Securing Your Future: Best Cybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your IT Career

Taylor Karl
Securing Your Future: Best Cybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your IT Career 3565 0

Securing Your Future: Best Cybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your IT Career

A career in cybersecurity provides many options to apply your skills to protect the information and work of others. Cybersecurity is also a complex field in which years of experience is recommended; the best cybersecurity certifications show your dedication to the area and verify the relevance and depth of your skill set.

What Makes a Certification One of the Best Cyber Security Certifications?

Being in a cybersecurity role can be the beginning of a long cybersecurity career if coupled with targeted certifications that validate your skillset. What may be the best cyber certification for a rising security administrator may not be the best cyber certification for an entry-level cybersecurity professional. To determine what is best for you, make good certification choices to enhance your professional standing in your current role and prepare you for career development in your area of focus – cloud security, application security, information security, security architecture, offensive security, risk management, ethical hacking, and cybersecurity.

What are the best cyber security certifications for 2023?

For 2023, driven by governmental agency and private sector job site data (job titles and cybersecurity certifications requirements), seven of the best cybersecurity certifications rise to the top:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • CompTIA CySA+

Any cyber security professional should pursue certifications that fit your career goals; do not try to take a certification exam and get certified to say you did– they are too much work and cost to earn without purpose! The certifications you select to achieve should signal to your current or future employer your:

  • dedication to a skill specialty or knowledge area,
  • depth of experience in information security,
  • commitment to having a cybersecurity job,
  • focus on maintaining current knowledge of best practices.

If chosen wisely, cyber certifications can impact your career trajectory in cybersecurity based on your current role and career goals.

Validation of Skills

Cyber security certifications vary in level to address the needs of entry-level cybersecurity, professionals with five years of experience or more, and those seeking information technology management roles. The entry-level certification can begin a long and challenging career mapped against your progression to being one of your organization's most experienced cybersecurity professionals.

For example, CompTIA Security+ covers a foundational understanding of firewalls but needs to delve into the technical implementation details. When you advance to certifications like Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), you move to a higher level of expertise, including implementing cyber security measures. Some are vendor-neutral certifications, like Security+, and others only apply to specific vendor infrastructure, such as Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate, focusing on the practical aspects of Cisco-specific software and systems.

Thus, selecting which certification fits your needs depends on your experience level, area of expertise, job requirements, and the importance of vendor-specific skills.

Career Advancement

The International Technology Organization (ISC)² conducted a US study in 2021, revealing that 70% of employers required specific cyber security certification. With each certification gained, there was an average $18,000 salary boost for the employee. CompTIA (which manages some of the most respected vendor-neutral certification options within cybersecurity fields) shares that cybersecurity professionals have a strong career outlook with a beginning salary potential of around $61,500 US and various jobs.

With that career advancement potential, most individuals start at entry level and progress to operational staff roles, then move into middle management and eventually aim for upper management positions. Along this journey, you should earn certifications to demonstrate your specialized knowledge that can open new opportunities with higher salary potential. For any certification, check with your management regarding training support and certification fee reimbursement options.

Industry Recognition

Industry certifications enhance your career with expanded job opportunities in both private and government sectors with certification requirements. Additionally, cybersecurity certifications that align with your career path and subject matter expertise give you a competitive edge over other candidates who lack them while simultaneously demonstrating your knowledge of current best practices.

Certification Benefits

Some certifications are vendor-specific; others are vendor-agnostic. Therefore, if your organization doesn't use Cisco software or hardware, do not pursue Cisco cybersecurity program certifications unless you hope to get a new role at an organization with a Cisco infrastructure. Likewise, if you want certifications that apply to any vendor, pursue the CompTIA cybersecurity certifications. Additionally, training courses for any cybersecurity certification can help you reach a passing exam score.

For the cyber certifications included here, the following benefits apply to all:

  • salary increase potential,
  • globally recognized knowledge and level of expertise,
  • digital skill badge (where available) for online profiles and job applications, plus
  • job opportunities in both private and government sectors with certification requirements.

Top Cybersecurity Certifications

Cybersecurity certifications require maintenance to keep, and that may include fees and or continuing education. Consider the ongoing commitment to certification as you build out your credentials.

CompTIA Security+®

Certification Issuing Organization

With over 2 million IT certifications issued, CompTIA is the world’s largest vendor-neutral IT exam developer and a nonprofit global trade association.

Certification Overview

The CompTIA Security+ exam is designed for the entry-level cybersecurity professional with content focused on the core cybersecurity skills required for security and network administrator roles.

With up to 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions to be completed in 90 minutes, the CompTIA Security+ exam is designed to verify your \"...knowledge and skills required to assess the security posture of an enterprise environment and recommend and implement appropriate security solutions; monitor and secure hybrid environments, including cloud, mobile, and IoT; operate with an awareness of applicable laws and policies, including principles of governance, risk, and compliance; identify, analyze, and respond to security events and incidents.\" Some organizations may have entry-level roles with the job title "CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst," reflecting the certification requirements of the work.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®)

Certification Issuing Organization

The International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² \"is the world’s leading member association for cybersecurity professionals\" with 600,000+ members.

