Looking for a career change? There’s no better time to consider a career in cybersecurity. U.S. businesses and government agencies are spending billions of dollars annually to protect their data and assets from malicious attacks. In fact, according to the 2022 Official Cybercrime Report by Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybersecurity spending will total $1.75 trillion between 2021 and 2025.
With the demand for qualified security professionals soaring, certification is a logical way to verify your skills and knowledge and get your resume noticed. We’ll highlight five certifications to help launch your cybersecurity career and offer exam preparation tips.
The following cybersecurity certifications are excellent ways to firm up your skill set and bolster your resume for hiring managers seeking to attract and retain the best employees.
The Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals certification is one of the most “entry-level” certifications we’re highlighting. Aimed at students, business users and IT professionals, this cert recognizes knowledge of numerous cybersecurity topics, including general Microsoft 365 and Azure. It also recognizes general IT knowledge or work experience and familiarity with cloud and networking computing concepts. To achieve certification, you must pass a single exam, which costs $99.
To improve your chances of achieving this certification, Microsoft recommends using its self-paced Microsoft Learn content. Microsoft also suggests attending instruction events, taking practice exams and shadowing people who work in security, compliance, and identity management.
Folks in the security industry know ISACA for such long-running certificates as its Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and similar certifications – all of which grant intermediate to advanced credentials. They’re designed for IT professionals who want to help prevent and avoid network security threats and vulnerabilities.
The Cybersecurity Fundamentals certificate is designed to fill the entry-level niche. This certificate covers four cybersecurity-related domains:
The single exam costs $150 for ISACA members and $199 for nonmembers. The certificate doesn’t expire or require periodic recertification.
Perhaps the most well-known entry-level security certification is the CompTIA Security+, which covers a wide array of security and information assurance topics, including:
The certification meets U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570.01-M requirements – an essential item for anyone looking to work in IT security for the federal government – and complies with the Federal Information Security Management Act.
CompTIA recommends that candidates have two years of relevant experience and achieve the Network+ credential before taking the Security+ exam. At $392, this exam lands roughly midway between the least and most expensive compared to other entry-level certifications. The Security+ certificate leads to such jobs as security administrator, systems administrator and network engineer, among others.
CompTIA is known for its vendor-neutral certification program. In general, CompTIA certifications are grouped according to skill set and focus on real-world skills all IT professionals need.
GIAC gears the GISF certification toward system administrators, managers and information security officers who need a solid overview of computer networks, security policies, incident response and cryptographic principles.
The GISF exam is considered to be more challenging than the CompTIA Security+ exam. GIAC certification exams in general require test takers to apply knowledge and problem-solving skills, so hands-on experience gained through training or on-the-job experience is recommended.
The GISF exam costs $949. Although GIAC includes two practice exams in the certification-attempt package, this exam price is exceptionally high.
After achieving the GISF, consider pursuing the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC), an intermediate-level certification that takes a big step beyond foundational information security concepts.
Check out our picks for the best business continuity and disaster recovery certifications to help you learn to recover systems after a disaster.
The (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is probably the most recognizable and popular security certification today. But (ISC)2 offers several other security-related certifications, with the ANSI-accredited SSCP filling the entry-level slot.
The SSCP prepares you for such jobs as security analyst, network security engineer and security administrator, which typically start at the junior level if you don’t already have technical or engineering-related information technology experience.
To achieve the SSCP, you must pass a single exam that includes questions that span seven common body of knowledge (CBK) domains:
To ensure that you have sufficient hands-on security knowledge before taking the exam, (ISC)2 recommends that you attend training courses or conference workshops, participate in webinars, and read white papers and books.
The exam costs $2,490, and (ISC)2 offers a variety of study resources for purchase on its website.
Regardless of which certification is the best fit for you, be prepared to devote ample self-study time to the effort. Many test takers prefer to use a top-rated study guide along with some practice tests and flashcards when preparing for a certification exam.
If your learning style leans more toward formal, instructor-led training, factor the costs and required time into your plans. Although training costs vary by certification, they typically run from $400 to over $5,000, depending on whether you choose online, virtual classroom or in-classroom delivery.