Friday, May 17, 2024

11 Top Cybersecurity Certifications to Consider In 2024

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Cybersecurity certifications validate your knowledge and hands-on skills in protecting computer systems, networks, and data from possible attacks and breaches. Certifications can enhance your credibility and demonstrate it to employers and potential employers, offering career development opportunities and a path to growth.

Vendor-agnostic cybersecurity certificates issued by industry associations provide the most widely recognized, important, and sometimes required certifications for both beginning and established cybersecurity professionals. More specialized certifications can also help you obtain more specific jobs, depending upon the career you want to pursue.

We evaluated the options to help you find the best cybersecurity certifications for your own needs—here are our top picks for 2024:

Featured Partners: Cybersecurity Software

Top Cybersecurity Certifications Comparison At a Glance

The following table provides an overview of the top cybersecurity certifications you can acquire in 2024, including the skills you can learn and program details such as prerequisites, requirements, duration, location, and cost.

Certification Provider Skills Acquired Requirements Duration Location Cost
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) ISACA
  • Auditing
  • Governance and management
  • Information systems acquisition
  • Passing CISA exam within the last 5 years
  • 5+ years professional experience
4 hours Online or in-person at PSI locations
  • $760 non-members
  • $575 ISACA members plus $50 application fee
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) ISACA
  • System governance
  • Risk management
  • Security program development
  • Passing CISA exam within the last 5 years
  • 5+ years CISM professional experience
4 hours Online or in-person at PSI locations
  • $760 non-members
  • $575 ISACA members plus $50
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) ISC2
  • Security and risk management
  • Asset security
  • Security architecture and engineering
5 years cumulative paid work experience 4 hours Pearson VUE testing facilities $749
Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) ISC2
  • Security operations and administration
  • Risk identification
  • Incident response
1 year full-time experience in one of the current SSCP Exam Outline 4 hours Pearson VUE testing facilities $249
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) EC-Council
  • Reconnaissance
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Specific attack methods
Candidates must satisfy any of the following:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker certification version 1-7
  • 2 years InfoSec work experience
  • EC Council training attendance
4 hours ECC Exam and Pearson VUE testing centers $850
CompTIA Security+ CompTIA
  • Threat identification and analysis
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Architecture and implementation
No requirements 90 minutes Online or Pearson VUE testing centers $404
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) CompTIA
  • Designing security architecture
  • Security engineering
  • Technical leadership
Recommendations:

  • 10+ years of general hands-on IT experience
  • 5+ years broad hands-on security experience
165 minutes Online or Pearson VUE testing centers $509
GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) GIAC
  • Access control and password management
  • Cryptography
  • AWS and Azure operations
No requirements 4 hours Online or Pearson VUE testing centers $2,499
GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) GIAC
  • Computer crime investigation
  • Computer and network hacker exploits
  • Hacker tools
No requirements 4 hours Online or Pearson VUE testing centers $2,499
Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Offensive Security
  • Penetration testing
  • Linux and Windows exploits
  • Vulnerability scanning and exploits
Registration for the  PEN-200 course 24 hours Online $1,649 one-time payment or $5,499 per year (unlimited exam attempts)
Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Coursera
  • Cybersecurity practices
  • Identify common risks and threats
  • Hands-on experience with Python, Linux, and SQL
No requirements Flexible Online $14 per month

Continue reading about the top cybersecurity certifications, or skip down to learn more about the governing bodies and providers that offer them.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Best for Systems and Controls Assessment

The CISA certificate is an ISACA credential that helps professionals with at least five years of technical job experience demonstrate their mastery in assessing IT systems for vulnerabilities, implementing mitigating controls, and reporting on compliance. An IT-relevant degree can be used to offset up to three years of experience.

Why We Picked It

This certification is ideal for professionals hoping to master systems and controls assessment, as it validates proficiency in handling the challenges and responsibilities of a modern IT auditor. CISA focuses on relevant domains such as the information systems auditing process, governance and management, information systems acquisition, business resilience, and more. Additionally, CISA is a world-renowned standard, providing an edge for mid-career professionals who want to apply a risk-based approach to planning, executing, and reporting on audit engagements.

