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Where To Get Cybersecurity Certifications

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By: Shelby Welty

November 4, 2020

Right Place, Right Time: Where to Get Cyber Security Certifications

When it comes to career potential, cybersecurity offers both expanding opportunities and increasing compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for infosec professionals now tops $99,000. The job market is predicted to grow at 31% through 2029, much faster than comparable industries.

But landing cybersecurity jobs with top-tier salaries, benefits, and the potential for advancement means standing out from the crowd with certifications that showcase both your passion for the work and your willingness to put in the time and effort required to vet and verify your skillset.

The challenge? As this market expands, options for infosec qualifications are expanding. But which providers offer the best combination of cost and comprehensive training? How do they stack up against the competition? Where do you get the best cybersecurity qualifications to jumpstart your career?

The Current Certification Landscape

As the gap increases between the number of needed cybersecurity staff and the volume of skilled professionals available, infosec certifications have emerged as a way to help IT professionals jumpstart their careers. Certifications also empower businesses to “upskill” their existing employees — even if they don’t have traditional, four-year degrees — with purpose-built qualifications.

The result is a competitive certification landscape. Both qualification providers and online training services look to capture growing interest and help cybersecurity professionals establish their expertise in this expanding market.

Consider one of the most popular cybersecurity qualifications now available: CompTIA Security+. This entry-level certification makes the shortlist of almost any IT job — security focused or not — and is a valuable addition to any technology worker’s educational arsenal.

But this is just the beginning. As cybersecurity staff increase their expertise and expand their career horizons, more specialized skill sets — each underpinned by their own set of qualifications — become critical components of potential promotions and successful job hunts. With a staff already working full-time in the infosec industry, it’s essential to find an educational framework that makes it possible to confidently pass required examinations and earn valuable certifications as quickly as possible.

Location Option 1: Start at the End

A primary choice for certification location is opting to challenge the exams directly from qualification providers.

In effect, one starts at the end — skipping over training modules or coursework to obtain your certification as quickly as possible. In some cases, this is a viable option. For example, suppose you’re a full-time information security professional looking to earn the Cloud Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation. In that case, your day-to-day work may provide the in-situ experience and skills necessary to challenge this prominent certification exam directly.

Successful CISSP completion requires a score of 700/1000 or better on a 150-question, three-hour exam covering eight knowledge domains. Worth noting? Even if your total score is high enough, you won’t pass the exam unless you achieve a passing score across each domain section.

Bottom line? Starting at the end is one approach to cybersecurity certification — but comes with the risk of costly exam retakes if you’re not successful the first time.

Location Option 2: Build up from the Beginning

There’s also another option for cybersecurity qualifications: in-depth online courses led by expert instructors. Consider the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) qualification, an ideal starting point for information security professionals looking to expand their Cisco networking expertise and access new job opportunities. While it’s possible to research key topics and techniques on your own to prepare for the CCNA exam, online coursework can help you prepare for the 90-minute, 60-question exam with training in:

  • The Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) Model
  • Physical layer networking
  • Data Link layer operations
  • Network layer functions
  • Transport layer overview
  • Additional layer information

Those focused on expanding infosec skills consider coursework for in-demand designations such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), which simulates white-hat hackers infiltrating corporate systems to help identify and eliminate potential vulnerabilities. Robust online training helps boost one’s confidence in common hacker techniques such as:

  • Footprinting
  • Scanning and enumeration
  • System hacking
  • Social engineering
  • Session hijacking
  • SQL injection
  • Mobile device compromise
  • Cryptography

This skill-building approach is often an ideal way to tackle intermediate and advanced certification classes and exams, especially if the skills and techniques necessary are outside your day-to-day IT responsibilities. Rather than spending time tracking down free — but often fragmented — resources online, structured skills-training courses give you the knowledge needed to challenge certification exams confidently.

Location, Location, Location

What you know and which qualifications you earn directly impact your cybersecurity career potential. But where you get your cybersecurity certifications also matters — if day-to-day responsibilities offer confidence in current skills, challenging exams directly may be your best bet. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to expand your expertise or obtain on-demand certifications to boost career potential, in-depth online courses are often the ideal starting point.

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