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Are Cybersecurity Certifications Worth the Investment? A Certification Crash Course

The cybersecurity industry is a booming one. Despite COVID-19’s negative affect on the world’s economy, PR Newswire projects the cybersecurity industry market to grow from $149.46 billion in 2019 to $208.28 billion in 2023. This steady increase in market size coincides with an equally sharp increase in competition for jobs in the industry. Getting a job in cybersecurity, even an entry-level one, will get your foot in the door to an industry that is here to stay. This increased competition for jobs brings the necessity for most IT and IS professionals to obtain cybersecurity certifications to jumpstart their careers. But are these certifications worth your investment? And if so, what certifications should you be targeting? Answers to these questions lie below.

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What are Cybersecurity Certifications?

Before we dive into the WHY of the most popular and important cybersecurity certifications, it’s important to cover our bases and know WHAT cybersecurity certifications are.

Cybersecurity certifications can be defined in layman’s terms as certifications that an individual obtains within the cybersecurity industry that signal a baseline of understanding and/or expertise in a specific area. For example, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is one of the more popular certs among cybersecurity professionals. A Certified Ethical Hacker (someone with the CEH cert) is defined from EC-Council as “a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a target system(s). The CEH credential certifies individuals in the specific network security discipline of Ethical Hacking from a vendor-neutral perspective.”

Having a cybersecurity certification (or multiple different certifications) will let employers know that you are intelligent, experienced, and trained in a specific area that may be considered attractive in the recruitment process. This attractiveness may be closely tied to the category of certification you obtain. Cybersecurity certifications can be split into three specific categories: entry level, intermediate, and expert. These levels are explained below:

  • Entry-level certifications typically serve a baseline for education and are meant to familiarize you with the basics – foundation principles, best practices, important tools, latest technologies, etc.
  • Intermediate and expert-level certifications assume that you have that baseline knowledge, extensive job experience, and a fully-formed grasp on the subject matter.

The Best Cybersecurity Certifications to Obtain

There are many cybersecurity certifications roaming out in the wild. However, not all of them are created equally. While most certifications will benefit you in some shape or form, here are several of the best and most popular cybersecurity certifications to obtain, as listed by New Horizons:

  1. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  2. CompTIA Security+
  3. Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)
  4. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  5. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  6. NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NCSF)
  7. Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  8. Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
  9. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security

While these are some of the best cybersecurity certificates out there, not all certificates are made for all people. The certificates you obtain should directly benefit you and your personal career path. For example, someone new to the cybersecurity industry may want to take an entry level certificate like CompTIA Security+ or the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC). However, a more experienced professional might opt for the CISSP certification to expand their knowledge on security policy and management.

Are Cybersecurity Certifications Worth it?

There is a decent argument that can be made against cybersecurity certifications. Naysayers claim that certifications are a dime a dozen in today’s world and that popular certifications have come and gone throughout the years. However, we at PlexTrac believe that certifications work great as a valuable supplement to your existing knowledge and the previous experience you have listed on your resume.

To keep it brief, cybersecurity certifications are worth the effort to obtain, but are not the only thing that will occupy your time when becoming a cybersecurity professional. In addition to these certifications, the experience you gain in the field and general knowledge you soak up while doing so will be just as, if not more important than the certification. Here are 7 reasons why cyber certifications are worth the time and money, provided by Start a Cyber Career:

  1. Certifications can be a key differentiator between you and your competition when applying for a job.
  2. Certifications show a level of dedication and perseverance to the field.
  3. Many employers place high value on certifications.
  4. Certifications help keep your employer on their toes.
  5. Certifications can be used to negotiate a higher salary or a promotion.
  6. Every cybersecurity professional would rather be certified than not.
  7. Employers often place more credibility on certifications than their own training programs.

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