Skills Acquired

The CISA certificate equips users with the following skills:

  • Information system auditing processes
  • Governance and management of IT
  • Information systems acquisition development and implementation
  • Information systems operation and business resilience
  • Protection of information assets

Requirements

Prior to sending the application for CISA certification, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Have passed the CISA Exam within the last five years
  • Five or more years of professional information systems auditing, control, or security work experience

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours (150 items)
Location: Online or in-person at 1,300 PSI locations worldwide
Cost: $760 for non-members and $575 for ISACA members; $50 application processing fee

Candidates can prepare for the examination with a paid CISA online review course and resource materials, or try its free practice quiz. Coursera also offers an Information Systems Auditing, Controls, and Assurance course, which you can take to prepare for a CISA certification exam.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Best for Governance Framework Creation

The CISM certification is an ISACA credential for more advanced IT security managers with five years of experience or three years of experience with a relevant degree. The CISM certification validates a security professional’s expertise in handling data breaches, ransomware attacks, and evolving security threats in a business or organization. This certification targets experienced security professionals seeking management-level roles or consulting positions within the information security industry.

Why We Picked It

With a CISM certification, users can learn how to effectively assess risks, implement governance, and proactively respond to incidents. Professionals who plan to focus on governance framework creation will find this certification valuable, as it focuses on understanding business objectives, strategic thinking, and risk-based approaches. CISM also stands out with up-to-date industry standards and guidelines, showcasing that certified professionals know how to effectively manage information security governance.

Skills Acquired

The CISA certificate will teach you the following:

  • Information system governance
  • Information risk management
  • Information security program development and management
  • Information security incident management

Requirements

Candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Have passed the CISA Exam within the last five years
  • Five or more years of CISM professional work experience across at least three of the four CISM domains

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours; 150 items covering four job practice domains
Location: Online or in-person at 1,300 PSI locations worldwide
Cost: $760 for non-members and $575 for ISACA members; $50 application processing fee

ISACA offers CISM exam preparation resources, including group training, self-paced training, and study resources. Candidates can also access a free CISM practice quiz or explore prep courses on Udemy.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Best for Technical Security Expertise Across Diverse Domains

The CISSP certification is an internationally recognized ISC2 credential in the information security market. It evaluates a security professional’s technical and managerial expertise across a wide range of security domains, providing an advantage over leadership and architecture roles within the field.

Why We Picked It

This certification offers comprehensive coverage of the eight domains of cybersecurity, from security and risk management to software development security. It demonstrates a professional’s depth of knowledge in designing, implementing, and managing security solutions. As the certification covers a broad spectrum of topics included in the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®), candidates who earn this certification will gain relevance across all disciplines in the field of information security and show competence in the industry.

Skills Acquired

The CISSP certification offers professionals the following skills:

  • Security and risk management
  • Asset security
  • Security architecture and engineering
  • Communication and network security
  • Identity and access management (IAM)
  • Security assessment and testing
  • Security operations
  • Software development security

Requirements

Candidates must have a minimum of five years’ cumulative paid work experience in one or more of the CISSP CBK domains. Earning a four-year college degree, a regional equivalent, or an additional credential from the ISC2 approved list can count as one year of the required experience. If the candidate doesn’t have the minimum experience to become CISSP certified but passes the examination, they may become an Associate of ISC2. Learn more about the experience requirements or internships.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours (125-175 items)
Location: Pearson VUE testing facilities worldwide
Cost: $749

Candidates can browse through CISSP’s official practice tests and quizzes, as well as various tools and resources. You can also check out Coursera’s curated CCSP courses to prep for your CISSP exam.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

Best for System Administration with Security Focus

The SSCP certification is a vendor-neutral certification by ISC2, which is a respected leader in cybersecurity certifications. It demonstrates a professional’s knowledge and hands-on technical skills in implementing a monitoring IT infrastructure that adheres tightly to security policies and procedures.

Why We Picked It

The SSCP certification equips professionals with in-depth knowledge and skills in operational security, such as the practical application of security concepts essential for maintaining security systems. It also enables candidates to have a broad knowledge of security domains, including access controls, cryptography, incident response, and more. Additionally, this certification also offers a balanced concept of applying security policies and working within technical systems.

