How to Choose the Right Cybersecurity Certifications for Your Career

Published on
October 20, 2023
How to Choose the Right Cybersecurity Certifications for Your Career
Contact Us
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
graphic angle
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

For those looking to launch or advance an IT security career, obtaining recognized cybersecurity certifications can provide a significant edge. The right certs validate critical skills and knowledge that employers need. They demonstrate competence in specific domains like risk management, incident response, and compliance. Certifications also exhibit dedication to the profession.

However, the universe of available IT and cybersecurity certifications is vast. It can be challenging to determine which certifications align with your goals and have the most value in the job market. Not all carry equal weight or require the same level of effort. In this article, we’ll outline some of the industry’s premier cybersecurity credentials, what they cover, and how they can boost your career prospects as a security professional.

Why Earn Cybersecurity Certifications?

Before exploring individual certifications, it’s worth understanding why they matter for IT security careers. Key benefits include:

  • Validates proficiency – Certs prove you possess specific in-demand capabilities that employers need. They validate applied skills.
  • Advances opportunities – Credentials make candidates more competitive for cyber roles and promotions. Many ads list certs.
  • Higher salary – Those holding security certs typically earn higher pay. They demonstrate specialized expertise.
  • Builds credibility – Certifications exhibit dedication to the profession. Being certified generates trust.
  • Fulfills requirements – Some roles mandate certs like CISSP. Certs meet DoD 8570 requirements.
  • Demonstrates up-to-date skills – Since certs must be renewed, they indicate current capabilities versus outdated coursework.

While degrees and experience matter, certifications provide recognizable evidence of critical cybersecurity knowledge sought after in the workplace.

Top Cybersecurity Certifications

The information security field offers credentials across diverse domains. Here are some of the most respected certifications:

CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional

  • Offered by: (ISC)2
  • Covers: Broad information security concepts, principles, architecture, and management.
  • Recipients: 143,000+
  • Requirements: 5+ years experience plus exam.

The CISSP remains the gold-standard credential for security professionals. It demonstrates advanced, up-to-date understanding of cybersecurity programs. Senior security roles often expect or require it.

CISM – Certified Information Security Manager

  • Offered by: ISACA
  • Covers: Information security program management, governance, operations.
  • Recipients: 50,000+
  • Requirements: 5 years experience plus exam.

CISM is geared towards security management. It exhibits proficiency managing programs, people, and enforcing governance. Great for CISO and other leadership roles.

CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker

  • Offered by: EC-Council
  • Covers: Hacking concepts and techniques. Cyberattack methods.
  • Recipients: 60,000+
  • Requirements: Training course and exam.

The CEH credential validates skills in penetration testing and ethical hacking tools and methodologies through live training. It’s respected for hands-on roles.

CompTIA Security+

  • Offered by: CompTIA
  • Covers: Broad cybersecurity fundamentals from threats to data protection to attacks.
  • Recipients: 350,000+
  • Requirements: Exam only.

Considered an entry-level baseline certification, Security+ establishes foundational cybersecurity skills and knowledge. It’s a common prerequisite for DoD IT roles.

CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor

  • Offered by: ISACA
  • Covers: IT systems controls, assurance, compliance, auditing.
  • Recipients: 150,000+
  • Requirements: 5 years experience plus exam.

CISA certifies expertise in information systems assessment, auditing, and controls. It’s valued by those in audit, compliance, and risk management functions.

CCSP – Certified Cloud Security Professional

  • Offered by: (ISC)2
  • Covers: Cloud security architecture, operations, compliance.
  • Recipients: 15,000+
  • Requirements: 5 years IT experience plus exam.

As cloud adoption has exploded, CCSP has emerged as the premier credential for managing cloud security and risk.

CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

  • Offered by: ISACA
  • Covers: IT risk and control identification, implementation, monitoring.
  • Recipients: 55,000+
  • Requirements: 2 years experience plus exam.

CRISC focuses on IT risk management and control design and assessment. It exhibits abilities for roles like risk manager, auditor, and analyst.

This sampling shows some of the diversity among security certifications. Choosing wisely involves understanding your career trajectory and skills you want to build.

How to Select the Right Certifications

With hundreds of IT and cybersecurity certs available, how do you determine which ones are worth the effort for your goals? Here are key factors to consider:

  • Career trajectory – Match certs to your desired career direction, whether management, engineering, cloud, risk, etc.
  • Skill development – Identify knowledge areas you need to strengthen that certificates can validate.
  • Job requirements – Look at certs requested in job postings for roles you want. CISSP or CCSP often listed.
  • Employer needs – Seek certs your company values to advance, such as for compliance.
  • Existing credentials – Complement entry or mid-level certs with more advanced ones demonstrating breadth.
  • Interests – Certs aligned to domains you find intrinsically interesting will boost engagement.
  • Exam difficulty – Weigh preparation time needed based on your experience level and aptitude.
  • Cost – Factor in examination fees and prep materials or courses required. Employer may cover.

Choosing certifications strategically based on these criteria yields the greatest career impact.

Tips for Earning Security Certifications

Once you’ve selected target certifications, here are tips to earn them successfully:

  • Schedule the exam – Commit by registering for the exam upfront. This creates accountability to prep.
  • Determine requirements – Understand all requirements such as experience levels. Meet eligibility criteria.
  • Leverage training resources – Use offerings like video courses and boot camps to prepare thoroughly for the exam.
  • Join a study group – Studying with colleagues reinforces material through teaching each other.
  • Take practice exams – Simulated tests identify knowledge gaps to refine. They familiarize you with test format.
  • Read recent materials – Review current books and publications on exam subject areas. Skills evolve quickly.
  • Understand scoring – Most certs share scores and pass rates. Set expectations accordingly. Retake if needed.
  • Renew on schedule – Certifications expire and require renewal through retesting or continuing education.

With the right mix of resources and dedication, top cybersecurity certifications can be attained by motivated professionals at various career stages.

In Summary

While hands-on skills and experience are critical, certifications provide third-party validation of cybersecurity knowledge and competence sought after by organizations. They exhibit dedication to the profession. Matching certifications strategically to your goals and interests is key to maximizing career impact. Earning the right credentials aligned to employer needs can propel your growth as an IT security specialist. Partnering with firms like Level Up Security that value certifications can further enhance opportunities. At Level Up Security, our consultants hold premier certifications and can offer guidance on high-value credentials for your career path. Reach out to discover how certifications can boost your success as an IT security leader.


Cyber risks will only intensify as attack techniques grow more advanced. Businesses need security leaders not simply maintaining defenses, but continuously strengthening protection, threat visibility, speed of response and resilience. Through specialized providers, Managed Security Services enable organizations to effectively counter risks, close resource and skills gaps, demonstrate diligence, and focus on business imperatives. MSS delivers enterprise-class cybersecurity capabilities tailored to organizations’ unique requirements and risk exposures. By selecting partners strategically based on capabilities and fit, companies can operate confidently even in turbulent threat environments.