Top Cyber Security
Professional Certifications

Professional certifications are essential in the cyber security industry. These certification programs focus on data protection from beginner to advanced levels. They serve to upskill entry-level individuals and showcase the knowledge and experience of seasoned professionals.

Cyber security professional examinations and certifications are issued by various global and local institutions. It’s important to ensure the course is accredited before deciding which option is suitable for you. Read below to learn more about the best cyber security certifications in 2021.

Demand for Cyber Security Skills in 2021

If you’re thinking about a career in cyber security, you’re in luck. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an increase in employment opportunities by 31 percent between 2019 and 2029. This rate exceeds the average for other occupations. You will be able to find a great security or cyber security job.

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Several industries require cyber security professionals, especially banks, investment companies, tax institutions, and even political firms. Given such a promising outlook, getting a certification is important to remain competitive in the field.

How Much Do Cyber Security Jobs Pay?

Along with a high growth rate, the BLS reports that cyber security workers earn an average salary of $103,590 per year. In general, computer and IT careers are high-paying, averaging $91,250 across the field, according to the BLS.

There are different employment levels and areas of focus in the cyber security field. Some professionals analyze information, while others build systems to prevent cyber threats. A certification can help you specialize and earn even more in your job role.

Why Get a Cyber Security Certification

While having a bachelor’s degree proves that you have a good foundation, a professional certification substantiates that knowledge.

An accredited cyber security professional certification will complement your skills and your resume. It shows employers you’re proactive in continued learning and can keep up with industry needs. Listed below are some of the many benefits that professional certifications offer.

Specialized Knowledge

Learning never stops in the field of cyber security. Some certifications allow you to specialize in a field, while others require you to fulfill annual professional development hours. You will be able to stay up-to-date and get the best cyber security experience possible.

Opportunities for Advancement

While a bachelor’s degree will get you an entry-level job, a professional certification will open doors for career advancement. It can also help you shift careers without having to go through another degree program.

Advantage Over Competition

Having a professional certification under your belt will give you an advantage over the competition. You’re more likely to be considered a suitable candidate if you have been professionally certified.

Earning Potential

Similar to a master’s degree, a professional certification will increase your earning potential. It demonstrates your added knowledge in a chosen field. You will earn a higher cyber security salary, especially if you specialize.

Top Cyber Security Certifications

Top Cyber Security Certifications

There are many certifications for cyber security professionals, and it can be difficult to find the best one for you. You have to take into consideration the validity, price, and if the certification focus is what you need for your career.

We’ve compiled a list of the top cyber security certifications to make it easier for you to choose the right course.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Cost: $575 for members, $760 for non-members

Validity: One year

Average Salary: $128,603

The CISM certification from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) showcases the management side of cyber security. It includes governance, program development, and risk management. This certification is a good choice if you’re looking to switch from the technical to the managerial side of cyber security.

The requirements include passing the CISM exam and having at least five years of experience in information security. You may be able to waive one or two years of work experience if you have another professional certification or a graduate degree in a related field.

This certification is a viable option if you are looking to advance as an information technology (IT) manager, director of information security, or data governance manager.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Cost: $749 (varies by region)

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $116,233

The CISSP certification from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium ((ISC)²) is one of the most sought-after credentials in the industry. Earning and maintaining the certification indicates expertise in designing, implementing, and managing cyber security programs.

To qualify, you must pass an examination and have at least five years of paid work experience. If you don’t have the required work experience, you can pass the exam and earn the required work experience as an associate member.

The CISSP certification is available through online and on-site classes. Most professionals with the CISSP certification hold positions like chief information security officer, security administrator, and IT security engineer.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Cost: $575 for members, $760 for non-members

Validity: One year

Average Salary: $103,976

The CISA certification provided by ISACA is considered to be a foundational certification for a successful IT career. Completing the program demonstrates your expertise in assessing security vulnerabilities, designing and implementing controls, and reporting on compliance.

