CISM certification: Overview and career path [Updated 2022]
Information security professional certifications and the institutions offering them are increasing, so it can be daunting to identify which certification is right for you. On June 1, 2022, ISACA released the new CISM exam. We’ll present an overview of the CISM certification, answering questions you might have before taking the exam about getting accredited and associated career paths.
By the end of this article, you’ll know why the CISM certification is the globally accepted standard for achievement and success in IT security managerial skills.
What is the CISM certification?
ISACA offers the Certified Information Security Manager certification, focusing on managerial IT security skills.
The certification is for professionals who want to concentrate on the managerial aspect of information security without necessarily diving into the complicated inner workings of various information security concepts.
CISM-accredited professionals are primarily responsible for overseeing the information security of organizations, which involves designing and developing working information security practices and policies.
Once accredited, a candidate can demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between an information security program and broader business goals and objectives.
Who should earn the CISM?
The CISM certification is meant for candidates who are tasked with or are aspiring to manage information security for organizations or industries.
Such organizations often require individuals who understand:
- Policy making to ensure that effective information security policies are established.
- Factors that lower and manage risks, optimize resources and establish trust and reputation.
- How to guarantee assurance on critical decisions concerning the security of the organization.
- How to perform efficient and effective risk management.
Successful CISM holders will be most qualified to take up senior management positions where tasks would, for instance, involve validating and ratifying all the assets that need to be protected or even ensuring that penalties for non-compliance to policies are communicated and enforced.
What experience do you need?
To attain eligibility for the certification, you need to satisfy a couple of CISM requirements. You must:
- Pass an examination containing 150 multiple-choice questions. This determines the knowledge and skill set of candidates, who must be familiar with computer networks and some computer security basics.
- Show evidence of previous work experience. Candidates need five years of professional work experience in information security, including three years as a security manager in at least three of the four main training areas. Eligibility is valid only when the reported experience is within ten years from the application or five years from passing the exam.
- Proceed with and complete the rest of the application. After completing the above requirements, candidates must complete the rest of the application to be eligible for certification.
The examination covers information security governance, risk management, information security programing, and incident management.
How does the CISM compare to other security certifications?
Other certifications offering managerial skills can be considered alternatives to the CISM. These include:
- CISSP-Certified Information Systems Security Professional:
The CISSP certification is globally accepted in information security and has become desirable for professionals who want to dive into managerial positions as information security personnel.
- CISA-Certified Information Systems Auditor:
CISA-accredited individuals are greatly sought after by many organizations due to their expertise in audit experiences and ability to institute proper controls and ensure compliance within organizations. However, unlike the CISSP and CISM, CISA is not entirely an IT security certification.
The choice of certification depends on the candidate’s preference and the market’s ability to accommodate holders of a specific certification.
Is the CISM worth the effort?
Getting CISM accreditation can be painfully long, and this question can linger in candidates’ minds. A review of a few jobs is in order to appreciate the benefits of the hard-earned CISM.
The following CISM job titles match the CISM credential:
Information security manager
The ISM is tasked with obtaining senior management commitments (such as acquiring budgets), assessing security metrics, performing strategic alignment, performing adequate risk management, and ensuring value delivery and adequate resource management.
Chief information officer
In an environment with new business demands, stringent industry-specific regulations, and risks emerging every day, the ability to manage risk and security has emerged as a critical issue for small and large business enterprises worldwide. CISM allows business leaders to understand and articulate complex and challenging security management issues that can significantly impact enterprise success.
Information risk compliance specialist
The CISM primarily oversees the building and implementation of programs, policies and practices to ensure that organizations comply with industry and government regulatory requirements. The CISM liaises with internal business units, legal teams, and HR to increase awareness within the organization.
What is the best way to train for the CISM?
There are several ways that prospective CISMs can prepare for the certification, depending on their preferences and level of understanding. Some options are discussed below.
In-person boot camp
In-person CISM boot camps are well structured, and skilled instructors lead the sessions. The structure makes candidates accountable for their study progress while building their motivation to remain focused on the study’s objectives.
Live online training
In this study mode, the candidate logs into a live session with an instructor. This study mode has various advantages. The candidate can, for example, enjoy session re-sits, interact in real-time with the instructor, ask questions whenever necessary, save on travel expenses, and, in some cases, gain access to video recordings, depending on the terms agreed upon with the facilitator of the training.
Self-paced online CISM training
If you’re not in a hurry to earn your CISM, the go-at-your-own-pace model can be a great (and more affordable) option. These courses usually consist of a number of pre-recorded videos, practice exams and labs or exercises you can do on your own to reinforce the material. The chief benefit of on-demand CISM training is that you’re in charge of your training schedule, whether it’s daily on your lunch break or cramming all weekend long. And, since you’re not tied to a group, you can spend more time focused on the areas you need to learn most.
The self-study mode of training requires tremendous discipline to cover the content in the required time. Candidates choosing this mode might want to obtain study materials online and use them to prep for the examination.
CISM holders understand business and how to manage and adapt technology. They identify serious issues and tune company-specific practices to allow for the governance of information and related technologies.
The CISM credential is, therefore, highly desirable due to its appeal to organizational security requirements industry-wide. Organizations will remain receptive to accredited holders of the CISM for a long time.
For more information on the CISM certification, check out our ISACA CISM hub.