A Guide to Cybersecurity Certifications
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Certifications for cybersecurity build the skills needed for a thriving career in the field. With a cybersecurity certification, individuals demonstrate to colleagues and employers that they can tackle the biggest challenges facing information security today. Certifications for cybersecurity train learners in the largest tools and technologies used to detect, prevent, and thwart cybersecurity threats.
Cybersecurity certifications meet the needs of individuals looking to pursue careers in information technology, cybersecurity, or other related areas. They also build upon existing cybersecurity knowledge and facilitate career advancement.
These credentials accommodate individuals at all levels, which can make it difficult to choose the right cybersecurity certification. This guide explains what you need to know about the best cybersecurity certifications.
What Are Cybersecurity Certifications?
Entry-level cybersecurity certifications provide foundational information about the field while introducing students to the tools needed to work as cybersecurity professionals. Intermediate and advanced cybersecurity certifications build upon existing knowledge and may focus on specific skills, technologies, or professional roles.
Cybersecurity professionals can earn certifications to demonstrate specialization in areas like ethical hacking, information security management, and risk assessment.
In contrast to academic certificates, certifications reflect acknowledgment by a third party based on industry standards. Certifications differ from licensure for this reason, as well. Licensure comes from government agencies, while certification verifies that an individual meets industry standards set by a professional organization.
Where to Get Cybersecurity Certifications
Professional organizations, private companies, and industry vendors offer certifications in cybersecurity that vary in length, level, and format. Online cybersecurity certification training programs often allow students to complete assignments at their own pace in anticipation of culminating exams.
Colleges and universities may incorporate certification prep into their cybersecurity programs, aligning the curriculum with industry-recognized credentials. CompTIA, for example, provides instructional and learning materials to schools, nonprofit organizations, and government-funded agencies.
As a leader in certifications for cybersecurity, CompTIA offers programs in cybersecurity fundamentals, penetration testing, and advanced security. Additional certifying bodies include (ISC)², CompTIA, and Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC).
Certifications for Cybersecurity Experts
How to Choose Between Cybersecurity Certifications
Choosing a cybersecurity certification requires consideration of skill level and prerequisites, program length and intensity, and test style and length.
Entry-level certifications offer essential knowledge and skills and do not require previous coursework or experience, making them ideal for novices. Intermediate and advanced certifications often require previous credentials and a specific number of years of professional experience.
Prep time is also a crucial consideration. Some certifications provide intense, accelerated training programs. Others simply offer resources and guides for candidates to study and complete on their own time.
Test format and length may factor into certification choice, as well. Individuals who thrive in practical environments can pursue certifications with hands-on exams, while others may prefer multiple-choice questions.
Multiple credentials may be ideal, depending on your career goals. By earning certifications in different technologies and platforms, individuals demonstrate their breadth of expertise to current and potential employers.
Additional factors to consider:
Renewal period Initial cost and cost of renewal Global, national, or regional validity
Benefits of Getting Certified in Cybersecurity
Individuals with experience in information technology can gain a wider breadth of knowledge related to the field by earning a cybersecurity certification. They also develop additional skills that can lead to new professional opportunities.
Practicing cybersecurity professionals also benefit from certifications by becoming experts in subsets of the field. They can pursue certifications in cybersecurity architecture, engineering, or management to advance their careers. Additional options include earning a certification in cloud security, ethical hacking, or application security, which involve training in a niche area within the larger cybersecurity world.
Employers may require candidates to have cybersecurity certifications, but companies that use specific software prefer relevant certification for that platform. Entities that use Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, may look for individuals with AWS cybersecurity experience.
Certifications for Cybersecurity Careers
Questions About Certifications in Cybersecurity
Do I have to get certifications to work in cybersecurity?
You do not have to get certifications to work in cybersecurity. However, certifications demonstrate knowledge and skills applicable to working in the field.
Which cybersecurity certification should I get?
You should get the cybersecurity certification that relates to your professional goals. Employers may prefer certifications for cybersecurity from specific third-party organizations.
Are cybersecurity certifications expensive?
Cybersecurity certifications vary in cost, but some can be expensive. When choosing a credential to pursue, weighing the initial and renewal costs against potential income benefits can help put the expense into perspective.
Are cybersecurity certifications worth it?
They can be. Cybersecurity certifications are often worth it because they enhance your understanding of the field. These credentials also verify expertise in cybersecurity and topics within the wider discipline, leading to more job opportunities with higher pay.
Reviewed by: Darnell Kenebrew
Darnell Kenebrew is a first-generation graduate of San Francisco State University's class of 2020. He graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which helped him kick off a career in tech and pursue roles within data and engineering.
Currently, he's a data analytics engineer at Meta and an executive captain for COOP Careers — a nonprofit for overcoming underemployment. Kenebrew strongly believes in giving people a chance and that everyone should have an equal opportunity within the job market. He believes that COOP Careers helps this equality materialize.
Kenebrew is passionate about how the industry is shaped by data and how data can be leveraged in many aspects of business decisions to meet goals. In addition, he's passionate about inclusion, community, education, and using data for good. He hopes that he can pivot business decisions to make a positive, meaningful impact and that his work will positively impact end-users, as well as meet business goals.
Darnell Kenebrew is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed Aug 31, 2022
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