Cyber security is one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 33 percent growth rate for information security professionals by 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. You can thrive in different cyber security careers, including cryptographer, security analyst, and security software developer, with the right education and credentials.
Investing in professional cyber security certifications is a great way to improve your odds of success in the field. Certifications for cyber security can prepare you for entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level roles. This article features the highest-paying cyber security certifications, what they involve, and how much they cost, as well as training resources.
What Is a Professional Certification?
A professional certification is an advanced credential earned by a professional to reinforce their expertise in an industry. Certification proves that you have the skills, experience, and knowledge to succeed in specific positions. The credential is usually obtained through taking an exam offered by industry-specific organizations like CompTIA, ISACA, or EC-Council for the cyber security field.
What’s the Difference Between Certification and a Certificate?
There are several important differences between certification and a certificate. A professional certification involves an assessment of your skills, knowledge, and experience in the field. A certificate is an academic award that you receive upon completion of an educational program. You can pursue a certificate as a beginner, but you need work experience to achieve certification.
Certification is valid only for a specific timeframe, meaning that you will have to renew it, usually after one to three years. On the other hand, a certificate doesn’t require renewal and can act as a gateway to a degree program in a relevant field. Overall, certification carries more weight than a certificate because it proves that you meet a standard of expertise in the field.
Why Is Certification in Cyber Security Important?
Certification in cyber security is important because it facilitates professional development and credibility in the industry. Cyber security certifications are challenging, and earning one demonstrates your skill level and depth of knowledge in the industry. In fact, US News & World Report states that 91 percent of employers prioritize applicants with a cyber security certification.
Moreover, expanding your cyber security certification portfolio improves your earning potential. cyber security professionals earn different salaries depending on the certification. For example, a Certified Information Security Manager earns $129,000 per year on average, whereas someone with a CompTIA Security+ certification earns $78,000 per year on average.
Best Cyber Security Certifications by Salary
|Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)||ISACA||$129,000||$575 for Members
$760 for Non-members
|Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)||International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2||$121,000||$599|
|Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2||$119,000||$749|
|Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)||ISACA||$107,000||$575 for Members
$760 for Non-members
|GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)||GIAC Certifications||$100,000||$949|
|CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)||CompTIA||$93,000||$480|
|GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)||GIAC Certifications||$91,000||$949|
|Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)||Cisco Systems||$88,000||$300|
|Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)||EC-Council||$82,966||$1,699|
Best Cyber Security Certifications to Further Your Career
How to Choose the Best Cyber Security Certification for Your Career
When choosing the best cyber security certification for your career, consider your career goals, area of focus, and experience level. The cost of the certification is another factor to keep in mind. We’ll take a closer look at each of these considerations below.
Your Career Goals
Your career goals play a significant role in certification selection. You might be pursuing certification for professional development or in order to move into a leadership role. Defining your goals makes it easier to find the right certification. A wide array of cyber security certifications help you learn a new skill, change careers, or get a promotion.
Furthermore, defining your career path helps you zero in on a suitable area of focus. In the cyber security field, for example, there are certifications in the areas of application security, network architecture, security administration, and incident response.
Cyber security certification costs vary depending on the certification body. However, they are generally pretty reasonable and considerably less than degree programs. The ones on our list cost between $300 and $1,699 and provide access to good-paying jobs. Consider your budget and the anticipated payoff when choosing the right certification for you.
Your Experience Level
Cyber security certifications are available to beginners, mid-level professionals, and experts. Certification bodies provide options addressing foundational-level aspects of cyber security and advanced topics. For example, a beginner may excel at the GIAC Security Essentials Certification exam but lacks access to the CASP+ certification, which requires 10 years of IT experience.
Which Cyber Security Certifications Pay the Most?
The cyber security certifications that pay the most are CISM, CISSP, CCSP, and CISA. These certification holders receive an average salary of $100,000 to $130,000. The certification providers are reputable cyber security organizations with years of industry contribution. Furthermore, employers highly regard the certification exams from these providers.
Highest-Paying Cyber Security Certifications
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $129,000
- Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP): $121,000
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $119,000
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): $107,000
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH): $100,000
Which Cyber Security Certifications Are the Best for Beginners?
The cyber security certifications that are the best for beginners are the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC), CompTIA Security+, and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). These certifications have no prerequisites and are open to everyone, including entry-level professionals. Furthermore, these certifications cover foundation-level cyber security topics, which are perfect for beginners.
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How to Prepare for Your Cyber Security Certification Exam
You can prepare for your cyber security certification exam by taking short courses, creating study groups, reading cyber security books and blogs, or joining online cyber security forums. These resources are readily available and accessible, regardless of your experience in cyber security. Note that some exam prep resources require a fee, while others are free.
Best Courses to Prepare for Cyber Security Certification Exams
The best cyber security certification exam prep courses include the CISSP Exam Prep by Wichita State University and the CISA certification prep on Udemy. The courses cover fundamental cyber security concepts and skills to help you excel in your exams. Below is an in-depth overview of five of the best cyber security certification prep courses.
Other Resources to Prepare for Your Cyber Security Certification Exams
Other cyber security exam prep resources include books, podcasts, blogs, webinars, and YouTube videos. The wide array of resources makes it easier for you to find the most suitable exam prep resource. Below are five of the best options available.
