CISM vs CISSP: Which Certification is Right for You

Taylor Karl
CISM vs CISSP: Which Certification is Right for You 7880 0

What is the difference between CISM and CISSP certification? As the demand for cybersecurity skills grows, you need to know which certification will help advance your career and position you for salary growth. If you are considering certification to support your IT career, consider earning the CISM or CISSP certification.

CISM vs CISSP Certification

For Information Security (InfoSec) professionals, cybersecurity skill certification is not only in high demand but often a job requirement. Among many IT Security certifications, two options include the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP).

When deciding if CISM or CISSP is better for you, keep the following in mind:

  • CISSP and CISM are not equivalent, as they focus on different aspects of information security work
  • Both certifications are administrated by different credentialing organizations
  • Both CISSP and CISM have their own exam content and application requirements

CISM and CISSP certifications are professional achievements that require you to:

  • Achieve a passing score for a proctored exam covering multiple domains
  • Meet professional experience requirements
  • Follow codes of conduct
  • Complete continuous education work to maintain certification

CISM and CISSP certifications demonstrate your expertise and your commitment to your field. Instead of a CISM vs CISSP decision, approach it as a progression of complementary professional accomplishments that align with increasing leadership responsibilities.

What is CISM Certification?

ISACA®, formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association®, administers the CISM certification program. Since 1967, ISACA has grown to 165,000 members across 180 countries. ISACA’s CISM certification is management focused as a certification of information security governance, program development and management, incident management, and risk management.

Achieving Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification can make a difference in moving from being part of an IT team to moving into a management role leading the team.

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What is CISSP Certification?

The global nonprofit International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC) is a professional membership association for information security leaders. (ISC)² publishes the Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) and manages the associated credential, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). CISSP certification is internationally recognized as the premier security professional credential due to the depth of both management and technical knowledge needed to achieve it.

CISM vs CISSP Certification: Salary

Salary ranges can vary for certified IT Security professionals based on their level of experience, the size of the company, geographic location, and job responsibilities. While attaining your CISM or CISSP certification does not guarantee a salary increase, promotion, or job security, it does put you in a better position to attain them.

CISM vs CISSP Salary Comparison

CISM and/or CISSP certification holders consistently have higher salaries than peers with neither.

Certification Magazine reported in 2022 that CISM certification holders have an average salary of:

  • Average reported, U.S.: $ 150,040
  • Average reported, non-U.S.: $ 93,640
  • Average reported, overall: $ 118,870

Certification Magazine reported in 2022 that CISSP certification holders have an average salary of:

  • Average reported, U.S.: $ 135,560
  • Average reported, non-U.S.: $ 82,290
  • Average reported, overall: $ 111,140

It is a good idea to find out what incentives or career opportunities your company may provide before you start an exam training course or certification application.

CISM vs CISSP Certification: Which Should I Get first?

Which certification to pursue first is mostly based on your current, aspirational, or soon-to-be job role.

CISM | Managing technician or aspiring

CISM is for those managing security programs and technical teams. The CISM certification is ideal for those newer to management or actively looking to transition from team member to team leader.

CISSP | C-Suite Executives driving overall strategies for the present and future

The CISSP certification, which assesses both technical and managerial knowledge, is aligned to roles of higher accountability and responsibility. CISSP certification is generally aimed at C-suite executives making information security decisions for an entire organization that are implemented by IT teams.

CISM vs CISSP Certification: Fees, Exam Duration, and Continuing Education Requirements



Test Fee (US)


Annual Fees

Continuing Education





4 hours / 150 questions

$45/member CISM fee

$85/non-member CISM fee


$190/year professional membership fee

120 hours every three years




3 hours/ up to 150 questions


120 credits every 3 years

CISM vs CISSP Certification: which is harder to earn?

With respect to which certification is harder to earn, the CISM vs CISSP, consider the scope of content and knowledge a certification candidate must demonstrate for each exam.

CISM | four technical security governance and management areas

CISM Domains

CISSP | eight security areas assessed from both managerial and technical perspectives

CISSP Domains

Studying for an exam, especially if you have been out of school for some time, is the hardest part of any certification pursuit. Though not required, it is recommended that you attend a live, instructor-led exam prep course, or use some other form of exam prep, to increase your chances of passing the CISM or CISSP certification exam. How difficult it is for you to pass either the CISM or CISSP exam is based on your work experience and your ability to learn content in the areas in which you are weakest.

In addition to passing the exam, both the CISM and CISSP certifications have additional requirements candidates must meet before they are considered fully certified. For full certification, you must meet the following additional requirements:

  • Provide verifiable proof showing 5-years of information security work experience
  • Ongoing professional education requirements
  • Commit to the ISACA or (ISC)Code of Ethics

Conclusion: CISM vs CISSP Certification

The question as to whether earning a CISM or CISSP certification is better isn’t the right question. Rather, the correct question is which certification best fits your current job role or the job role you are moving into/hope to attain. To give yourself the best chance to pass either exam, it is best that you either sit in an instructor-led exam prep class or study exam prep material. With an increasing demand for credentialed cybersecurity professionals, being a certified CISM or CISSP IT information security professional demonstrates a mastery of the necessary skills needed to advance your IT security career.