Professional development

Seven top security certifications you should have in 2021

December 22, 2020 by Graeme Messina

If you are a security professional looking for a certification to raise your game and enhance your skills, then this list will be a great starting point. Major companies are falling prey to malware and cyberattacks, so it makes sense that demand for skilled professionals is on the rise. 

You need to make sure that the next training milestone that you pass is a security certification. By doing this, you can separate yourself from the competition by making sure that you snag one of these coveted certs and bring in demand skills with you to your next job role.

EC-council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEHv11)

The Certified Ethical Hacker certification is one that focuses heavily on penetration testing. This is one of the best-known information security certificates out there. It is structured in such a way that the candidate’s abilities are tested in realistic scenarios. Certificate holders are able to proactively test the security of a network from the inside or simulate an intruder from the outside. 

The CEH is one of the foundational courses offered by EC-Council and is a good starting point before venturing into the ECSA. For more basic information security certifications to get you started, try out the Security + that we outline below.

  • Prerequisites: Candidates must attend official training or have at least two years of information security related experience.
  • Exam: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Exam (125 questions, 4 hours, 70% passing score)
  • Cost for exam: The version v11 exam costs $1,199 USD
  • The exam is administered by ECC EXAM (312-50), VUE (312-50). More information is available here.

Advantages of achieving CEH

The CEH is versatile because there are many different security positions that rely on the skills that a CEH holder possesses. This is thanks in part to the hands-on nature of this security certification, which gives learners some good basics to get started with. This is a good place to start for security professionals that are looking to get started with penetration testing and ethical hacking. 

CompTIA Security+ (SY0-601)

One of the most sought-after entry-level exams is the CompTIA Security+ certification. It is a vendor-neutral security certification that is a good place to start. It teaches basic security concepts and is seen by many as the first port of call on the way to studying more advanced certs. Because it is aimed at entry-level security professionals, it offers generalized information that will help candidates build a foundational understanding of information security. 

The Security+ features six domains that must be understood by the candidate and will prove to be valuable for aspiring information security professionals.

  • Prerequisites: A CompTIA Network+ Certification and two years of systems administration with a security focus is preferred but not required.
  • Exam: CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 (Maximum of 90 questions, 90 minutes long, passing score 750 on a scale of 100-900.
  • Cost for exam: $349 USD registration fee.

Advantages of achieving security+

Candidates that achieve the Security+ are bound to see a return on their initial investment. CompTIA has an interesting FAQ section that outlines potential earnings for a Security+ holder, which can be found here. The Security+ is also globally recognized and it is approved by the US Department of Defense. 

The CompTIA Security+ meets ISO 17024 standards, as well as the Department of Defense’s Directive 8570.01-M requirements, which could see candidates landing a job within government. This is an excellent entry level course that is worth looking at for those that are new to the world of information security.

(ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP is an advanced certification. It not only separates you from other candidates as a security professional, but it also highlights the abilities that you possess to employers too. It shows that you have knowledge on how to design, engineer and implement information security systems in the workplace. The CISSP objectively measures the abilities of candidates. This is a highly sought-after cert for security professionals.

The CISSP is in high demand and is globally recognized. Once you earn your security certification you will find many avenues open up for you, regardless of where your career takes you around the world.

  • Prerequisites: You must have at least five years of total paid experience in a full-time job in a similar field to the CISSP subject matter, and you must have knowledge of at least two out of the eight domains in the study material, also known as the Common Body of Knowledge, or CBK. Candidates that don’t have the required work experience yet can satisfy the requirements with one year of work experience with a four-year college degree, or an approved credential from the CISSP prerequisite pathway. Another option for those without the appropriate work experience, is to take the exam and earn an Associate of (ISC)2 designation. Candidates will then have six years to earn the required work experience for the CISSP.
  • Exam: CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional (250 multiple-choice questions and advanced innovative questions, up to six hours, 700 out of 1000 points is the passing score or 70%).
  • Cost for Exam: $699 USD (for Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions) and is administered by Pearson VUE. A 2020 pricing guide can be found here.

