The 5 Top Cyber Security Certifications That Will Help You Get Hired
Top-notch cybersecurity measures are essential for the digital era we live in. Secure network systems within organizations are critical for protecting the sensitive data of customers, clients, employees, and even CEOs who stand behind the most powerful conglomerates.
That said, the implementation of antivirus software programs is not always enough, and if companies want to feel entirely protected from online threats, viruses, and attacks that could destroy even the most comprehensive security systems, they should hire professionals with cyber security certifications, who’d be able to identify and remove potential malware before the damage’s been done.
Cyber security certifications can help you get adequate credentials that’ll prove that you’re qualified for the job in a particular cybersecurity field. Since various certification programs provide you with different credentials, let us give you the list of the 5 best examples that will enhance your career opportunities.
A Bachelor’s Degree, Clearance, or Certification?
When looking for a job opportunity in a cybersecurity career, you must be wondering what diploma you need as proof that you’re qualified for performing duties regarding cybersecurity – the answer is, it depends.
Most jobs in the IT world don’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, especially for positions such as help desk.
A college degree is, however, a requirement for jobs regarding cybersecurity, and some companies may even ask for a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Speaking of a security clearance, that’s a specific set of standards that are used to handle classified material, especially in government and military. That said, about 11% of cybersecurity jobs will ask you for clearance, especially the Public Administration and Manufacturing and Defense sectors.
Clearances don’t guarantee 100% protection, but they raise awareness of the damage that can arise if you don’t follow the regulations of cybersecurity listed in NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
As for certifications for cyber security, most job openings will ask you to have one. Depending on the job you’ll be doing, you’ll be asked for a different certification that will meet the needs of job requirements.
Although they seem the same, there is a huge difference between the concepts of certifications and certificates.
Namely, the cyber security certificate is a type of degree or diploma, and you earn it after you’ve successfully completed the course program offered by a community college, a college, or university.
Certifications, on the other hand, are specialized credentials that professionals gain after they’ve passed an exam in a specific field to demonstrate their expertise and skills. You can go through training and pass the exam on-site, but you can earn cyber security certifications online as well.
How Can You Get a Cyber Security Certification?
Most cyber security certification programs are offered by specific vendors such as Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco, Oracle, and others. Such certifications help you prove your expertise with various technologies, and since they’re provided by reputable companies, it can be much easier for you to find the job that meets your needs.
Apart from the mentioned vendors, many professional organizations also offer certifications that help specialists advance their skills and abilities regarding the field their research is based on. Still, before you sign up for a program, check its quality and legitimacy since not all of them are created equally.
Most certification courses and exams are offered online, but some of them can also be attended on-site. Still, some of them will require you to have at least one year of professional experience in the field in order to become eligible for certification, which is why you should double-check the requirements before applying.
Once you become eligible, it can take you a couple of months to complete the certification process. It’s essential to study, practice, and gain confidence with an unfamiliar discipline before taking the final exam to get wholly prepared.
What are the Best Cyber Security Certifications?
The entire cybersecurity discipline continually changes, which is why you may notice that not all of the certifications involve the same amount of skills.
The list below consists of the 5 best certifications for cyber security. You’ll be provided with information about their benefits, purposes, and jobs for which they’re the most suitable.
1. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
Even though ‘ethical hacker’ sounds like an oxymoron, there is nothing symbolic in it. Namely, the students who attend this certification course learn how to think and act like hackers, but unlike malicious hackers, they won’t steal someone’s data. The course includes the following topics:
- Hacking methods targeted at cloud computing technologies, mobile platforms, and the latest versions of operating systems.
- Coverage of the latest system and network vulnerabilities, malware, viruses, and other sophisticated cyberattacks.
- Laws and standards of information security.
During the course, students will go through real-time scenarios where they’ll be shown various ways of how hackers penetrate networks and steal users’ data. The main focus will be on the latest cyberattacks, hacking tools, and new emerging attack vectors in the cyberspace.
After students have completed the necessary training, they will be ready to take the final exam, where they’ll need to show the ability to apply techniques and tools to compromise simulated systems within the virtual environment.