Skills Acquired

This certification will provide the following skills:

  • Security operations and administration
  • Risk identification, monitoring, and analysis
  • Incident response and recovery
  • Network and communications security
  • Systems and application security

Requirements

Candidates must have a minimum of one year of full-time experience in one or more of the seven domains of the current SSCP Exam Outline. You can satisfy up to one year of the required experience if you earn a post-secondary degree (bachelors or masters) in computer science, IT, or related fields. Candidates who successfully pass the SSCP examination but don’t have the required experience can earn the Associate of ISC2 designation.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours (150 items)
Location: Pearson VUE testing facilities worldwide
Cost: $249

Check out SSCP’s online self-paced training and tools or see Coursera’s SSCP course series to prepare for your examination.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Best for Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing

The CEH certification offered by the EC-Council is an internationally recognized credential that affirms an individual’s knowledge and skills in ethical hacking methodologies. It offers a structured course for aspiring cyber professionals and a comprehensive program to master the five phases of ethical hacking.

Why We Picked It

The CEH certification has an offensive security focus that dives deep into hacking techniques, tools, and the attacker mindset. With this certification, candidates can have hands-on experience and real-world simulations, as CEH emphasizes practical scenarios. Successful candidates will also stand out in the market as CEH content reflects current attack methodologies and threats, keeping them updated in the ever-changing security landscape.

Skills Acquired

This certification will equip you with skills and tools in the following areas:

  • Reconnaissance, sniffing, and scanning
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Specific attack methods such as social engineering, session hijacking, and SQL injection
  • Hacking specific platforms: Internet of Things (IoT), web servers, mobile platforms, and wireless networks
  • Evading IDS, firewalls, and honeypots

Requirements

To be eligible to apply for the Certified Ethical Hacker (ANSI) Exam, a candidate must satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • Hold a Certified Ethical Hacker certification of version 1 to 7
  • Have a minimum of two years of work experience in the InfoSec domain
  • $100 non-refundable application fee
  • Attendance at an official EC-Council training

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours (125 items)
Location: ECC Exam and Pearson VUE centers worldwide
Cost:  $850

Check out EC-Council’s CEH assessment to prepare for the exam or its Ethical Hacking Essentials (EHE) course offered in Coursera.

CompTIA Security+

Best for Foundational Cybersecurity Knowledge

The Security+ Certification is a vendor-neutral certification offered by CompTIA that indicates that you hold the baseline skills needed to perform entry-level IT security functions. This certification establishes core competencies in network security, access control, cryptography, and more.

Why We Picked It

We chose this certification as ideal for building foundational cybersecurity knowledge, as it develops essential skills for launching a successful cybersecurity career. It’s also one of the most widely adopted ISO/ANSI-accredited early-career cybersecurity certifications, helping successful candidates stand out in the market. Its examination consists of hands-on and performance-based questions, validating the practitioner’s ability to effectively solve problems in real-life situations and demonstrating their expertise to potential employees.

Skills Acquired

The CompTIA Security+ certification will equip you with the following skills:

  • Threat identification and analysis
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Architecture, design, and implementation
  • Operations and incident response
  • Governance, risk, and compliance

Requirements

While there are no prerequisites for the CompTIA Security+ certification, CompTIA recommends at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus and a CompTIA Network+ certification before taking the exam.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: 90 minutes
Location: Online or at Pearson VUE testing centers
Cost:  $404

Prepare for your CompTIA Security+ exam with CompTIA’s training companion or browse through prep courses on Udemy.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

Best for Designing Enterprise-Wide Security

CASP+ certification is an advanced-level cybersecurity CompTIA credential for security architects and senior security engineers who are assigned to lead and improve an enterprise’s cybersecurity readiness. It indicates advanced-level cybersecurity skills and focuses on implementing technical solutions in enterprise environments, encompassing cloud, hybrid, and on-premise systems.

Why We Picked It

CASP+ will help advanced-level cybersecurity professionals stand out in the industry as it offers hands-on and performance-based certification. More than identifying cybersecurity policies and ideal security frameworks, advanced practitioners who earn this certification demonstrate their capacity to implement solutions within those policies and frameworks. This certification also covers both security architecture and engineering, valuing the practitioner’s expertise in assessing cyber readiness and implementing proper solutions within an enterprise.