Advantages of achieving CISSP

The CISSP is a game-changer and can increase your earning potential. It shows your employers that you have a wider view of the information security industry and that you are familiar with all of the most common threats in the industry.

(ISACA) Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Not all cybersecurity roles are entirely technical. The CISM teaches valuable information security-aligned managerial skills. This is a domain where assurance and risk management are a large part of the role requirements. Security management principles are taught which are both practical and essential to getting the job done.

  • Prerequisites: Candidates that wish to certify against this qualification must have five years of work experience in the field of information security, with at least three years in the role of information security manager. This must be verified before candidates can write the exam.
  • Exam: Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). It consists of 200 questions and takes four hours to complete. The score margin ranges from 200 to 800, with a score of 450 being the passing mark for the exam.
  • Cost for exam: Early registration is $575 USD for ISACA members and $760 USD for non-ISACA members. More information can be found here.

Advantages of achieving CISM

If you are already in a managerial position, then this certification can give you the credibility that you need for promotions and pay raises. It is another internationally recognized cert that is highly sought after in companies that value security and the processes that are needed to stay compliant and secure in the IT space.

(ISACA) Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The CISA focuses on the skills that allow candidates to audit, control and monitor information technology and business systems. This security certification has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is a good move for any security professional that is looking to earn a certification that is an internationally recognized standard in system auditing and controls.

  • Prerequisites: Candidates must have five years of work experience in the field, performing duties that are specifically related to Information Systems Auditing, Control, Assurance or Security.
  • Exam: Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). It consists of 150 questions and takes 4 hours to complete. The score margin ranges from 200 to 800, with a score of 450 being the passing mark for the exam.
  • Cost for Exam: Early registration is $415 USD for ISACA members and $545 USD for non-ISACA members. More information can be found here.

Advantages of achieving CISA

If you want to be a certified information systems auditor, then this is the cert for you. You will learn valuable skills that will help you to stand out as a skilled professional that understands the auditing requirements of businesses. This certification should be on your wish list if you are interested in pursuing a career in auditing, controlling, monitoring and assessing IT systems.

(ISC)² Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

Cloud technologies are a huge part of the modern enterprise. Cloud environments can be complicated. There are security challenges that change daily in the cloud, so gaining the CCSP is vital. It gives employers the assurance that candidates are capable of administering and securing cloud platforms.

  • Prerequisites: Candidates must have a minimum of five years’ full-time experience in IT, of which three years must be in information security and one year in one or more of the 6 bodies of the CCSP’s Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).
  • Exam: CCSP Exam (125 questions, four hours, 700 out of 1000 points)
  • Cost for exam: The exam costs $549 per attempt. Annual maintenance fee of $100. The exam is administered by Pearson VUE.

Advantages of achieving CCSP

This certification helps candidates to demonstrate proficiency in cloud data security, cloud architecture and design as well as day-to-day operations, application security considerations and much more. Anyone that is looking to take up a role in a cloud-based environment will be well-served with a CCSP certification.

GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)

The GSEC is an introductory certification that is good for candidates that have a limited background in security and networking but want to demonstrate their knowledge. Anyone who works as a security professional, auditor, IT engineer or any other IT role where security is important can benefit from this certification.

  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam: GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC). Exam is proctored, 180 questions, five hours, 73% passing score.
  • Cost for Exam: $1,999 USD

Advantages of achieving GSEC

This certification is another good choice if you want to certify your experience and knowledge in information security. Some great reasons to acquire this certification can be found here. Information security certifications are important for demonstrating your skills, abilities and knowledge. The GSEC is an excellent qualification to have when a potential employer is looking at your resume or CV. 

Posted: December 22, 2020
Articles Author
Graeme Messina
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Graeme is an IT professional with a special interest in computer forensics and computer security. When not building networks and researching the latest developments in network security, he can be found writing technical articles and blog posts at InfoSec Resources and elsewhere.

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