Students who attended the officially corresponding training will be able to take a final exam online at the end of the course. The exam consist of 125 multiple choice questions, the time limit is 4 hours, and students must score at least 70% in order to pass. The examination cost is $450.
As for self-study students, they must submit a record of two years of professional experience in the information security sector, endorsed by their employer. They’ll also need to pay an extra $100 for the eligibility application fee.
The exam can be taken through the ECC (Elgin Community College) Testing Center, ProctorU Testing Center, or VUE Testing Center.
Most organizations hire ethical hackers to penetrate networks and computer systems to find and fix potential security vulnerabilities.
As a penetration tester, you must earn the company’s trust, which will be highly rewarded later. Therefore, your annual salary could be even $130.000.
The official CEH website: https://www.eccouncil.org/programs/certified-ethical-hacker-ceh/.
2. CompTIA Security+
If you want to earn some of the best network security certifications, CompTIA Security+ is generally an adequate choice.
The course provides a basic understanding of cryptography, risk management, and vulnerabilities. By the end of the training, students will be able to find the most proper ways of configuring systems, securing devices, networks, and applications, as well as the methods on how to conduct threat analysis and apply mitigation techniques on these systems.
The Security+ certification will help you understand the following concepts:
- The ways of treating threats, attacks, and system vulnerabilities
- Identity and access management
- Risk management
- Network architecture and design
- The basics of cryptography and KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
- Understanding of the cybersecurity industry, acronyms, definitions, and possible career opportunities
Once you’ve achieved the Security+ certification, you can say that you’ve demonstrated your knowledge and skills in IT security.
The Security+ certification exam consists of 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions, and you have 90 minutes to finish it. You’re expected to score 750/900 to pass the exam, and you must have at least two years of experience before taking a test.
Make sure you study hard before taking a final exam – practice questions, exams, and exercises, and repeat them until you’re entirely prepared.
Speaking of the price, CompTIA offers multiple packages – Voucher ($339), Basic Bundle ($499), Exam Prep Bundle ($649), and eLearning Bundle ($899).
Some of them include the possibility of exam retake (in case you fail), e-books, files for exam preparation, and more.
CompTIA Security+ is among the security certifications that provide you with lots of employment options, especially entry-level IT positions that can be a springboard for more comprehensive career paths:
- Systems administrator: If you work as a system administrator, that means that you’re responsible for all the hardware and software for a company’s computers. You need to install the latest patches and programs to ensure all the systems are up to date, and provide technical support to employees, troubleshooting any possible issues.
- Network administrator: Network administrators maintain a company’s network by troubleshooting issues and fixing potential connectivity problems. They make sure the company’s network is fast and safe, and they continuously work on new systems that would improve the overall network performance.
- IT Manager: The IT manager’s task is to solve a company’s computer problems such as network downtime. They’re also in charge of implementing the latest technology that could bring significant benefits to the company.
The average annual salary for systems administrator would be $59.800, for network administrators $55.900, and IT manager can expect even $70.500.
The official CompTIA Security+ website: https://www.comptia.org/certifications/security.
- What are the Ways of Getting a Cyber Security Degree?
- How Can Computer Science Degree Help You Earn More Money?
- IT Support Technician – First Step to the IT Stars
- What is IT Support Specialist and How to Become One?
- Expert’s Choice: The 7 Best Server Antivirus Solutions
- The 6 Ultimate Android Antivirus Apps for Smartphones and Tablets
- What is the Best Way to Protect Your iPhone?
- The 5 Top-Rated Free Antivirus Solutions to Protect Your Home Devices
- The 7 Best Free & Paid Antivirus Software for Mac Users
3. The GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
The GIAC Security Essentials is one of the entry level cyber security certifications that validate a candidate’s knowledge of information security that goes a bit beyond simple terminology and concepts.
Accordingly, students will be covered with essential IT-related topics such as:
- Active defense and password management
- Basics of cryptography
- Network architecture and security
- Incident handling and response
- Windows and Linux security
- Web communication security – protection of cloud and endpoint
Anyone who’s new to information technology and has some background in information systems and networking can take the GIAC certification exam. Still, the training is also available for security professionals, IT engineers and supervisors, penetration testers, auditors, and the others who work in IT and security-related fields.