Skills Acquired

This certification emphasizes the following skills:

  • Designing security architecture
  • Managing security operations
  • Governance, risk, and compliance
  • Security engineering and cryptography
  • Addressing risks in cloud and hybrid systems
  • Technical leadership for security teams

Requirements

CompTIA recommends at least 10 years of general hands-on IT experience and at least five years of broad hands-on security experience.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: 165 minutes (90 questions)
Location: Online or at Pearson VUE Testing Centers
Cost: $509

Applicants can prepare for the CASP+ exam through CompTIA’s training companion.

GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)

Best for Validating Skillsets for Non-Security Professionals

The GSEC certification is a GIAC credential that verifies your understanding of information security beyond simple concepts and that you qualify for hands-on IT security roles and tasks. It also demonstrates that you understand that security tasks are an individual contribution, making it an ideal certification for those without a dedicated security role.

Why We Picked It

This certification offers IT professionals essential security knowledge for their day-to-day operations and, at the same time, provides a foundation for those interested in transitioning into the security industry. GSEC covers a wide range of skillsets for IT professionals applicable to businesses and organizations, from access control and password management to security infrastructure.

Skills Acquired

This certification will help you learn the following:

  • Defense in depth, access control, and password management
  • Cryptography
  • AWS and Azure operations
  • Defensible network architecture
  • Linux fundamentals, hardening, and securing
  • SIEM, critical controls, and exploit mitigation
  • Web communication security

Requirements

The GSEC certificate does not have any prerequisite requirements other than a practical understanding of IT and cybersecurity basics.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours
Location: Online but proctored or in-person at Pearson VUE testing centers
Cost: $2,499

See GIAC’s exam prep guide here.

GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)

Best for Strengthening Incident Response Teams

The GCIH certification offered by GIAC indicates that practitioners understand common attack techniques, tools, and defenses and can manage security incidents. It demonstrates that certification holders have practical knowledge of managing security incidents, common attack techniques, and essential vectors and tools.

Why We Picked It

We chose this certification as ideal for strengthening incident response teams as it equips incident handlers with the skills to rapidly identify and contain threats and, at the same time, mitigate dangers. Certificate holders are also capable of analyzing the root causes of incidents, resulting in a more proactive implementation of security measures. Additionally, GCIH’s training emphasizes in-depth documentation and reporting, fostering streamlined communication within the incident response teams and management.

Skills Acquired

This certification will equip you with skills in the following areas:

  • Incident handling
  • Computer crime investigation
  • Computer and network hacker exploits
  • Hacker tools (Nmap, Metasploit and Netcat)

Requirements

The GCIH certificate does not have any prerequisite requirements other than a strong understanding of IT and cybersecurity.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Four hours
Location: Online but proctored or in-person at Pearson VUE testing centers
Cost: $2,499

Check out Udemy’s prep courses here.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

Best for Red-Teaming and Adversary Simulation

Offensive Security’s OSCP certification is one of the most highly regarded hands-on penetration testing certifications in the market. This credential is popular for its thorough, performance-based exam format, which requires candidates to successfully compromise live machines within the given time. You can only earn the OSCP certification by registering for the PEN-200 course, which requires you to know the basics of Linux, programming, and IT.

Why We Picked It

The OSCP certification puts heavy emphasis on cybersecurity persistence and realistic attack scenarios, mirroring the tactics, techniques, and procedures of real-world threat actors. OSCP’s training and examination are also in-depth and go beyond identifying vulnerabilities to teach you how to exploit them and move laterally within a network. It also requires detailed documentation, which is an in-demand skill for effective red-teaming.

Skills Acquired

The OSCP certification validates that the practitioner has the following skills:

  • Penetration testing and attack techniques
  • Linux and Windows exploits
  • Vulnerability scanning and exploits
  • Penetration test breakdown and the Metasploit framework
  • Antivirus evasion and privilege escalation

Requirements

To earn this certification, candidates should be registered for the PEN-200 course. Offensive Security also recommends that candidates have a solid understanding of TCP/IP networking, reasonable Windows and Linux administration experience, and familiarity with basic Bash and/or Python scripting.

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: 24 hours
Location: Online
Cost: $1,649 (one-time payment); $5,499 per year (unlimited exam attempts).

Check out Udemy’s OSCP prep course here.

Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate

Best for Accessibility and Affordability

The Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate is a beginner-friendly Coursera program designed to provide foundational knowledge with little to no prior experience. It focuses on the importance of cybersecurity practices and their impact on the organization, as well as identifying common risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and mitigation strategies.

