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Top Paying Cybersecurity Certifications

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By: Shelby Welty

October 28, 2020

Critical Compensation: The Top Paying Cybersecurity Certifications

Money matters. While cybersecurity professionals often enter the field with passion and pursue long-term infosec careers because they care about helping companies protect digital data assets, interest alone doesn't buy groceries or keep the lights on.

So it's no surprise that security professionals often find themselves wondering which certifications help secure the best compensation for their time and skills. Which qualifications get them noticed by recruiters, called back for interviews, and ultimately short-listed for the job — and the paycheck — they want?

Here's what IT pros need to know about some of the top-paying cybersecurity certifications.

Dollars and Sense

Cybersecurity salaries are on the rise as infosec risks increase. From potential data breaches to compliance concerns and network compromises, enterprises now recognize the critical role of cybersecurity professionals in identifying new threats, defending essential assets, and designing defenses to prevent future failures.

Companies are also boosting compensation for cybersecurity pros to help their business stand out from the crowd and attract the best talent. This has become critically important in recent years, as the gap between demand and supply has widened. Despite post-secondary schools' efforts to meet emerging corporate requirements, the uptick of new positions continues to outpace available expertise.

As a result, certifications have become currency carriers; the right qualifications can help prospective cybersecurity professionals command top-tier salaries and benefits.

The Financial Top Four

When it comes to commensurate compensation for IT skill, talent, and training, four certifications offer a firm financial foundation:

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Average salary: $140,000

Earning CISSP certification isn't easy, requiring not only successful completion of a difficult exam but also a minimum of five years cumulative paid experience in two or more of the eight CISSP security domains — and that may be why it's often called the "gold standard" of information assurance, and why it commands a substantial, six-figure salary from employers. With just over 105,000 CISSP-certified professionals worldwide, successful completion of the three-hour, 150-question exam puts cybersecurity staff in rare company — company that demands top-tier compensation for their expertise.

CISSP qualification indicates mastery of cybersecurity skills across eight key areas:

  • Information security and risk management
  • Asset security
  • Security engineering and architecture
  • Communications and network safety
  • Identity and access management
  • Security assessment and testing
  • Security operations
  • Software development security

The in-depth nature of CISSP certification means that qualified pros are in high-demand, offering substantial career opportunities across the globe.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Average salary: $143,000

While business managers and C-suite executives often pursue PMP certification, it also offers substantive benefits for cybersecurity professionals. Here's why: with IT departments now a critical component of overall business strategies and revenue generation models, it's critical for security solution deployment, implementation, and adoption to stay on-time and on-budget.

In other words, effective project management increases the chances of successful security initiatives and makes cybersecurity professionals indispensable. The PMP certification verifies expertise in initiating, planning, and managing a project at scale and showcases the ability to develop project schedules that stay within budget guidelines. While the four-hour, 200-question exam isn't easy, it's a worthwhile investment for cybersecurity staff looking to diversify their skills — and boost their salaries.

This intermediate-level certification also comes with specific experience requirements: According to the Project Management Institute, candidates must have one set of the following:

  • A four-year degree
  • 36 months experience of leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education or training


  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • 60 months experience leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education or training

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Average salary: $148,000

For cybersecurity professionals looking to climb the corporate ladder and increase their compensation along the way, CISM certification is a great choice. That's because CISM-trained staff are often called on to provide key guidance, develop new policies, manage security audits, and implement network strategies at scale — critical tasks that companies can't ignore as they look to shore up both IT defense and satisfy evolving compliance requirements.

CISM training covers four key topics:

  • Information security governance
  • Information risk management and compliance
  • Information security program development and management
  • Information security incident management

Earning CISM certification requires completion of a four-hour, 150-question exam with a score of at least 450/800, and CISM qualifications are valid for three years.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect

Average salary: $149,000

We've saved one of the best-paying certifications for last: AWS Certified Solutions Architects typically take home $149,000 or more for their skill in implementing and managing AWS clouds at scale.

It makes sense; despite increasing competition from other cloud vendors, Amazon remains the market leader, and many enterprises leverage its EC2, Lambda, Lightsail, and Elastic Container services to help deploy cloud solutions at scale and streamline key technology functions.

AWS Certified Solutions Architects have the skills and knowledge necessary to deploy best-fit cloud infrastructure that aligns with business goals. Still, they're also tasked with ensuring that cloud services' increased access and agility doesn't also increase IT risk. As a result, the certification offers significant value for cybersecurity professionals: combined with other popular qualifications such as CompTIA Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), earning this AWS designation can help IT professionals command top-tier salaries. While this is the only non-manager track certification on the list of the top-paying jobs, it's often worth the effort for the long-term earning potential.

Skills to Pay the Bills

Cybersecurity professionals are in demand — and salaries rise as supply runs short — but there's significant variation in compensation across credentials and qualifications. To command top earnings and create new opportunities, infosec staff are best-served by earning sought-after certifications, including CISSP, PMP, CISM, and AWS Certified Solutions Architect.

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