Unlike the previously mentioned security certifications, the GSEC doesn’t require you to have working experience or completed course in a similar field – however, it’s recommended to go through the training phase to understand better the materials.
The proctored exam you must take consists of 180 questions, and you must complete it within 5 hours. It’s essential to score at least 73% so that you can become GSEC qualified.
The total price of examination is $769 if it’s a part of the training, and if you choose “certification challenge” or “certification attempt” (no training), you’ll need to pay $1.899, which is more expensive than the examples above.
Since you’ll obtain skills and knowledge regarding identification and prevention of the most common cyberattacks, access controls, authentication, password management, DNS, network mapping, and network protocols, you can find yourself working as:
- Cybersecurity specialist: As a specialist in this field, you will operate all the aspects of information systems, data availability, integrity, and authentication, and implement all the necessary security measures for communication systems and networks within the organization.
- Data compliance lead: The task of a data compliance lead is to design, publish, and review technology designs, security controls, and solutions to reduce attempts of unauthorized access and other suspicious activities.
- Cloud security engineer: A cloud security engineer maintains security controls, deploys and manages infrastructures for next-gen cloud SaaS platforms, and provides ideas on how to improve the company’s systems and processes.
The average annual salary for a cybersecurity specialist is $90.000, for data compliance lead $71.400, and cloud security engineers can earn $129.800.
The official GSEC Certification website: https://www.giac.org/certification/security-essentials-gsec.
4. (ISC)2 Associate
Achieving cyber security certifications for beginners is not a mission impossible with (ISC)2 Associate.
The Associate status is specially designed for those who possess certain skills and knowledge in cybersecurity and IT-related fields but don’t have the required experience for more advanced certifications yet.
Unlike most certification processes, the (ISC)2 Associate doesn’t require years of professional experience in a specific field, nor some other certifications before taking the exam. Instead, it allows candidates to take the certification exam as they earn the experience, which is quite convenient for beginners who’ve rarely had the opportunity to work.
When you pass the (ISC)2 exam, you can take any of the offered certification exams that will help you qualify as a:
- CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional): This certification proves that you have skills that allow you to design, implement, and manage the best cyber security programs.
- SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner): It demonstrates you have advanced technical skills and knowledge necessary to implement, monitor, and administer IT infrastructure using security best practices.
- CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional): Thanks to CCSP, you can demonstrate that you’re qualified to design, manage, and secure data and applications stored in the cloud.
- CAP (Certified Authorization Professional): This is the only certification that aligns with each step listed in the Risk Management Framework (RMF). That said, it proves your technical skills and knowledge to maintain and authorize information systems within the RMF.
- CSSLP (Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional): With CSSLP, you can demonstrate you have comprehensive skills and knowledge necessary for the authorization, authentication, and auditing throughout the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
- HCISPP (Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner): HCISPP cyber security certification qualifies you as an expert in protecting healthcare organizations from cyberattacks and other threats.
Regardless of which of the IT security certifications you choose, your career will be enriched with new knowledge, skills, and reputation.
To become an Associate of (ISC)2, you need to pass one of the six mentioned certifications and pay all the fees required by the certification provider.
Your decision may be based on your preferences and goals you want to achieve in the future, and your certification exam will depend on it:
|Length of exam||3 hours||3 hours||3 hours||3 hours||4hours||3 hours|
|Number of questions||100 – 150||125||125||125||175||125|
|Questions format||Multiple choice, advanced innovative questions||Multiple choice||Multiple choice||Multiple choice||Multiple choice||Multiple choice|
When it comes to exam preparation, you can choose between training and self-study programs. Training is offered as a classroom-based, online instructor-led, online self-paced, and private on-site. As for self-study students, they can use official self-study tools, such as textbooks, study guides, study app, and practice tests that you can buy online.
After you’ve passed the wanted certification exam, you have various job opportunities that require the certification that you have.
Have a look at the following careers you can pursue with each certification:
- CISSP: Cyber Security Engineer, Info Systems Security Engineer, Cyber Security Risk Consultant, and more.