CompTIA Complete Cyber Security Study Guide
This two-book set scores 4.3 stars on Amazon and covers CompTIA CySA+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications. You will learn essential security technologies, tools, and tasks in vulnerability management, cyber incident response, threat management, and security architecture. The set comes with free access to the Sybex interactive learning environment, where you will test your knowledge using electronic flashcards and practice questions.
CompTIA Complete cyber security Study Guide Overview
- Type of Resource: Books
- Cost: $39.76
- Ideal For: People who want to prepare for the CompTIA certification or understand CompTIA security concepts
Cyber Work Podcast
Infosec’s Cyber Work podcast is one of the best cyber security podcasts for industry professionals. It features weekly conversations with cyber security experts in cybercrime, security coding, ethical hacking, security management, development, and control. This inclusive podcast targets beginner, intermediate, and advanced cyber security professionals. You can listen to the podcast on various podcast hosting sites like YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
Cyber Work Podcast Overview
- Type of Resource: Podcast
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People who want to gain new skills for career development, keep up with modern cyber security trends, and learn from industry experts
Practice Exams: Entry-Level Cyber Security Certification
In this program, Udemy offers four practice exams consisting of 75 questions each. These exams are beneficial to entry-level cyber security professionals seeking to improve their credentials. The questions cover several cyber security domains, including security principles, access control, security operations, network security, business continuity, incident response, and disaster recovery.
Practice Exams: Entry-Level cyber security Certification Overview
- Type of Resource: Practice exams
- Cost: $29.99
- Ideal For: Beginners and professionals seeking to gauge their cyber security knowledge before taking the certification exam
TechExams is a unique cyber security forum where you can interact with professionals from different walks of life and employment backgrounds. The forum was designed by Infosec Institute, a renowned cyber security education company. Joining the group gives you 24/7 access to educational content, practice tests, videos, and interactive group engagements.
TechExams Community Overview
- Type of Resource: Online forum
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People who want to learn from and interact with a community of fellow cyber security enthusiasts
Krebs on Security
Created by Brian Krebs, a cyber security expert and former Washington Post reporter, Krebs on Security is one of the best-performing cyber security blogs. It explores modern cyber security trends, cyber security applications, cybercrime, and everything cyber-related, and is an exceptional blog for beginners and experts alike.
Krebs on Security Overview
- Type of Resource: Blog
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: Beginners and professionals who want to keep up with modern cyber security trends, compare various security applications, and gain new skills
Best Online Courses
Cyber Security Job Outlook and Average Salary
The job outlooks and average salaries of cyber security positions look strong. Information security analysts can expect a 33 percent job growth rate between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Information security analysts who pursue computer occupations can expect a 13 percent job growth rate during the same period. Both rates are higher than average. The BLS also reports that 16,300 jobs will be available in the field annually.
The BLS further indicates that the average salary for these occupations is $102,600. However, the average annual wage may differ depending on things like your experience and your certification. As indicated above, different certifications tend to result in different salaries. For example, the CISM certification pays more than the CISSP certification.
Best Cyber Security Jobs After Certification
Certifications increase your chances of getting the best cyber security jobs by validating your knowledge and skills in different areas. These certifications give you access to high-paying jobs because employers value them and increasingly look for them on resumes. Below is an overview of the best cyber security jobs and their related cyber security certifications.
Best Cyber Security Associations
Cyber security associations provide a platform for industry professionals to interact with each other and stay updated on cyber security developments. Some associations are known for their certifications, while others focus on educating the public and raising awareness of the importance of cyber security for organizations and individuals. Depending on your needs, you can join a private or public association.
Center for Internet Security
CIS is a non-profit association renowned for its best practices that secure data and IT systems. The association focuses on cyber security readiness, risk management, and incident response, and raises awareness through collaboration. With 20 years in business, CIS has developed world-class resources, such as CIS Controls and CIS Benchmarks.
International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2
(ISC)² is a global cyber security association and certifying body, established in 1989. It is a non-profit membership-only association dedicated to helping its members learn and grow in their careers. Members have access to exam prep resources for a variety of certifications, such as CISSP, CCSP, SSCP, CAP, and CSSLP.
SANS Institute began in 1989 with a mission to provide cyber security professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to improve information security. The institute offers high-quality certification training, academic scholarships, and resources to advance your knowledge and skills. You can access all GIAC certifications through SANS Institute.
Are Cyber Security Certifications Worth It?
Yes, cyber security certifications are worth it because they validate your skills and knowledge as a cyber security professional. These certifications allow you to reap the benefits of your hard work through salary increases, promotions, and freelance work. More people are using the Internet and storing data on cloud systems, meaning cyber attacks and vulnerabilities are rising, and getting a certification gives you a competitive edge in a congested industry.
Additional Reading About Cyber Security
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Cyber Security Certifications FAQ
Yes, you can have more than one cyber security certification. Certifications cater to different aspects of cyber security, meaning that you can select a certification depending on your career needs. Moreover, they don’t take as long as traditional degrees.
You should get a cyber security certification designed for entry-level professionals, like GSEC or CompTIA Security+. In addition, there’s a wide range of beginner-friendly resources to help you grasp the basic concepts.
Yes, your cyber security certification can get you a job without a degree. However, you will only be eligible for entry-level jobs because senior roles and advanced certifications require academic credentials.
No, it is not mandatory to join a cyber security association. However, these associations connect you with fellow industry experts and provide an environment where you can learn, get jobs, and stay updated on cyber security news and advancements.
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