Tue | Jul 25, 2023 | 12:52 PM PDT

As organizations across industries grapple with escalating cyber risks, the demand for skilled information security professionals has skyrocketed. Amidst this evolving landscape, attaining a cybersecurity certification continues to be an invaluable asset, opening doors to a variety of opportunities and equipping people with the knowledge, skills, and credentials necessary to safeguard critical information and navigate the realm of cyber threats. 

This article explores the compelling reasons why investing in a cybersecurity certification can prove to be a game changer, propelling both personal and professional growth while playing an essential role in securing the digital future.

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So let's think about it. Why might you want to pursue certification in cybersecurity? Here are some excellent examples.

  • Become recognized in the industry: Cybersecurity certifications are widely recognized and respected within the industry. Holding a certification demonstrates your expertise and commitment to the field, making you stand out among other professionals. It can enhance your credibility and improve your career prospects by showcasing your knowledge and skills to employers, clients, and peers.
  • To advance your career: Cybersecurity certifications can open doors to new opportunities and career advancement. Many organizations require certifications as a prerequisite for certain job roles or consider them a valuable asset during the hiring process. Holding a certification can increase your chances of landing a job, earning promotions, and accessing higher-level positions with greater responsibilities and better compensation.
  • You can expand your knowledge and skills: Certification programs typically cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics, providing comprehensive training and knowledge in specific domains. Through the certification process, you acquire in-depth knowledge, learn best practices, and gain practical skills that can be applied in real-world scenarios. This enables you to become a more competent cybersecurity professional and enhance your ability to protect organizations from evolving threats.
  • Professional development and learning: Pursuing a cybersecurity certification involves a commitment to continuous learning and professional development. Certification programs often require you to stay knowledgeable on the latest trends, technologies, and practices in the field. This encourages you to remain engaged with industry advancements and fosters a mindset of lifelong learning, ensuring that your skills remain relevant in a rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape.
  • Professional networking and community: Certification programs often come with membership to professional organizations or communities dedicated to cybersecurity. These communities provide valuable networking opportunities, allowing you to connect with like-minded professionals, mentors, and experts in the field. Networking can provide access to resources, career advice, and collaborative opportunities that can further accelerate your professional growth.

"Certifications play a crucial role in showcasing the cyber subject matter expert's skills and knowledge," said Dom Glavach, Chief Security Officer & Strategist for CyberSN, a leading recruiting company specializing in cybersecurity talent.

"Possessing and maintaining certifications such as CISSP, CISM, or CCSP demonstrates a strong commitment to cybersecurity. Certifications in corporate governance or directorship highlight the ability to bring cross-functional expertise and a balanced perspective to effectively contribute as a board member. "

List of top cybersecurity certifications

There are various cybersecurity certifications available across different domains and proficiency levels. Here are some common types of cybersecurity certifications.

Foundational certifications:

•  CompTIA Security+
•  EC-Council Certified Secure Computer User (CSCU)
•  GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)

Technical certifications:

•  Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
•  Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
•  Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
•  Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
•  Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
•  Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
•  Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)
•  GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)
•  Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP)
•  Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)

Vendor-specific certifications:

•  Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security)
•  Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
•  Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer (PCNSE)
•  Check Point Certified Security Administrator (CCSA)
•  Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE)

Specialized certifications:

•  Certified Digital Forensics Examiner (CDFE)
•  Certified Information Systems Risk Manager (CISRM)
•  Certified Industrial Control Systems Professional (CICSP)
•  Certified Cyber Threat Intelligence Professional (CCTIP)
•  Certified Cloud Security Specialist (CCSS)

Governance and compliance certifications:

•  Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
•  Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM)
•  Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT)
•  Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)
•  ISO/IEC 27001 Lead Auditor/Implementer

How to earn cybersecurity certifications

Cybersecurity professionals can get certified by following these general steps.

  1. Choose a certification: Research and select a certification that aligns with your career goals, interests, and experience level. Consider factors such as the certification's reputation, industry recognition, and relevance to the cybersecurity domain.
  2. Review certification requirements: Each certification has its own prerequisites, such as specific education, work experience, or training. Review the requirements to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria. If you don't meet the prerequisites, consider pursuing other certifications or gaining the necessary qualifications.
  3. Study and prepare: Obtain study materials such as official certification guides, textbooks, online courses, practice exams, and other resources relevant to the certification you're pursuing. Familiarize yourself with the exam objectives, domains, and knowledge areas covered in the certification.
  4. Training and education: Depending on the certification, you may need to attend training programs or courses offered by authorized training providers. These courses provide in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience, preparing you for the certification exam. Some certifications may have training as a mandatory requirement. Some of these courses may also provide a voucher for you to take the exam as part of the registration fee for the class.
  5. Schedule and take the exam: Register for the certification exam through the official certification provider's website. Choose a suitable exam date and location. Make sure to review any exam policies, study guides, or sample questions provided by the certification authority. 
  6. Continuing education: Many cybersecurity certifications require professionals to earn continuing education credits annually to maintain their certification. These are often referred to as continuing professional education (CPE) or continuing education units (CEU) credits. You can stay up to date with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in the cybersecurity field through conferences, webinars, workshops, and other learning opportunities. Fulfill the continuing education requirements to keep your certification current.