- SSCP: Cyber Security Engineer (Junior), Cyber Security Intrusion Analyst, Information Security and Compliance Specialist, etc.
- CCSP: Enterprise Architect, Security Consultant, Security Administrator, and more.
- CAP: With CAP, you can find a job in the U.S. federal government, military, and private sector organizations.
- CSSLP: Software Program Manager, Quality Assurance Tester, Penetration Tester, etc.
- HCISPP: Compliance Officer, Medical Records Supervisor, Practice Manager, etc.
The cyber security certifications salary you can expect with these credentials goes from $100.000 to $171.000 per year.
The official (ISC)2 Associate website: https://www.isc2.org/Certifications/Associate#.
5. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security
One of the most common Cisco’s information security certifications is CCNA Security, and it is the first step in preparing for a successful career in IT sectors.
The Cisco CCNA program provides comprehensive mid-level training and certification focused on the solutions and technologies essential for the implementation of modern networking and IT infrastructure. Also, you’ll obtain the skills and knowledge required to secure Cisco networks.
That said, the CCNA course will help you understand a broad range of fundamental concepts necessary for most IT-related careers:
- Network fundamentals
- Network access
- IP connectivity
- IP services
- Security fundamentals
- Automation and programmability
There are no special requirements for taking the CCNA final exam, but it’s vital to understand some exam topics such as basic IP addressing and network fundamentals. Also, many CCNA candidates already have one or more years of experience in implementing and administering Cisco solutions.
Earning the CCNA certification means that you understand the core concepts of VPN encryption, firewalls, web, and email content security, and endpoint protection. Also, the accreditation will approve your ability to install, investigate, monitor, and troubleshoot networks, while keeping confidentiality, integrity, and controlling devices at the same time.
The final exam consists of 60 – 70 questions, it lasts for 90 minutes, and its price is $250. The best thing about CCNA is the possibility to upgrade to the next certification level when your current license expires after three years.
So, if you are currently CCNA Security certified, you can migrate to some of the following programs:
- CCNA Cloud: This certification program is suitable for cloud engineers, cloud administrators, and network engineers who want to develop, advance, and validate their cloud-related skills.
- CCNA Data Center: Data centers have significantly developed in terms of hardware-software transformation, which is why data center professionals today should become familiar with automation, cloud computing, software-defined technologies, and virtualization.
- CCNA Industrial: The CCNA Industrial certification is beneficial for plant administrators, system engineers, and traditional network engineers who work in manufacturing, process control, and oil and gas industries.
- CCNA Routing and Switching: This is more or less basic Cisco certification, and it’s suitable for every professional who’s dedicated to networking.
- CCNA Service Provider: This certification is designed for service provider network engineers, technicians, and support staff who wants to configure and implement Cisco Service Provider IP next-gen networks.
- CCNA Wireless: This certification program is recommended for engineers who need skills regarding configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting essential tasks of a wireless LAN.
Apart from being able to maintain and secure Cisco networks, this certification allows you to seek many other career opportunities regarding cybersecurity.
For instance, you can work as Information Security Technician, Security Analyst, Senior Cisco Solutions Architect, and that’s just a small part of a bigger circle of chances you have with each of the CCNA certifications.
The average salary the CCNA certification can provide you goes from $55.000 to $90.000. However, it will depend on your job, location, and years of professional experience in certain fields.
The official CCNA Security website: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/associate/ccna-security.html.
Final Words – What You Should Know Before Taking the Cyber Security Certification Exam
All of you who have decided to take the certification exam offered either by vendors or professional organizations should know some crucial things regarding the examination.
- First, read carefully about the requirements of your working background and certifications.
- Second, pay attention to deadlines – many organizations charge extra fees in case you forget to schedule, reschedule, or cancel the exam.
- Third, don’t forget to renew your license. Most certifications expire after three years but double-check that information.
- Fourth, don’t expect high salaries as soon as you pass the exam – in most cases, your salary won’t increase immediately. Employers will consider your years of professional experience, your location, and your overall performance – that said, it may take some time until your certification starts to bring you money.