Why We Picked It

This certification is ideal for beginners and also offers a flexible online format that allows you to finish the eight-course series at your own pace, from anywhere. It’s also a more cost-effective option compared with other cybersecurity certifications, offering a monthly subscription, annual payments, and scholarships. Ultimately, Google’s brand name recognition offers backing for entry-level positions, which can provide cybersecurity newbies with an advantage.

Skills Acquired

This certification will help you learn the following skills:

  • Understand the importance and impact of cybersecurity practices
  • Identify common risks, threats, and vulnerabilities, and techniques to mitigate them
  • Protect networks, devices, people, and data from unauthorized access and cyberattacks using Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools
  • Gain hands-on experience with Python, Linux, and SQL

Requirements

  • No requirements

Duration, Location, And Cost

Length of Exam/Program: Flexible; six months at seven hours a week
Location: Online
Cost: $14 per month

Types of Cybersecurity Certifications

All of the cybersecurity certifications detailed in this guide will boost your experience, affirm your skills, and teach you new ones, but some are better suited to specific job roles or specialty areas of expertise depending upon the governing body or provider that offers it.

ISACA Certifications

Formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, ISACA certifies a broad range of IT professionals. ISACA is a globally recognized professional body focused on information systems governance, auditing, risk management, and cybersecurity.

ISC2 Certifications

The International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) certifies cybersecurity professionals of various levels of experience and specialties. Its certifications are one of the most widely recognized achievements at all stages of a cybersecurity career.

EC-Council Certification

The International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) offers cybersecurity education, certification, training, and services. These certificates tend to be more advanced and require more prerequisites than other certifications.

CompTIA Certificates

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) provides a broad range of certificates from basic IT fundamentals to advanced IT certificates. Two of the top 11 cybersecurity certificates can be earned through CompTIA, whose certifications provide a vendor-neutral education and are recognized worldwide.

GIAC Certification

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) develops exams to certify IT capabilities in the domains of offensive operations, cyber defense, cloud security, industrial control systems, digital forensics and incident response, and management legal and audit. The GIAC partners with the SANS Institute to offer coursework to train certificate candidates for exams.

Offensive Security Certificates

Offensive Security, creators of open-source projects such as Kali Linux and ExploitDB, also offer courses and certificates related to penetration testing, web application, exploit development, and security operations. The curriculum ranges from beginner to expert levels.

Coursera

Coursera is an online learning platform that offers a wide range of courses and certifications, including cybersecurity credentials. Courses range from beginner-level to specialized technical skills. Individuals who are planning to start a career in cybersecurity or professionals looking to upskill and expand their expertise will find Coursera valuable for its affordability and accessibility.

Are Cybersecurity Certifications Worth The Investment?

Cybersecurity certifications can enhance your credibility, deepen your knowledge of cybersecurity, and offer opportunities for career growth. However, we recommend that individuals transitioning into the cybersecurity industry start with entry-level certifications so you can gauge your skills and the learning path you’d like to take. Also, gain practical experience and build a strong network with the cybersecurity community to back up your certifications.

How To Choose The Right Cybersecurity Certification

Before choosing the cybersecurity certification or courses, set your goals, including the job role you’d like to pursue, the skills you want to learn, and the specialization you’re interested in. If you have a set career goal, match it with the certifications or providers you will explore. For example, consider OSCP if you’d like to become a penetration tester, and GCIH for incident responses.

After defining these goals, consider your experience level. If you’re a beginner, start with foundational certifications. However, opt for more advanced options if you’re an experienced professional looking to upskill. Additionally, do your research and look into exam content, requirements, and average salaries for certification holders to assess which one is best for you.

Bottom Line: The Best Cybersecurity Certifications For 2024

Finding the right cybersecurity certification is valuable in your career in cybersecurity, providing you more opportunities for growth and professional development. Before choosing a cybersecurity program or certification, define your career goals, assess your skills, and thoroughly research your options. Use our list to narrow down cybersecurity certifications that are currently trending in the market and their use cases, and consider options that provide a balance of in-depth learning and hands-on experience.

If you’d like to learn more about big data security in businesses and organizations, read our in-depth guide on the challenges and solutions in big data security.

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