Certification Overview

CISSP certification fits within cybersecurity leaders and operations skills and "recognizes cybersecurity professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead an organization's information security program.\" Topics include asset security, risk management, identity and access management, software development security, security architecture, and network security. It

NOTE: for those seeking CISSP certification in 2023, effective April 15, 2024, the CISSP exam will be based on a refreshed exam outline. Review (ISC)² ‘s CISSP Exam Outline and FAQs for more information.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM®)

Certification Issuing Organization

ISACA is an international professional association founded over 50 years ago to organize information technology professionals \"committed to the advancement of digital trust\" and governance through skills in \"audit, cybersecurity, emerging tech, and more.\"

Certification Overview

If you manage information security, you should pursue this certification. The CISM certification verifies your understanding of risk assessment, governance, and proactive response to attacks, data breaches, and other security threats. Topics included information security risk management, incident management, and information security programs.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Certification Issuing Organization

The EC-Council's mission is "to validate information security professionals who are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge required in a specialized information security domain that will help them avert a cyber conflict, should the need ever arise." Since its formation in 2001, the EC-Council has certified over 237,000 security professionals, and they have been at the forefront of the ethical hacking field.

Certification Overview

CEH is designed to validate that the cyber professional \"understands how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in computer systems and is proficient with the tools used by a malicious hacker.\" Cyber threats are real for organizations of all types and sizes. Respect for the skill set has grown in conjunction with the need for it in today's technology-driven world.

The skills have value universally and are often found in roles such as Computer Forensics Analyst, Malware Analyst, Penetration Tester, Security Analyst, Security Code Auditor, Security Consultant, Security Engineer, and Security Specialist. Commonly viewed as entry-level, the skills needed to earn the certification have broad appeal and application.

Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate

Certification Issuing Organization

Cisco Systems, Inc. (Cisco) is a US-based global corporation offering specialized certifications linked to the mastery of their specific telecommunication and information technology products, systems, and services. Employers with Cisco products and services often require Cisco certifications for the professionals in their information technology teams and departments. Cisco maintains certifications that cross expertise levels and domain specialties, including cyber-security, networking, collaboration, DevNet, service provider, collaboration, and data center.

Certification Overview

Cybersecurity certifications within the Cisco credential program begin with the CyberOps Associate (CyberOps). This certification is an entry-level cybersecurity certification and is a validation of the day-to-day skills and knowledge that are required of members of teams in a Security Operations Center (SOC). Cisco CyberOps Associate content is built to \"cover knowledge and skills related to security concepts, security monitoring, host-based analysis, network intrusion analysis, and security policies and procedures.\"

The Cisco CyberOps Associate certification as an entry-level certification is best suited for those who are at the beginning of their cybersecurity career. If you hold this certification can find a position as an entry-level cybersecurity analyst, which will set you up for more advanced Cisco security certifications in the future as .

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA®)

Certification Issuing Organization

ISACA is an international professional association founded over 50 years ago to organize information technology professionals \"committed to the advancement of digital trust\" and governance through skills in \"audit, cybersecurity, emerging tech, and more.\"

Certification Overview

Mid-level professionals seeking to advance in the areas of information systems auditing process, information systems acquisition, and management of information technology should pursue the CISA certification. To apply, you must have a minimum of five years of experience working in IS/IT audit, assurance, and/or information security.

CompTIA CySA+®

Certification Issuing Organization

With over 2 million IT certifications issued, CompTIA is the world’s largest vendor-neutral IT exam developer and a nonprofit global trade association.

Certification Overview

Cybersecurity will only become more complex. Professionals who excel at "detecting and analyzing indicators of malicious activity using the most up-to-date methods and tools, such as threat intelligence, security information and event management (SIEM), endpoint detection and response (EDR) and extended detection and response (XDR)\" are in great demand. CompTIA shares that the CySA+ certification has value for roles including Application Security Analyst, Cybersecurity Analyst, Cybersecurity Engineer, Security Architect, Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst, Threat Hunter, Threat Intelligence Analyst, and Vulnerability Analyst.

Note: CompTIA CySA+ (CS0-002) is retiring on December 5, 2023, with (CS0-003) slated to launch.

Choosing the Right Certification

Don't be overwhelmed by the certification options. Instead, see these choices as an indicator of the high demand for cybersecurity skills! To maximize your exam prep time and training investment, in addition to having certifications that you can maintain through ongoing continuation education and fees, be sure you use a framework for selecting each certification option. Consider:

  • Identify the level of your current role and what you see as the next
  • Research certification requirements for potential future roles within your company and beyond
  • Assess existing skills, including areas of strength and gaps
  • Determine areas of interest (which may not include the skills of your current role)
  • Identify certifications that fit your desired next career move and area of interest
  • Confirm certification requirements (some have experience levels or application processes)
  • Become familiar with market demand for the selected focus area and associated certifications
  • Stay current with industry trends to know what skills and certifications will be most in demand
  • Plan for certification, including budget, exam prep, exam application, and taking the exam

You cannot have too many certifications, but you do not need to waste your time or budget for certifications that do not fit your career goals. And remember, for every certification you earn, maintain it with the required continuing education and fees!

Conclusion

Choosing the fright cybersecurity certification depends on your career goals and current experience. For those transitioning into security, CompTIA certifications like Security+ and Network+ provide foundational knowledge. More advanced certifications, such as CISSP or Certified Ethical Hacker, are suitable for professionals with cybersecurity experience.

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