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The field of cyber security presents an opportunity for professionals to use their tech skills and security savvy to thwart cybercrime. The need for qualified workers who have an education in the field is good, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipating a 34.7% job growth through 2031 for Information Security Analysts. RSA Security says, "Whether a financial institution, an Internet storefront that does business with online shoppers, and now even hospitals with the rising tide of ransomware, cybercrime has no boundaries. In fact, anyone with an email address, an inbox, or a social media account is a target."

But professionals must have relevant credentials to appeal to today's and tomorrow's employers. One of the best ways to supplement your existing skills and experience is to earn cyber security certifications. Some professional certifications may help you gain footing in an entry-level role, but the majority of certifications and credentials are designed to help you grow your skillset.


Despite the similar names, these are two very different types of credentials. If you're researching school programs and come across a certificate program, understand that this involves the completion of a course with a specific end goal. Here are some guidelines for the two:

  • Certifications are specialized credentials that professionals earn in a focused area to demonstrate their expertise and exact skill set, and generally require passing an exam. These are generally offered by companies or professional associations and agencies.
  • Certificates are a type of condensed degree or diploma program that students earn in order to first enter the field. You could find certificate programs at any community college, college or university.


Certifications exist in other disciplines, but what makes them unique in cyber security and other IT fields is they are often vendor-specific. Vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, CompTIA and Cisco offer certifications so that security professional can demonstrate their expertise with ubiquitous technologies. Certifications are also offered by professional organizations with a commitment to advance the skills and abilities of those in the field. The quality and legitimacy of certification programs can vary, so be sure to vet any program you're seriously considering before signing up.


That all depends upon the certification. Some require professionals to have years of on-the-job experience before they are even eligible to pursue the certification. Others simply require professionals to pass an exam. Since certifications are organized around specialized skills, it is always necessary to study, practice, and gain confidence with an unfamiliar discipline before taking the final exam. Once you are eligible, most certifications take a few months to complete.


Part of the appeal of certifications is that they allow you to add significantly to your resume at a fraction of the cost of an additional degree. The cost of cyber security certifications can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. You may also have to pay for study and test-prep materials. IT employers have been known to help professionals offset the cost of certifications in order to benefit from the skills they gain.


The cyber security landscape is constantly changing. As a result, some skills are in higher demand across industries. All certifications add professional value, but some are more valuable than others. These are the certifications with the most appeal for cyber security professionals.

  • GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) – Global Information Assurance Certification (GAIC) is an international agency dedicated to cyber security best practices. It offers certification in topics ranging from computer forensics to security administration.
  • Certified Information Security Systems Professional (CISSP) – The International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2 offers CISSP certifications in topics ranging from computer security to authorization controls.
  • System Security Certified Provider (SSCP) – This certification also offered by (ISC)2 is designed specifically for information assurance professionals focused on the development and management of information systems.
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) – The purpose of this certification from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) is to help security professionals better align their initiatives with broader business goals. This certification is valuable for anyone hoping to move into a CISO role.
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – Anyone responsible for performing security audits and compliance checks can expand on their skills with this certification from the ISACA. This credential is valuable for anyone hoping to move into a CISA capacity.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) – The EC-Council offers a variety of certifications to help professionals demonstrate their ability to work as an ethical hacker and expose security vulnerabilities in a positive way.
  • EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) – This certification goes one step beyond the previous one and teachers security professionals how to assess threats and design tools to test for weaknesses.
  • CompTIA Security+ – CompTIA offers vendor-neutral certifications across a spectrum of tech disciplines. The Security+ certification is valuable for professionals looking for a broad introduction to concepts of information security.
  • Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) – The Certified Wireless Network Professionals (CWNP) offer this certification to teach professionals how to secure enterprise wireless networks without having to rely on support from the vendor.
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Cyber Security Certifications