What Certifications Do Cybersecurity Engineers Need?

One reason we are focusing on the certifications that a cybersecurity engineer needs is because cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand IT fields today. It’s not just a matter of luck – it takes hard work and dedication to become an expert in this career path. Ready to start? Contact CIBR Warriors for the fastest way to a better position in IT!

Which certifications do you need to be successful? Which are the most sought after by employers? Which will help you get promoted if you already have your degree?

Cybersecurity engineering is demanding. You need to be able to quickly assess a situation and protect company assets from persistent threats. A range of hard and soft skills is required to become successful.

The top five certifications requested by employers for the cybersecurity engineer position are the CISSP, a variety of SANS/GIAC certifications, the CISM, CompTIA Security+, and the CISA.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional

The CISSP is a certification that proves to potential employers your ability to take on higher roles in the cybersecurity field. It is offered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. As of the start of 2021, there are approximately 147,000 CISSP credential holders in the world.

This cert covers eight domains: software development security, security measures and operations, security assessment and testing, identity and access management, communication and network security, security architecture and engineering, asset security, and security systems and risk management. In May 2020, the UK National Recognition Information Centre declared the CISSP a Level 7 certification, the same level as a Master’s degree.

To qualify for this certification, you need to have at least five years of full-time professional experience in cybersecurity. This is one of the most challenging certs to obtain since it even includes extensive criminal history and background research of the candidates.

SANS/GIAC Certification

GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certifications) come in many different forms. They are tied to training provided by the SANS Institute, which founded the certification entity in 1999. Since then, over 170,000 GIAC were issued.

There are six domains you can get certified in, with several different exams for each domain:

  • Cyber Defense
  • Offensive Security Operations
  • Digital Forensics and Incident Response
  • Cloud Security Concepts
  • Management and Leadership
  • Industrial Control Systems

The most important factor here is that these certs align with the ANSI/ISO 17024 standards and the NICE framework. Some of them are recognized by the US Department of Defense as well.

The SANS Institute breaks down the certification into two levels. The ‘silver’ level is achieved by passing a multiple-choice certification exam. The ‘gold’ level cannot be reached without the silver one completed first. In addition to the exam, the candidate also needs to complete a research paper on a relevant topic to become ‘gold’ certified.

Certified Information Security Manager

Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) provides the CISM certification for those who want to showcase their expertise in information security management, program development, and management, as well as risk and incident management.

It covers a wide variety of information security topics, like risk analysis and management, asset protection methods, control activities, and compliance requirements for protecting data privacy laws. This credential is ideal for those with technical cybersecurity skills who would like to transition from a coder to a managerial position.

There are over 46,000 CISM certification holders in the world. It is not an easy exam to pass, with 150 questions that you need to answer in 4 hours.

Compared to the CISSP, the CISM is solely focused on management. The CISSP includes both technical and managerial skills. The CISM is also lesser-known, though almost equally requested by cybersecurity managers.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA stands for the Computing Technology Industry Association. They offer a range of IT professional certifications, including the Security+. This cert focuses on hands-on experience in identifying and mitigating risks that come from cyberattacks or the misuse of information.

CompTIA Security+ is a vendor-neutral credential, so it doesn’t matter what type of company you work for – they should all accept your certifications. The exam covers network security, compliance, operational security, threats and vulnerabilities, application security, access control systems, and cryptography basics.

Security+ is the second-best known certification in cybersecurity (next to CISSP), with most companies looking for this credential. It’s also a relatively easy certification to obtain – unlike the ones mentioned before, it doesn’t take too long to prepare for successfully passing the Security+ exam.

Certified Information Systems Auditor

With over 151,000 certification holders, CISA is one of the most widespread cybersecurity recognitions. It is provided by ISACA (the same organization behind the CISM), and it secures knowledge and expertise in the following domains:

  • Governance and IT Management
  • Information Systems Auditing Process
  • Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation
  • Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience
  • Protection of Information Assets

On paper, this is a cert meant for entry-to-mid-level cybersecurity professionals who want to sharpen their skills and put in for a promotion. It is perfect for those who want to learn how to plan, execute, and report on audit engagement from a risk-based approach.

However, it is also a notoriously challenging exam that requires at least five years of previous experience before applying for it. Its passing rate tends to be on the lower end, and it takes up to four months of rigorous studying to prepare for it.

But the CISA is recognized globally and will be your key to the door of many companies in cybersecurity.

In which order should I get these certs?

Our advice would be to start with the cybersecurity engineer certifications that require the least amount of work experience before applying for them. That way, you can begin collecting necessary credentials even before becoming a verified expert in the cybersecurity field.

CISSP is the most demanding of all these certifications and should only be attained after five years in the field with a proven track record that can attest to your expertise (and being recommended by managers).

To get the SANS/GIAC certification, you need to work with their recognized training provider – the SANS Institute. So if you’re deciding which certifications to start from first, your best bet would be the CompTIA Security+ so you can work your way from there. It will provide you with a strong foundation you can build on later.

By following our advice, your resume will be more streamlined, and you’ll be able to showcase your knowledge in different IT domains, as opposed to just focusing on a single one.

Do I need a college degree?

For most entry-level job positions in information technology (and some more advanced roles as well), a college degree is not a requirement. But a college degree is not always optional, and it can certainly help with a successful career in cybersecurity – especially if you want to become a cybersecurity engineer.

The percentage of open cybersecurity job postings that require a degree are as follows:

  • Sub-Bachelor’s – 12%
  • Bachelor’s Degree – 66%
  • Graduate Degree – 22%

It is evident that, while you do not have to get a Master’s or a PhD to work in cybersecurity, those with the appropriate level of education are more likely to get a higher-level job title.

A degree program in a computer-related field is the easiest route for meeting the education requirements. One of the most popular options is computer science or a degree in cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. A bachelor’s degree can typically be obtained in just two years, while a Master’s takes longer than that.

It is also important to note that school grades and college coursework can affect your eligibility for certain jobs.

If you have all the necessary technical skills and certifications (and work experience) but not a degree, it is not the end of the world! You can still get quite far in the cybersecurity field, though it may take you a little longer than other candidates.

Conclusion

The job role of a cybersecurity engineer requires a lot of hard work in the form of certifications and degree-related coursework. Which are the most important certs for experienced security professionals?

  • CISSP – The CISSP is the gold standard for cybersecurity professionals.
  • CISA – The Certified Information Systems Auditor is recognized worldwide and will give you access to many cybersecurity companies.
  • SANS/GIAC Certification – This certification requires a lot of work experience but will provide you with an edge in the field.
  • CompTIA Security+ – This is the most popular and easiest cybersecurity-related exam to take.
  • CISM – The Certified Information Systems Manager provides international recognition for your hard work and expertise.

A college degree can be useful if you want to advance in your cybersecurity career.

Need some help in finding the right cybersecurity position for your level of expertise? Reach out to CIBR Warriors – we’d love to help you land your dream job in record time!