Retain your cybersecurity certifications with SecureWorld

SecureWorld can help you retain your certification(s) by providing access to high-quality educational resources, training opportunities, and networking events that support ongoing professional development in the field of cybersecurity. Here are a few ways SecureWorld can assist you in retaining your certification.

SecureWorld regional conferences offer sessions and workshops that qualify for CPE credits (ranging from 6-18 CPEs). Attending these events allows you to learn from cybersecurity subject matter experts, stay updated on the latest trends, and earn the necessary credits to fulfill your certification requirements.

SecureWorld provides training courses on various cybersecurity topics, which can contribute to your continuing education requirements. These courses cover different skill levels and domains of cybersecurity, enabling you to enhance your knowledge and skills in specific areas related to your certification.

If you are looking to take advantage of this opportunity, head to SecureWorld's Events page to find a conference near you!

How are the programs and certification exams priced?

The pricing of cybersecurity certifications can vary depending on several factors, including the certification provider, the level of the certification, the region or country where the exam is taken, and any associated training or study materials. Here are some common factors that can influence the pricing:

  • Certification level: Certifications often have different levels, such as entry-level, associate, professional, or expert. Higher-level certifications generally tend to have higher costs due to their advanced nature and the level of expertise they validate.
  • Certification provider: Different certification providers may have their own pricing structures. Some well-known providers include CompTIA, (ISC)², EC-Council, ISACA, SANS Institute, Cisco, and Microsoft. Each provider may have its pricing guidelines and policies.
  • Exam format: The format of the certification exam can affect the pricing. Computer-based exams are typically more affordable than hands-on or practical exams that require physical proctoring or specialized testing environments.
  • Training and study materials: Certification providers may offer optional training courses, study guides, practice exams, or other resources to help candidates prepare for the certification exam. These materials often have separate costs associated with them.
  • Geographic factors: Certification pricing may also vary based on the region or country where the exam is taken. Factors such as local market conditions, currency exchange rates, and local costs of operations can influence the pricing.

It is important to note that certification costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Additionally, there may be added costs for maintaining or renewing the certification over time, such as annual membership fees or continuing education requirements.

To get accurate pricing information for a specific certification, it's recommended to visit the official website of the certification provider. They typically provide detailed information about the certification fees, any applicable discounts, and the breakdown of associated costs.

How long does it take to complete the certification process?

The time required to complete a cybersecurity certification can vary based on several factors, including the complexity of the certification, your prior knowledge and experience, the amount of time you can dedicate to studying, and the study resources available to you. Here are some general considerations.

  • Entry-level certifications: CompTIA Security+ or Certified Secure Computer User (CSCU) usually require a few weeks to a few months of study and preparation. This timeframe allows candidates to grasp foundational concepts and acquire basic knowledge in cybersecurity.
  • Professional-level certifications: Professional-level certifications, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), typically require more extensive study and preparation due to their advanced nature. It may take several months to a year or more to adequately prepare for these certifications, depending on your background and available study time.
  • Prior knowledge and experience: Your existing knowledge and experience in cybersecurity or related fields can significantly impact the time required to complete a certification. If you already possess relevant experience or have a strong understanding of the certificate's subject matter, you may be able to progress through the certification process more quickly.
  • Study time and intensity: The amount of time you can dedicate to studying each day or week will affect the overall duration of certification preparation. If you can commit more hours per day or have a more intensive study schedule, you may be able to complete the certification requirements more quickly.
  • Study resources and support: The availability and quality of study resources and support materials, such as official certification guides, online courses, practice exams, and study groups, can impact the efficiency of your preparation. Utilizing comprehensive and focused study materials can help streamline your learning process.
  • It's important to balance the desire for efficiency with the need for thorough preparation. Rushing through the material without understanding the concepts may hinder your ability to pass the certification exam. Take the time needed to comprehend the topics, reinforce your knowledge through practice, and build practical skills through hands-on exercises or real-world projects.

Ultimately, the timeline for completing a cybersecurity certification is highly individualized and can vary based on the factors mentioned above. Assess your own situation, set realistic goals, and create a study plan that suits your needs and schedule.

How do certifications compare to degrees in cybersecurity?

The cybersecurity field is diverse, and while a college degree may be preferred in some roles, it might not be a strict requirement for others. Practical experience, certifications, and a strong portfolio of work can often compensate for the lack of a formal degree. Additionally, as the field of cybersecurity is continuously evolving, some organizations may prioritize candidates who possess up-to-date knowledge and hands-on experience over formal education.

There are certain roles within the cybersecurity field where a degree is more highly regarded and, in some cases, may be a requirement. Some positions may place a higher emphasis on formal education due to the difficulty of managing the responsibilities. However,  practical experience and certifications are valuable across the entire cybersecurity spectrum. In some cases, certification(s) can validate your skills even more than a degree can. A degree can demonstrate dedication and commitment to an employer, but the same holds true by having certifications. Overall, you can never count out the value that certification brings to the table, and neither can employers!

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