management
  • Communications
  • Human resources
  • Quality and risk management
  • Stakeholder identification and engagment
  • Project integration

GIAC Security Operations Manager

This credential benefits security operations center managers and their colleagues. The exam covers management and process framework content. Specific topics include the following.

  • Security operations center design and management
  • Prioritizing and collecting logs
  • Alert use cases development
  • Response playback
  • Strategies and analytics for operational improvement

The two-hour GSOM exam includes 75 questions. Certification-holders need to renew their credential every four years.

GIAC Strategic Planning, Policy, and Leadership

GSTRT certification helps prepare security leaders to develop and oversee cybersecurity programs. Certification candidates prove their skills and knowledge in areas like the following.

  • Business analysis and strategy
  • Threat analysis
  • Security policy development
  • Leadership and organizational change

The GSTRT targets current and aspiring security directors. Like other GIAC credentials, this certification requires renewal after four years.


EC-Council provides cybersecurity courses and certifications to strengthen security in electronic commerce. The organization's programs accommodate students and professionals.

Learners can earn cybersecurity degrees and graduate certificates through EC-Council University. Other resources include cybersecurity updates, research papers and live events.

Certified Chief Information Security Officer

This credential caters to seasoned infosec professionals. The CCISO program covers five domains below.

  • Governance and risk management
  • Information security controls, compliance, and audit management
  • Security program management and operations
  • Information security core competencies
  • Strategic planning, finance, procurement and vendor management

Eligible candidates need five or more years' experience in at least three of these domains. The exam includes 150 scenario-based multiple-choice questions. Holders must renew their certifications every three years.

Advanced Network Defense

EC-Council's advanced network defense program features topics like ethical hacking, security practices, and security threat reduction tactics. This credential may benefit firewall administrators, systems architects, and systems administrators. The curriculum covers areas such as the following.

  • Firewalls
  • Advanced filtering
  • Hardening
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Protecting web applications
  • Memory analysis
  • Endpoint protection
  • Securing wireless

EC-Council offers training for this certification through in-person and live online classes. Candidates can also learn via self-study.

Certified Cloud Security Engineer

The C|CSE builds on candidates' backgrounds in network security, cybersecurity analytics, and computer engineering. Material emphasizes cloud security practices, technology, and frameworks. Vendor-neutral and vendor-specific content covers topics such as the following.

  • Best practices for cloud infrastructure security
  • Automated incident response
  • Governance frameworks
  • Forensic methods in the cloud
  • Legal standards and regulations


ISACA's community of information technology professionals includes more than 200 chapters. The organization offers cybersecurity certifications for professionals at all career stages.

ISACA provides resources such as frameworks, standards and models. It also issues peer-reviewed journals, news updates, and podcasts.

Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT

ISACA identifies the GCEIT as the only IT governance certification for individual professionals. The certification exam covers the following four domains.

  • Governance of enterprise IT
  • IT resources
  • Benefits realization
  • Risk optimization

This certification targets current and aspiring IT executives. Candidates need related full-time work experience to qualify for the CGEIT exam.

Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

Emphasizing enterprise IT risk management, the CRISC program covers the four domains below.

  • Governance
  • IT risk assessment
  • Risk response and reporting
  • Information technology and security

The CRISC credential focuses on governance best practices, along with proactive, agile approaches to IT risk management.

Certified Information Security Manager

ISACA's CISM program benefits IT security professionals who want to make the leap to program development and management roles. The certification exam covers subjects such as information security risk management, governance, and incident management.

CISM candidates should have full-time work experience in the exam areas.

Additional Certifications for Security Directors

Other certifications for security directors are available from organizations like CompTIA, (ISC)², and Cisco. Cisco's professional and expert certifications may suit managerial candidates. (ISC)² offers a managerial concentration through its popular certified information security systems professional credential.

Preparing for Certification Exams

Preparing for certification exams takes time and dedication. Resources like books and websites can provide valuable support. Many certification bodies provide prep courses and practice exams to guide you in exploring exam content.

Forming a study group with fellow certification candidates may suit learners who work well with others. Peer support can also help test-takers stay on task as the exam date approaches.

Consider other resources like those below.

  • Further coursework
  • Study guides
  • Video trainings

Choosing Between Cybersecurity Certifications

When deciding which security director certification to pursue, consider the potential return on investment. An expensive certification may pay for itself with career advancement opportunities. However, certification candidates should also weigh the benefits against the required time commitment.

You may need to meet work experience requirements before completing a certification. Make sure to choose credentials that fit your qualifications. Other factors for choosing between cybersecurity certifications include the following.

  • Exam length
  • Exam format
  • Renewal cycles
  • Continuing education opportunities
  • National or international validity

More Resources for Future Security Directors

What Is a Security Director?

What Is a Security Director?

How to Become a Security Director

How to Become a Security Director

Day in the Life of a Security Director

Day in the Life of a Security Director

Salary and Career Outlook for Security Directors

Salary and Career Outlook for Security Directors

FAQ About Security Director Certifications

  • Do you need a certification to work as a security director?

    You do not need a certification to work as a security director. Holding certifications in the field can help you advance in the field and increase your earning potential.

  • Do security directors need to be licensed?

    Government agencies issue licenses for certain professionals, like contractors, teachers, and medical personnel. Security directors do not need to be licensed, but optional certifications issued through various private organizations can boost these professionals' careers.

  • What is the best certification to get as a security director?

    The best certification to get as a security director is the one that matches your career goals. Exploring security director certifications from professional organizations and industry leaders can help you find the best options for you.

  • What is the hardest cybersecurity certification?

    The hardest cybersecurity certification varies by person. If you have less training or background in one aspect of cybersecurity, you may find a certification in that area to be especially challenging.

Page last reviewed on December 7, 2022

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