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Vulnerability assessors identify weak spots in organizations' cyberdefense systems, sorting through extensive collections of data to find flaws hackers can exploit. They present their findings to cybersecurity teams and management. This career appeals to practical, focused professionals with the expertise and eye for detail to analyze systems for vulnerabilities.

Becoming a vulnerability assessor typically requires a degree in computer science or a related field and 2-5 years of experience as a penetration tester.

Industry certifications can help vulnerability assessors develop and verify the skills necessary for these specialized roles. Cybersecurity professionals can also boost their salaries, accelerate their careers, or assume management roles by earning certification.

Explore more about vulnerability assessor certifications below.

What Is Certification in Vulnerability Assessment?

Vulnerability assessors do not need state-issued licensure. However, earning certifications from industry associations can help assessors stand out in the job search as qualified, knowledgeable experts. These certifications demonstrate that professionals have completed training and are keeping their skills updated in the fast-changing cybersecurity world.

For example, vulnerability assessors can pursue the certified information systems security professional credential from (ISC)², a cybersecurity training and assessment organization. This certification teaches professionals to design, implement, and manage IT security programs.

Certification often requires passing an exam. Some certifications also demand relevant professional experience. Typically, certifications expire every 3-4 years. Holders usually renew their credential by earning continuing education units.

Why Pursue Certification in Vulnerability Assessment?

Certified professionals say they are more engaged and satisfied with their jobs than their peers, according to the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report, a comprehensive study of more than 9,300 IT professionals. The report also found that 92% of respondents held one or more certifications.

In the same report, 64% of IT decision-makers reported that certified employees delivered at least $10,000 in additional value over non-certified employees. Certification brought financial rewards, too, ranking among the top 10 reasons IT professionals received a raise.

For many cybersecurity employers, certifications provide a straightforward measure to close the current technology skills gap. Two of the best certifications for vulnerability assessors are:

  • GIAC Enterprise Vulnerability Assessor— Certification candidates prove their skills with network scanning, PowerShell scripting, and other assessment tools.
  • PenTest+— This credential from CompTIA validates penetration testing and vulnerability management skills.

Use the links below to discover more about careers in vulnerability assessment.

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Top Certifications for Vulnerability Assessors

A certification's value depends on the credibility of the organization behind it. The best cybersecurity organizations hold accreditation from agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology. CompTIA, (ISC)², ISACA, and the Global Information Assurance Certification are among the most popular accredited cybersecurity agencies.

When identifying the top certifications, vulnerability assessors should consider factors such as eligibility requirements, which marketable skills the credential develops, and the earning potential for professionals with the certification.

The Global Knowledge 2021 survey ranked two cybersecurity certifications on their list of top-paying certifications: the certified in risk and information systems control credential from ISACA and the certified information systems security professional credential from (ISC)².

Though not an exhaustive list, the certifying bodies listed below are among the top vulnerability assessor certifications:

Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)

GIAC began in 1999 to help cybersafety professionals evaluate and verify their information security skills. At GIAC, cybersecurity workers can earn certifications in fields like cyberdefense, cloud security, digital forensics, and incident response.

Certificate-holders must renew their credentials every four years. To recertify, candidates complete 36 continuing education units (CEUs) or retake the certification exam. GIAC provides opportunities to earn CEUs and accepts qualifying educational experiences from other organizations.

GIAC Enterprise Vulnerability Assessor (GEVA)

The GEVA credential covers vulnerability assessment framework methodology and planning. Test-takers demonstrate knowledge and skill in tactics such as network scanning and PowerShell scripting. The two-hour exam consists of 75 questions. Test-takers must earn a 71% or higher to pass.

GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)

Candidates for the GCIH certification must demonstrate their skill in investigating computer crimes using hacker tools such as Nessus, Netcat, and Metasploit. To prepare candidates for the exam, GIAC offers hands-on training using actual programs and code. The four-hour exam consists of 106 questions.

GIAC Python Coder (GPYC)

Test-takers for the GPYC credential demonstrate their Python coding proficiency in areas like database interaction, strings and functions, and SQL injection. The two-hour exam consists of 75 questions. Test-takers must earn a 67% or higher to pass.

GIAC Defending Advanced Threats (GDAT)

The GDAT certification covers advanced threat models and exploitation prevention. Test-takers demonstrate cyberdeception skills to respond to incidents and hunt threats. The two-hour exam consists of 75 questions. Candidates must earn a 70% or higher to pass.

(ISC)²

Established in 1989 as an association of information security organizations, (ISC)2 now boasts more than 168,000 members worldwide. The organization offers a broad array of certifications and maintains an industry code of ethics.

(ISC)2 provides certification options for entry-level, midcareer, and advanced cybersecurity professionals. Most (ISC)2 certifications require candidates to hold several years of specialized experience. However, even professionals without the necessary experience can join the organization as associates.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

(ISC)2 introduced the CISSP credential to validate an array of cybersecurity skills. This certification evaluates test-takers across eight security domains, including asset security, risk management, security operations, and identity and access management. Candidates need five years of relevant career experience.

Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP)

The HCISPP certification verifies cybersecurity skills in healthcare contexts. This credential covers seven domains, such as information governance, privacy and security, and the regulatory and standards environment. Test-takers need two years of relevant experience.

Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

The CCSP credential serves professionals who work with cloud security architecture and operations. The exam covers six security-related domains, including cloud concepts, cloud data security, cloud application security, and risk and compliance. Test-takers need five years of relevant experience, including three years in a cybersecurity role.

Entry-Level Cybersecurity Certification

This pilot certification assists professionals transitioning to cybersecurity from other fields. The program covers the skills, policies, and procedures necessary for entry- and junior-level cybersecurity positions. This entry-level credential can provide foundational knowledge needed to kick off a career that can culminate in a vulnerability assessor role.

