Guide to the Best Tech Certifications for Cybersecurity Jobs
Updated By Staff Writer on March 24, 2021
Cybersecurity is a fast-growing field, with companies around the globe looking for professionals to help keep sensitive data safe from hackers. When they get hacked, businesses lose not only data and information, but also trust with their customers. Cybersecurity is an important role in any organization, and many companies can’t fill jobs fast enough. Even IT professionals with other specialties need some knowledge of cybersecurity.
To get an edge as you start your career in cybersecurity and IT, you can pursue a number of cybersecurity certifications and credentials that will give you training and experience. Plus, the additional education will impress employers and prove your familiarity with trends in the field.
What are the best tech certifications for jobs in cybersecurity?
These information technology security certifications are great options for anyone looking for a boost as they enter the field of cybersecurity. First we’ll answer some basic questions about cybersecurity certifications, and then we’ll list common tech certifications that can improve earnings.
Is Certification Required to Work in Cybersecurity or Network Security?
It depends—some employers may require or strongly prefer a specific cybersecurity certification. For example, to be hired by the Department of Defense, cybersecurity professionals are required to have the CompTIA Security+, a common entry-level certificate. But in general, unless a company requires it, certification is not required to work in cybersecurity.
Are IT Certifications Better Than a Degree?
Both IT certifications and academic degrees are important when you’re looking to get hired in the field of cybersecurity. Many companies require a Bachelor’s degree as the minimum qualification for an entry-level cybersecurity or network security position.1 An IT degree provides the background and critical thinking skills that build the foundation to a career, while certifications are designed to continue that education as you advance and get more experience as a cybersecurity professional.
Certifications build upon that knowledge you gained in your degree with specialized training, making you more competitive during the job search. Certifications must be renewed every two to three years, while a degree doesn’t expire.
What Are the Benefits of Getting Certified?
Taking the cybersecurity certification path can pay off in your career. Certifications will give you valuable knowledge about the field and help you stay updated on trends—and your current and prospective employers will notice. IT professionals with certifications get promoted more often.2 Holding a certification can help you stand out in a crowd of job applicants, and it’s a sign to employers that you’re committed to the field and willing to work hard to stay current and to reach your goals.
What Are the Best Tech Certifications for Jobs in Cybersecurity?
As an IT professional, you have several options for certifications in cybersecurity. The best cybersecurity certification path for you depends on your interests, career goals, and how far along you are in your career.
IT Security Certifications for Beginners
If you’re at the beginning of your career, consider these certifications:
Certified Ethical Hacker:To beat hackers, you have to know how to think like one. This program teaches you to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in networks the way a hacker would to help assess the strength of an organization's security
CISA Certification: The Certified Information Systems Auditor program—or CISA certification—is good for both entry-level and intermediate professionals. It’s designed to certify those who audit, control, monitor, and access IT systems
CompTIA Security+: This is usually the first security certification IT professionals should pursue. It establishes baseline knowledge and teaches the practical skills you need to move from beginner to intermediate jobs, including penetration testing and systems, network, or security admin
SANS GIAC Security Essentials: This is an entry-level program offered by GSEC, which also provides a number of more advanced certifications. This certification goes beyond introductory material to hands-on learning; it focuses on attack prevention and detection, networking, defense, and secure communications
IT Security Certification for Professionals
Once you’ve worked in IT and cybersecurity, a professional certification can give you the boost you need to qualify for a promotion or to move up from an entry-level job to a higher paying position.
Many intermediate and advanced certifications have required prerequisites to complete, sometimes specifying how many years you must have worked in the field and in which positions. These tech certifications that pay well are great options for boosting your career:
Certified Cloud Security Professional: The CCSP program develops advanced technical skills in designing, managing, and securing data and infrastructure in the cloud. With more organizations relying on cloud storage, this certification will keep your skills relevant and make you valuable to employers
Certified Information Privacy Professionals/US: The CIPP/US program is a benchmark certification—it’s a tech certification that pays well and provides opportunities for promotion by showing you have a strong understanding of US privacy laws and regulation in a number of public and private sectors
Certified Information Security Manager: If leadership is your goal, the CISM cybersecurity certification is a good choice to help you move up the ranks. It helps you collaborate with stakeholders, both internal and external, as well as colleagues and industry and government regulators. With this more advanced leadership training comes more earning potential and opportunity for advancement
Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control: The CRISC certification is a great mid-career option for professionals who work in or aspire to enterprise-level positions. It addresses the unique challenges of IT enterprise risk management
Cisco Certified Network Associate: Completing the CCNA program shows that you have the skills and knowledge to protect Cisco networks, which are used across many organizations. If your company uses Cisco, learning how to recognize threats, mitigate risk, and develop security infrastructure in a Cisco system can be a huge asset. It will also help you grow a career in network security and administration
Certified Information Systems Security Professional: Also known as the CISSP certification, this is a program for experienced IT experts, managers, and executives who want to expand and broaden their knowledge of cybersecurity. It’s also a required certification for government employees who conduct information assurance functions. Earning the CISSP demonstrates that you can design, implement, and manage a quality cybersecurity program
Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator: Are you interested in criminal justice and forensics? The CHFI certification course teaches you the techniques used by police, government, and corporate investigators to gather evidence and investigate cybercrimes
EC-Council Certified Security Analyst: The ECSA is a great fit for professionals advancing a career in penetration testing, which is attempting to breach a system (with permission) to test its security
How Long Does It Take to Get an IT Certification?
It depends on the certification you’re interested in. Some programs require years of industry experience before you can qualify to receive the certification. Some require you to take a specific course and then pass an exam. Others require both or allow you to use experience to opt out of taking the course before taking the exam.
One you meet the prerequisites to apply for a certification, it can take a few months to take the course and then to study and practice for the exam. The time it takes to get a certification demonstrates your dedication to furthering your knowledge and career. Many cybersecurity certification programs also require a fee as part of the application process.
Information Technology Security Certifications or Bachelor’s Degree?
There’s no need to choose between certifications and a Bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. The degree provides a necessary foundation, and the certifications supplement and build that knowledge in the years after you graduate.
Are you interested in a career in cybersecurity? Start it off right with the training and education you need. Get your Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Networking from Independence University.