Cyber security certifications – which one to choose?

Which Cyber security certifications to choose?

Cyber security certification programs come in many guises. They typically tend to serve two main purposes. The first use is to train entry-level workers to use specific technologies and tools. The second comes in the form of professional certifications which provide a way for more seasoned IT professionals to verify and prove their skills.  

Professional certifications play a key role in cybersecurity employment and career advancement which is why they have become a crucial qualification for IT professionals to obtain. Let’s take a closer look.  

Which cyber security certifications to choose? 

There is, unfortunately, a long list of cyber security certifications currently in existence which can make it extremely difficult to know which one to choose. This choice can again seem extremely daunting if two certifications appear on paper to be very similar in nature. This is evident for those looking to start a career as a penetration tester. The EC-Council offers multiple certifications (ECSA and LPT) while CompTIA and GIAC also offer penetration testing certifications, as well (PenTest+ and GPEN). In scenarios like these, there is no answer to which is the better one to pursue.  

The only way to know which cyber security certification is the best one for you is to do your own research and due diligence. Take a look at all the organisations which offer the type of cyber security certifications you’re looking for and choose the one that fits. Taking multiple certifications won’t hurt either. Employers will always look for the most qualified individual for the job when making their final decision.  

The difference between cyber security certification programs 

According to the Cybersecurity Guide, cyber security certifications are divided into two main categories – professional cyber security certification programs and academic cyber security certification programs.  

Professional cyber security certifications 

Professional cyber security certifications are devised for those already working in the cybersecurity or IT fields to provide training on new software or tools. These certifications are used to prove proficiency with specific technologies.  

Academic cyber security certifications  

Academic cyber security certifications provide students with a deeper understanding of the current issues in the cybersecurity field. The University of Maryland’s online undergraduate certification in cybersecurity or Harvard’s online cybersecurity certification are two of the best. Both provide the necessary skills needed for the first stage of cybersecurity employment. But there are plenty of other courses and certificates out there. 

Cyber security certification organisations 

Although there are a large number of cybersecurity certifications, there are a more limited number of credentials and programs that are more respected and better recognised than others. Let’s take a closer look. 

(ISC)2 certifications 

The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, also known as (ISC)2, is the organisation behind the sought after CISSP certification. Although (ISC)2 is best known for the CISSP, they offer other certifications as well. Here are some cyber security certifications which can be obtained through (ISC)2: 

  1. CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional  

The most sought after certification is the CISSP which is a must have for anyone looking to make it the cybersecurity industry. CISSP is for those who are already experienced and can help further careers and improve salary conditions. Professionals need at least five years of experience before undertaking this certification.  

  1. SSCP – Systems Security Certified Practitioner  

For those with less than five years of experience, SSCP is a great certification for professionals looking to grow their careers. SSCP requires a minimum of one-year of working experience in one or more of the seven domains in the SSCP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).  

  1. CCSP – Certified Cloud Security Professional  

CCSP is a certification recognised worldwide which allows professionals to showcase their skills in cloud security. CCSP is only for those with an established foundation within the field. Prerequisites for the CCSP include five or more years in a full-time IT role. 

Other (ISC)2 certifications include: CSSLP, CAP, HCISPP, CISSP-ISSMP and CISSP-ISSAP. 


The EC-Council provides the well-known Certified Ethical Hacker certification, also known as the CEH. However, the EC-Council does offer many other certifications. Let’s take a look at the best: 

  1. CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker  

The CEH is widely recognised among IT professionals. It’s not only for those who work in offensive security but for anyone working in offensive or defensive cybersecurity. The EC-Council offers two main options for eligibility – training then an exam or if the individual holds more than two years of experience they may opt for just taking the exam.  

  1. ECSA – EC-Council Certified Security Analyst  

For those looking to pursue a career in penetration testing, the ECSA is often a good fit. ECSA focuses more on penetration testing than other areas of cybersecurity and the eligibility criteria is similar to that of the CEH certification.  

  1. LPT – Licensed Penetration Tester  

The Licensed Penetration Tester certification can be obtained after taking either of the CEH, ECSA, or both. The EC-Council’s website states that the Licensed Penetration Tester certification is their most challenging practical exam available.  

Other cyber security certifications offered by the EC-Council include: CND, CSCU, EDRP, ECSS and CHFI.  


CompTIA certifications are highly recognised IT certifications in the cybersecurity field. CompTIA provides certifications in many different areas such as computer networking, software development, cloud computing, as well as information security. Let’s take a look at the four core certifications: 

  1. CompTIA Security+  

CompTIA Security+ is a good starting point for anyone looking for a career in cybersecurity. This certification provides a broad range of general cybersecurity topics and is perfect for graduates to step onto the cybersecurity ladder. This course will cover items such as architecture and design, cyber threats and attacks, risk management, and cryptography. 

  1. CompTIA CySA+  

The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst, or CySA+, is a more advanced cybersecurity certification. The CySA+ dives into topics such as vulnerability management, threat management, cyber incident response, and security architecture and toolsets. 

Other CompTIA certifications include: PenTest+, CASP+, Linux+ and Cloud+ 


The Global Information Assurance Certification was founded in 1999 to validate the skills of IT security professionals. GIAC certifications are trusted by thousands of organisations and government agencies, including the United States National Security Agency (NSA). Let’s take a look at some of their best certifications: 

  1. GSEC – GIAC Security Essentials  

GSEC is one of the entry-level certifications offered by GIAC. Those wishing to take the exam should at least have a working knowledge of IT security and networking before embarking on the course which will ultimately validate a practitioner’s knowledge of information security. 

  1. GMOB – GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst  

GMOB provides professionals with the skills needed to undertake mobile device security. Mobile devices have become an integral part of both our personal and professional lives so it is therefore important to have well-qualified individuals who can secure them. 

  1. GCFA – GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst  

The GCFA is a forensic analyst certification that covers a wide range of forensic topics such as advanced incident response and digital forensics, timeline analysis, memory forensics, threat hunting, anti-forensics detection, and APT intrusion incident response.  

Other GIAC certifications include: GPEN, GCIH, GCIA, GNFA and GCFE. 


ISACA was created to fill a need for a centralised source of information and guidance in the growing field of auditing controls for computer systems. Here are some of the more recognised ISACA certifications:  

  1. CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor  

The CISA certification covers information security audit control, assurance, and security. Having a CISA certification proves that a professional is capable of assessing vulnerabilities, reporting on compliance issues, and can institute security controls within any business, organisation, or entity.  

  1. CISM – Certified Information Security Manager  

CISM is one step above CISA. This certification is designed for professionals who would like to demonstrate their knowledge of information security management. It is a management-focused certification intended for those looking to obtain hands-on experience in designing, managing, and overseeing an IT security program.   

Other ISACA certifications include: CRISC and CGEIT. 

Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out more about cyber security certifications.