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9 in-demand cybersecurity certifications to help you land a high-paying position

What are the differences between various types of credentials? Flatiron School explains here so you can choose the one that’s best for your career.

Flatiron School students learning together. (Courtesy photo)

This guest post is sponsored by Flatiron School.

The cybersecurity industry is booming. With global events such as the pandemic, the shift to remote working, and an increase in the frequency and complexity of cyber attacks, global demand for cyber experts is high and rising.

This high demand coincides with an ongoing low supply of qualified professionals, making it prime time to break into the field. According to research by Cybersecurity Ventures, there were 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs last year — a 350% increase over the year before.

But, while the market is flooded with opportunities, the specialized nature of the cybersecurity industry means it also requires specific training. Candidates need proof of cybersecurity skills to secure these positions, and a cybersecurity certification can be what pushes one candidate’s application forward over another.

Are cybersecurity certifications worth it?

So, are cybersecurity certifications worth earning? In short, yes.

A 2021 survey by (ISC)² found that 70% of cybersecurity professionals reported that they were required to earn an industry-specific certification by their employer. These certifications also came with an average salary boost of $18,000.

On that note, here are the cybersecurity certifications you may want to consider at different levels of your career.

Entry-level cybersecurity certifications

CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification focuses on foundational cyber skills. This certification rubber-stamps your ability to assess an organization’s security level, monitor and secure cloud, mobile, and IoT environments, and identify and respond to threats.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Systems Administrator
  • Help Desk Manager
  • Security Engineer
  • Cloud Engineer
  • Security Administrator
  • IT Auditor
  • Software Developer

GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

The GSEC is ideal for professionals with a background in information systems and/or networking that want to move into cybersecurity. This certificate validates security skills such as active defense, network security, cryptography, incident response and cloud security.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • IT Security Manager
  • Computer Forensic Analyst
  • Penetration Tester
  • Security Administrator
  • Software Development Engineer
  • IT Auditor

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

This certificate validates that you have the skills to design, implement and monitor a secure IT infrastructure. The qualifying exam features questions regarding access controls, risk identification and analysis, security administration, incident response, cryptography, and network, communications, systems, and application security.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Network Security Engineer
  • System Administrator
  • Systems Engineer
  • Security Analyst
  • Database Administrator
  • Security Consultant

Mid-level cybersecurity certifications

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

This certificate validates your knowledge of assessing security vulnerabilities, designing and implementing controls, and reporting on compliance. It’s also one of the most recognized and sought-after credentials in cybersecurity auditing — a must-have for those looking to move up in the field.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • IT Audit Manager
  • Cybersecurity Auditor
  • Information Security Analyst
  • IT Security Engineer
  • IT Project Manager
  • Compliance Program Manager

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The CSIM demonstrates your knowledge of the management side of information security. The exam features topics such as governance, program development, and program, incident, and risk management. If you’d like to move into a managerial cybersecurity role, this could be the certification that gets you there.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • IT Manager
  • Information Systems Security Officer
  • Information Risk Consultant
  • Director of Information Security
  • Data Governance Manager

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Earning this certificate demonstrates your skills as an ethical hacker (aka white hat hacking or “pen” testing). To pass, you’ll have to prove your knowledge of penetration testing, attack detection, vectors and risk prevention.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Penetration Tester
  • Cyber Incident Analyst
  • Threat Intelligence Analyst
  • Cloud Security Architect
  • Cybersecurity Engineer

Senior-level cybersecurity certifications

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

For cybersecurity professionals looking to advance their careers to the senior level of an organization, the CISSP is a highly sought-after certification. Earning this credential shows your experience in IT security and capable of designing, implementing, and monitoring a secure and effective cybersecurity program.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Chief Information Security Officer
  • Security Administrator
  • IT Security Engineer
  • Senior Security Consultant
  • Information Assurance Analyst

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

The CASP+ is primarily focused on technical skills and is made for those who would like to advance their career while maintaining their primary job responsibilities in the technology side of things (instead of moving into management). The certificate covers topics such as enterprise security domain, risk analysis, software vulnerability, securing cloud and virtualization technologies, and cryptographic techniques.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Security Architect
  • Security Engineer
  • Application Security Engineer
  • Technical Lead Analyst
  • Vulnerability Analyst

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

The OSCP is a specialized certificate for penetration testers and has become highly sought-after in recent years (likely due to the overall global increase in cyberattacks). The exam tests your penetration skills with target machines that you must compromise using multiple exploitation steps and produce penetration test reports for.

Attaining this certification can qualify you for roles such as:

  • Penetration Tester
  • Ethical Hacker
  • Threat Researcher
  • Application Security Analyst

Which cybersecurity certification should I get first?

Which cybersecurity certification you pursue is entirely dependent on where you are in your career and where you would like to go next.

A good way of judging which certification would be most beneficial to your current career standing is to work backward from your job search. Find a few listings of your target job and make a note of the most commonly requested skills and highest priority certification listed in the descriptions.

This can help you determine which certification you should pursue to make your application competitive, even in the current red-hot job market.

But, if you’re just starting out or pivoting from another career entirely, you may want to take a foundational course before diving into certifications to save both time and money (not to mention taking the tests several times over). An accelerated, short-term cybersecurity course with targeted learning objectives can help prepare you to earn whichever certification you want and prepare you for your next industry job.

That way, when you obtain your certification and start applying for jobs, you’ll be ready.

Explore cybersecurity courses at Flatiron School

Companies: Flatiron School

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