CompTIA

An independent, vendor-neutral organization, CompTIA provides training and advocacy for information security professionals. The association has awarded 2.5 million certifications in networking, technical support, cybersecurity, and cloud computing.

CompTIA provides four different certification series — core, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data analytics — along with additional professional certifications. Candidates can pursue entry-level, intermediate, or advanced certifications. The organization's website offers a tool to help determine which certifications best suit professionals' needs.

PenTest+

Specifically created to validate penetration testing and vulnerability management skills, the PenTest+ credential covers topics like legal knowledge, vulnerability scanning, and proposing remediation strategies. Certification candidates also demonstrate competency with planning, scoping, and code analysis.

CompTIA recommends applicants complete the organization's network+ or security+ certifications and hold 3-4 years of relevant experience before undertaking this certification process. The PenTest+ exam includes up to 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

The CASP+ certification evaluates advanced skills in security architecture and engineering. This credential verifies professionals' abilities to present and implement security solutions across complex environments. Certificate-holders must also demonstrate knowledge of relevant compliance policies.

CompTIA recommends applicants have 10 years of relevant experience before undertaking this certification process. The CASP+ exam includes up to 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)

This credential validates the holder's ability to apply behavioral analytics in cybersecurity environments. Candidates must demonstrate data analysis, vulnerability assessment, threat detection techniques, and incident recovery skills.

CompTIA recommends applicants complete the organization's network+ or security+ certifications and have four years of relevant experience before undertaking this certification process. The CySA+ exam includes up to 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

CompTIA Security+

The security+ credential assesses baseline cybersecurity skills. Test-takers need knowledge of network architecture and design; risks, threats, and vulnerabilities; and incident response.

CompTIA recommends applicants complete the organization's network+ certification and have two years of relevant experience before undertaking this certification process. The security+ exam includes up to 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

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Additional Certifications for Vulnerability Assessors

Mile2, a cybersecurity training and certification agency, offers a certified vulnerability assessor course. Students who complete the training may take the exam to become a certified vulnerability assessor. This credential is valid for three years. To recertify, Mile2 requires certificate-holders to earn 20 continuing education units per year or pass the most recent version of the exam.

The EC-Council offers several popular cybersecurity certifications, including the certified ethical hacker (CEH) credential. This certification validates foundational knowledge in critical cybersecurity functions like sniffing, enumeration, cryptography, and session hijacking. Candidates for the CEH credential must pass a four-hour exam consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions.

Preparing for Certification Exams

Most certifications require professionals to pass an exam that authenticates their knowledge and skills. Many organizations offer test preparation resources like sample tests and study guides. Often, the certifying organizations also provide prep courses.

For example, (ISC)2 offers instructor-led and self-paced preparation courses in person and online. The organization also provides self-training tools. These include a mobile app, flashcards, printed study guides, sample tests, and an online study group. Certification candidates can also seek independent online discussion forums to exchange study tips and participate in virtual learning sessions.

Some community colleges offer courses that can give applicants the foundational knowledge they need to pass certification exams. These classes can provide the benefit of a structured classroom setting and a professor's supervision. Cybersecurity certificate programs can also provide preparation for certification exams.

Click the links below to learn more about cybersecurity certificates and degrees.

Choosing Between the Best Vulnerability Assessor Certifications

Choosing the right certification can be challenging. Consider the following factors:

  • Cost: Cost-conscious professionals should be aware that, in addition to the exam fee, certificate-holders typically pay for renewal fees and continuing education units. Research whether employers reimburse these expenses.
  • Renewal Cycle: Because technology changes constantly, professionals must renew their certifications. Each agency sets its own timeline, costs, and continuing education credits required for recertification.
  • Requirements: Applicants need to know if they meet a certifying agency's requirements. For example, does the agency require applicants to have job experience? Do test-takers need other credentials as prerequisites? Is a degree in cybersecurity or a related field necessary?
  • Test Style and Length: Some certification exams may require test-takers to answer 50 multiple-choice questions, while others may ask test-takers to complete 150 multiple-choice, short-answer, and practical demonstration questions.

No single certification meets every cybersecurity expert's needs. Consequently, some professionals stack their credentials, acquiring complementary certifications over time.

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Resources for Vulnerability Assessors

Interested in cybersecurity jobs? Discover a career as a vulnerability assessor for information applications and systems. Do you need a cybersecurity degree or certification? Discover the path to becoming a vulnerability assessor. Learn more about the typical duties of a vulnerability assessor in various roles and environments. How much do vulnerability assessors make? Find out salary information and other career data at this resource.

Questions About Certifications and Vulnerability Assessors


How long does it take to become a certified vulnerability assessor?

There are multiple paths and timelines to becoming a certified vulnerability assessor. Acquiring certification requires completion of training and an exam, which can take several weeks or months. In addition, most employers require applicants to hold an associate or bachelor's degree in cybersecurity or a related field. Often, prospective vulnerability assessors also need 1-3 years of relevant experience.

Do vulnerability assessors need to be licensed?

Vulnerability assessors do not need a state-issued license. Employers, however, may expect these professionals to earn industry certifications and a relevant degree.

What is the best vulnerability assessment certification?

Several industry associations offer vulnerability assessment certification. These include GIAC and CompTIA+. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, a U.S. government program, also provides a three-day certified vulnerability assessor training.

What other qualifications do you need to become a vulnerability assessor?

Employers may expect an associate or bachelor's degree along with experience in the field. Skills in areas like mobile systems, shell scripting, app development, and reverse engineering malware may help applicants stand out during the job search.


Featured Image: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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