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Information security (IS) certifications are more necessary than ever. The demand for cyber security professionals is heating up and if you have a top certification, you may stand out from the pack. Even if you work with security in your present job, adding a new credential will add to your status in the job market. A certification will prove to a potential employer that you are dedicated to the field and that you meet certain standards for competency.


If you are currently employed and your employer would like you to advance in your job, they might choose to pay for your training and ultimate certificate. Many IS certification programs require that you have a minimum level of on-the-job experience performing forensic examinations or security audits before enrolling in the course. If your employer is satisfied with your performance, yet you don't have any professional certifications, you might ask for specialized training to solidify your expertise in the field.

Since cyber security is such a huge topic and of vital interest to businesses and agencies, certification training might even be a part of your compensation package. If you work for a consultancy this could certainly be the case, because consulting firms frequently desire workers with the very best credentials. Clients love to see an overabundance of initials after every consultant's name.

Certificate vs Certification

  • Certificate: A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
  • Certification: A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.

In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.

Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.


To receive a certification, you will need to pass an examination that tests your abilities and knowledge in certain particular aspects of computer security. Make sure that you prepare adequately so that you can do your very best. Even if you work in a security department, your daily tasks might not cover all of the topics expected by the test makers. When you find the right certification for you, the professional agency in charge will likely have pointers to help you prepare for the test. Also, note that sometimes the test can come in multiple parts. For information security, there may even be a part that can take over a month to complete.

Some certifying bodies recommend a rigorous training prior to taking the test. Very often they have qualified independent training facilities across the nation and world to help you prepare. You may also be able to train for your examination online. The online option often works best for working professionals who don't have the time or desire to travel or commute for in-person training.

Your test will be very in depth and will look for positive outcomes in as many as 10 different areas, some of which may include the following:

  • Law and Ethics
  • Hardware
  • Networking
  • Operating Systems
  • Preparation
  • Acquisitions
  • Authentication
  • Analysis
  • Reporting
  • Media Geometry

There will be detailed questions for each area. For instance, you might be asked to know the Federal Rules of Evidence, the 4th Amendment, or be able to discuss how to best behave in court. Other features of law might include the notion of consent, privacy issues, and the discovery process.


Though not required, one great way to prepare for a certification is to have a strong knowledge of what will be required while you are still in your undergraduate program. Even if your university does not offer a specific degree or specialty in cyber security, you might be able to assemble your coursework in such a way that you are prepared for your dream job. Keep in mind that the very best cyber security programs have interdisciplinary features. Given that, you can discuss your goals with an advisor and piece together a curriculum that satisfies your university's requirements for, a computer science degree but also fleshes out your knowledge base and prepares you for later success. If they are available at your university, you might consider taking a few of these types of courses:

  • Cyber Law and Ethics
  • Technical Writing
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Management
  • Business Law
  • Constitutional Law

Once you have a certification, you may find that the job market seems more friendly. As a certified expert in information security, you may find some of the following job titles interesting:

  • Security Auditor
  • Security Manager
  • Penetration Tester
  • Security Consultant
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Security Administrator
  • Network Security Architect
  • Perimeter Security Analyst


Since so many businesses need information security personnel and so few can take on a security department, you might consider working as a security consultant. Small and medium-sized businesses may hire you for a security audit or for penetration testing. There is bound to be ample demand for your services, particularly when you can bolster your knowledge and experience with a top credential in the field.

Some certification agencies and associations often provide services for those who have passed their testing regimen. You might have access to a private listserv, be able to receive special newsletters and find career opportunities that are not available to others. Sometimes, you will be privy to research and other developments in the field that even your colleagues are not yet aware of.


Taking a certification in information security offers the potential to open your career to a level you never dreamed of. This might be all the more important if you choose to work as an independent consultant. Frequently, you will find clients who need multiple tasks completed that cannot be done by a single person—not in a timely manner at least. With access to a broad network of information security professionals, you can put the word out and find the colleagues you need to meet and exceed client expectations.

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Cyber Security Certifications