Moving up through the ranks of the information security job market requires the right combination of education, certifications, and experience.
Certifications are awarded by professional organizations to validate specific knowledge and skill sets. These credentials show employers that you’re well versed in your industry, ready to meet a range of challenges, and committed to professional growth.
What Are Today’s Most Relevant Certifications?
A typical information security career path starts with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information security (IS), or information technology (IT), and then branches into the world of certifications. Some of these credentials are standard in the industry and almost always required to move out of entry-level positions, while others are optional, highlighting a specific focus or area of expertise.
Here’s a brief rundown of the industry’s most popular and sought after certifications.
1. CompTIA Security+ (Computer Technology Industry Association)
Overview: The CompTIA Security+ certification is a foundational credential that focuses on technical skills, broad knowledge, and expertise in multiple security-related disciplines.
Required Work Experience: While no direct information security work experience is necessary, two years is recommended. This credential is approved by the U.S. Department of Defense to meet requirements for information assurance technical and management certifications.
Potential Career Moves: The CompTIA Security+ is beneficial for people interested in such positions as security engineer, security consultant, network administrator, IA technician, or IA manager.
2. GSEC (Global Information Assurance Certification Security Essentials)
Overview: Another entry-level credential, the GSEC from GIAC, certifies hands-on knowledge of a wide array of security concepts, such as access control theory, information warfare, incident handling, and risk management.
Required Work Experience: No direct information security work experience is required to sit for the exam.
Potential Career Moves: This credential is perfect for those ready to move into information security as a compliance manager, security analyst, security operations architect, or compliance analyst.
3. CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
Overview: The management-focused CISM from ISACA delves into governance, risk management, compliance, incident management, program development, and ongoing management.
Required Work Experience: A minimum of five years of professional-level information security experience, with at least three years as a security manager, is required. However, substitutions and waivers of such experience may be granted.
Potential Career Moves: This credential is ideal for people interested in working as an information security officer, security consultant, information security manager, or chief information security officer.
4. CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
Overview: Widely considered the gold standard certification in the information security industry, the CISSP from (ISC)2 tests competency in 10 key areas. It is considered an advanced-level certification and is widely recognized for its high standard of excellence.
Required Work Experience: A minimum of five years of paid, full-time experience in two key areas is required to sit for the exam.
Potential Career Moves: The CISSP is designed for those in advanced or leadership positions such as security consultant, IT director, security architect, chief information security officer, or director of security.
Certification exams require considerable time and effort, but staying current in your field not only ensures you can successfully meet your job requirements, it also strengthens your resume as you compete for higher-level positions—and the salaries those jobs bring.
The knowledge you gained for your certifications — including CISSP®, CISM®, and more — can help you earn college credit toward a Capella University bachelor’s or master’s program, saving you time and up to $12,000.