To become a CISA, you will need to pass the exam within five years and have relevant, full-time work experience in the CISA Job Practice Areas. The domains listed under the practice areas include information system auditing processes, governance and management of IT, and protection of information assets.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

Cost: $800

Validity: Lifetime

Average Salary: $93,832

The OSCP certification from Offensive Security is designed to demonstrate your proficiency in problem-solving, analytical thinking, and penetration testing methodologies.

To qualify for the certification, you have to pass the mandatory Penetration Testing with Kali (PWK) course. This course introduces penetration testing tools and trains the mindset required to be an ethical hacker.

This certification is suitable for security professionals, network administrators, and penetration testers.

GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

Cost: $2,499

Validity: Four years

Average Salary: $91,524

This certification from the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) is an entry-level certification for those with a background in information security and networking. It authenticates your skills in security tasks like active defense, cryptography, and cloud security.

To become GSEC certified, you have to take the exam and have a minimum passing score of 73 percent. There are no requirements before taking the exam, but it is recommended that you gain some work experience before attempting to do so.

The GSEC certification is a quality accreditation if you wish to move into cyber security positions such as forensic analyst, IT auditor, or data compliance lead.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Cost: $950 to $1,199 (varies by location)

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $82,966

The CEH certification is offered by the EC-Council and teaches the latest hacking tools and methodologies. The program aims to provide you the skills in preventing cyber attacks by helping you think like a hacker. Part of the course modules includes hands-on hacking challenges and modern case studies on current events.

If you have two years of security-related work experience, you can apply to take the CEH exam. Alternatively, you can complete the official EC-Council training before being approved to take the examination.

Professionals with this certification usually hold positions like penetration tester, cloud security architect, or threat intelligence analyst.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

Cost: $249

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $75,517

The SSCP certification provided by (ISC)² is a globally recognized advanced security administration and operations certification. It demonstrates that you have the technical skills and knowledge to implement, monitor, and administer IT infrastructure.

Candidates for the SSCP certification require at least one year of work experience. This can be substituted with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a cyber security program. You can also take the exam and earn the required work experience as an associate member.

This certification is designed for IT professionals with hands-on positions such as network security engineer, systems administrator, security analyst, or security consultant.

CompTIA Network+

Cost: $338

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $67,946

The Network+ certification by CompTIA provides the fundamental knowledge for most cyber security jobs. It includes designing and implementing functional networks and identifying the benefits and drawbacks of existing network configurations.

While there are no requirements to take the Network+ exam, it is recommended to have at least nine months of work experience before attempting it.

Though this certification is rarely a requirement for employment, it can be helpful when applying to job positions such as junior system engineer, junior network administrator, IS consultant, or network analyst.

CompTIA Security+

Cost: $370

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $66,140

Security+ by CompTIA is an entry-level certification designed to demonstrate your ability in assessing the security level of an organization, identifying security incidents, and responding to them accordingly.

There are no strict requirements for taking the Security+ exam, but you’re encouraged to earn the Network+ certification first and obtain at least two years of work experience with an IT security focus.

Successfully earning the Security+ certification can help you advance into roles like security engineer, network or cloud engineer, or software developer.

CompTIA A+ Certification

Cost: $232

Validity: Three years

Average Salary: $63,554

If you want a more general certification, the A+ Certification from CompTIA is a great choice. The exam covers essential IT skills and knowledge, including information technology infrastructure, operating systems, data management, and more.

Along with basic topics, the exam includes cyber security essentials and vital data protection techniques. You will be able to enter entry-level jobs like system support specialist, associate network engineer, and more.

The CompTIA A+ certification exam takes 90 minutes to complete. You should have nine to 12 months of experience in an IT job, but this can change based on your educational experience.

Choosing the Right Certification

The cyber security industry has many certifications, each with its own merits. Choosing the right one can be a challenge, but it will help your career path. The ideal certification will largely depend on your experience and career aspirations.


Consider the work experience and other certifications you have. Entry-level certifications are designed for those who know the basic concepts of cyber security, and they usually require one year of work experience.

