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The Best Certifications For Cybersecurity Professionals

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By: Shelby Welty

October 13, 2020

Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, but as noted by a recent GovTech piece, even skilled cybersecurity staff don't always find the job they want.

While part of the problem stems from expectation imbalances, some job seekers aren't willing to settle for anything less than their dream job in their current city. Other IT pros are struggling to secure interviews even with industry experience and entry-level cybersecurity qualifications. As a result, there's now a push to find the "best" certifications, the no-fail, front runner options that guarantee success.

What's the problem with this approach? Well, "best" isn't a static situation with a single definition. Instead, it's about finding and earning the right cybersecurity certification for the job you want to help you stand out from the increasingly-qualified crowd.

Here's a look at five functional cybersecurity qualifications — and where they best fit.

CompTIA Security+

When it comes to broad applicability, CompTIA Security+ is the best of the best. This entry-level certification appears on virtually all IT staff recruiting checklists and job descriptions, and with good reason: this qualification is well-recognized, respected, and robust. It's the ideal starting point if you're just beginning your cybersecurity career since it focuses on competencies across six core cybersecurity concepts:

  • Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities
  • Technologies and tools
  • Architecture and design
  • Identity and access management
  • Risk management
  • Cryptography and KPI

Put simply, While your ongoing cybersecurity career may focus on specialization in key practice areas, CompTIA Security+ offers a solid starting point.

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

Amazon is the undisputed enterprise cloud computing leader. While other companies like Google and Microsoft are now making cloud inroads, it's no exaggeration to say that Amazon was first to market with scalable, secure, and cost-effective cloud solutions.

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification showcases cybersecurity professionals' ability to deploy, manage, and defend AWS cloud environments, making it the best-fit qualification if you're considering a career in cloud security, at scale.

Earning this AWS certification requires completing a 90-minute, 68-question exam with a 65-75% score or better; candidates will be tested across key areas, including core architectural principles, the AWS value proposition, and the essential aspects of AWS cloud security. AWS-certified professionals can expect to earn more than $100,000 per year, on average.

Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

If cloud security is your passion, and you're looking for a certification that will help you advance in any cloud-based environment — or forge your path as a cloud security analyst or consultant — the CCSP certification may be your best fit. This intermediate-level qualification covers key cloud security topics, including:

  • Common cloud architectures
  • Cloud data security
  • Platform and infrastructure security
  • Cloud application security
  • Operations process and protection
  • Legal and compliance concerns

After completing the three-hour, 125-question exam, CCSP-certified professionals often find work as security administrators, security managers, cloud security engineers, or enterprise architects.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Effective information security is now critical for enterprise success. Control of the use, storage, access transmission, and modification of digital information assets is essential for companies to defend customer data and satisfy both local and international compliance requirements.

As a result, CISM certification is a great choice if you have a passion for defending data and the necessary experience — at least five years of work in a cybersecurity environment — to complete the four-hour, 150-question exam.

CISM-certified professionals can fill multiple roles in an organization and are often sought-after to take on key responsibilities such as:

  • Providing guidance, leadership, and training to infosec staff.
  • Reviewing, implementing, and documenting infosec policies and procedures.
  • Managing security audits and assessments.
  • Detecting and preventing intrusion attempts.
  • Evaluating the costs and budgets of security technology changes.

Systems Security Certified Professional (SSCP)

If you're looking to go hands-on with enterprise security systems to help companies improve their overall cybersecurity posture, the SSCP designation is a great choice. This entry-level certification confirms both the practical skill and technical knowledge of cybersecurity professionals, across seven domains:

  • Access controls
  • Security operations and administration
  • Risk identification, monitoring, and analysis
  • Incident response and recovery
  • Cryptography
  • Network and communications security
  • Systems and application security

The average annual salary for SSCP-certified professionals is $73,000, and this qualification opens a host of position possibilities, including roles as a security engineer, information security analyst, or systems administrator.

Finding Your Best Fit

The "best" cybersecurity certification depends on your existing experience, current expertise, and eventual career goals. Broad qualifications such as CompTIA Security+, are ideal for getting your foot in the door and get noticed by IT recruiters. But other certifications such as AWS Cloud Practitioner, CCSP, CISM, and SSCP can help you prepare for specific roles and showcase your potential as the best-fit and best-qualified candidate for the job.

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