Advanced level certifications are for those who have at least five years of direct work experience. These are used to further enhance a specific skill.


Consider the skills you want to focus on to build your career. Are you looking to improve your current skills or learn new ones? Understanding your intentions will make choosing a certification an easier process because it will help you decide which skills you want to develop further.

Job Requirements

Consider searching job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn to give you better insights into the skillset companies in your area are looking for. If you are looking to switch jobs, knowing what skills are in demand can point you towards the right certification.

Professional Certification vs Certificate Program and Courses

Professional Certification vs Certificate Program and Courses

It’s important to understand the difference between certifications and certificates before deciding which to pursue.

Professional certification proves you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job. It’s usually granted by non-government organizations and comes with a limited period of recognition. Some will require a certain number of professional development hours before they can be renewed. Most involve only a fee and an exam.

A certificate program is a training course where participants will receive a certificate after completion. These courses are provided by educational institutions or online learning platforms, and they generally do not have any prerequisites.

Best Courses to Prepare for Certification Exams

Consider using different sources to prepare further. Most professional certification providers will allocate reading materials or test exams, but it will benefit to equip yourself with additional knowledge.

Taking courses to prepare for your cyber security certification exam is also a good approach. There are a variety of cyber security bootcamps and courses available that will supplement any materials given by the certification providers.

Cyber Security Analytics by Flatiron School

Cost: $16,900

Duration: 12 weeks

Outcome: Certificate

The cyber security analytics course by Flatiron School is an immersive program offered on a full-time and part-time basis. It is a 12-week course on advanced network administration and analysis strategies.

This will be an intensive program, but it will provide you with more than the necessary preparations for the professional certification exam. If you are a beginner and want to learn more about cyber security analytics, this program is a great choice.

Ops 301 by Code Fellows

Cost: $5,000

Duration: Four weeks

Outcome: Certificate

Ops 301 provided by Code Fellows integrates practical network and systems administration operations. These include network design and troubleshooting, VPN tunneling, and firewall configuration. This course includes a career coaching curriculum to aid you in your job search.

It will prepare you for the CompTIA Network+ certification by covering four of the five domains required for that certification. To register for the course, you have to be familiar with algebra concepts and complete the Ops 201 course.

Ops 401 by Code Fellows

Cost: $12,000

Duration: 23 weeks

Outcome: Certificate

Ops 401, also provided by Code Fellows, is an intensive course covering topics like cyber frameworks, data encryption, cloud security, network security, and incident response. It will also equip you with ethical hacker skills and provide hands-on training in practicing SecOps.

This course promises to substantially prepare you for achieving the learning objective of the CompTIA Security+ certification. It covers all six of the required domains for Security+.

Cyber Security Bootcamp by Springboard

Cost: $9,540

Duration: Six months

Outcome: CompTIA Security+

Springboard, in partnership with CompTIA, created this Cyber Security Bootcamp to help candidates prepare for the Security+ examination.

During the program, you’ll complete labs, assignments, and one capstone project. You’ll also be assigned a career coach to assist you with your job search and practice interviews. With all the support provided, the program promises you’ll land a job within six months of graduating, or you’ll receive a refund.

Cyber Security Bootcamp by Evolve Security Academy

Cost: $12,500 (online), $14,500 (in-person)

Duration: 20 weeks

Outcome: Certificate

This is an immersive bootcamp on the current threat landscape, security operations, cryptography, and more. The program also includes live supervised security assessment work on non-profit organizations. This will give you real work experience as a security apprentice.

You will earn a certification of completion after completing the courses and passing the final exam. You will also receive a Security+ voucher after the program.

Should You Pursue a Cyber Security Certification?

Yes, you should pursue a cyber security certification. Cyber security certifications are worth the effort if you use them to supplement your other qualifications. Having certifications in your resume shows potential employers that your knowledge is accredited.

Being professionally certified can be a big deciding factor between you and someone else competing for the same position. If you’re working towards a position at a specific company, a professional certification might be the key that gets you in the door.

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