Boost Your Career With the Best Cybersecurity Certifications for 2024

Earn one of the best cybersecurity certifications for 2024 to advance your career.

The Best Cybersecurity Certifications (2)Over the past few years, world events like the pandemic, elections and civil unrest have led to an increase in cybersecurity incidents, which has put cybersecurity professionals in high demand. The cybersecurity job market is growing, and data security professionals are in-demand as well. According to CyberSeek, there were just 72 cybersecurity professionals for every 100 cybersecurity jobs listed by employers from September 2022 to August 2023.

Cybersecurity jobs are plentiful, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to get. Many of these jobs go unfilled because candidates are not qualified for them. Job candidates need proof of solid cybersecurity skills to land these positions.

You can obtain career-boosting cybersecurity skills by earning at least one of the best cybersecurity certifications for 2024.

What Are the Best Cybersecurity Certifications?

According to CompTIA, the best cybersecurity certifications for 2024 include but are not limited to:

These certifications add weight to an IT professional’s resume and help establish them as experts in information security.

CompTIA Security+

Over 700,000 IT professionals have earned CompTIA Security+. Moreover, 24% of the U.S. cybersecurity workforce has earned CompTIA Security+. CompTIA Security+ lays the foundation for earning other cybersecurity certifications down the road.

CompTIA Security+ covers general security concepts, security operations and threats, vulnerabilities and mitigations. Other skills addressed include security architecture and security program management and oversight.

Prerequisites: None, but a minimum of two years of security-focused IT administration experience or equivalent training is recommended. CompTIA Network+ is also suggested.

Exam details: The 90-minute exam features no more than 90 questions. They include multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop activities and performance-based items. A minimum passing score is 750 on a scale of 100-900.

Exam cost: $404

Various IT job titles use CompTIA Security+, including:

The average annual salary of a CompTIA Security+ certification holder is $121,653

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) is the second-most popular cybersecurity certification CompTIA offers, after CompTIA Security+. Over 40,000 IT professionals hold this certification. It was designed for those working in incident detection, prevention and response through ongoing security monitoring.

Those who earn CompTIA CySA+ are equipped to demonstrate competency of current trends related to security analysis and proactively monitor and detect malicious activity. They can also effectively respond to threats, vulnerabilities and attacks.

CompTIA CySA+ covers:

  • Security operations
  • Vulnerability management
  • Reporting and communication
  • Incident response and management

Prerequisites: CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ or equivalent knowledge. At least 4 years of experience as a security operations center (SOC analyst), incident response analyst or equivalent experience.

Exam details: The exam features 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions and lasts for 165 minutes. The minimum passing score is 750 on a scale of 100-900.

Exam cost: $404

Here are a few of the job roles you can get with CompTIA CySA+:

The median yearly salary of someone who has earned CompTIA CySA+ is $121,043.

ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) is an in-demand, advanced data security certification held by at least 48,000 IT professionals. It proves a technician’s ability to develop and manage an enterprise information security program.

CISM covers the following domains:

  • Information security governance
  • Incident management
  • Information security risk management
  • Information security program

Prerequisites: At least five years of work experience across three out of the four CISM domains.

Exam details: The four-hour exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions that cover the four CISM domains. On a scale of 200-800, the passing score for this exam is 450.

Exam cost: $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members.

Job titles that call for CISM include but are not limited to:

  • Information system security officer
  • Information/privacy risk consultant
  • Information security manager
  • CISM developer, systems analyst or trainee

Those who hold CISM earn an average annual salary of $167,396.

ISACA Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

ISACA Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) helps candidates gain a deep understanding of the impact of IT risks on individual organizations. Certification holders can expertly evaluate IT risks and design information systems controls. Over 23,000 IT professionals have earned CRISC.

CRISC covers skills such as corporate IT governance, risk response and reporting, IT risk assessment and information technology and security.

Prerequisites: At least three years of information security program management experience at the enterprise level. Additional experience in risk management, control, compliance and assurance activities is also recommended.

Exam details: The four-hour exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that span four domains: governance, information technology and security, IT risk assessment and risk response and reporting. On a scale of 200-800, the passing score for this exam is 450.

Exam cost: $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members.

Those who earn CRISC can qualify for IT roles such as:

On average, those who hold CRISC earn $133,616 annually.

ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) confirms expertise for technicians who audit IT and business systems. Certified individuals can stop fraud and non-compliance, analyze audit findings and report them to the affected organization. Over 108,000 people have earned CISA.

CISA covers the following domains:

  • Information systems auditing process
  • Governance and management of IT
  • Information systems acquisition, development and implementation
  • Information systems operations
  • Business resilience

Prerequisites: At least five years of professional experience in systems auditing, control or security.

Exam details: The four-hour exam features 150 multiple-choice questions related to the five CISA domains. On a scale of 200-800, the passing score for this exam is 450.

Exam cost: $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members.

CISA can help IT professionals land job roles such as:

Those who hold CISA earn an average annual salary of $154,500.

What Certifications Do You Need to Get Started in Cybersecurity?

Getting started in cybersecurity can be a challenge despite the fact that job vacancies abound. The right early-career certification makes it much easier to start your cybersecurity career. The beginner-level credentials listed below can help you get started.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+ is one of the most widely held and highest-paying cybersecurity certifications. It’s also a great entry-level, vendor-neutral certification for those new to cybersecurity. An article by TechTarget placed CompTIA Security+ first on the list of 10 cybersecurity certifications to boost your career in 2024.

The article states, "Most security pros say IT support technicians and admins – and people looking to get into the security field – should start with the CompTIA Security+ certification.”

GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)

One of the best cybersecurity certifications for those who want to validate their knowledge of data security beyond the basics is GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC). An IT professional who earns GSEC proves their understanding of IT systems and demonstrates that they are qualified for a security-focused IT systems role.

GSEC covers skills such as:

  • Cryptography
  • Cloud (AWS fundamentals, Microsoft cloud)
  • Defense, access control and passwords
  • Incident response
  • Network architecture, protocols and security
  • Data loss prevention
  • Mobile device security
  • Penetration testing
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Web communication security
  • Endpoint security
  • Virtualization
  • Cloud security

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for GSEC.  

Exam details: Candidates must answer 106-180 questions within 5 hours. To pass, they must earn a minimum score of 73%.

Exam cost: $979 for first-time test takers; $499 with active related GIAC certification.

Earning GSEC can help IT professionals land roles such as:

  • Security manager
  • Security administrator
  • Auditor

According to the Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report, those who hold a GIAC certification earn an average annual salary of $154,138.

Penetration Testing Certifications

Interested in specializing in penetration testing? If so, you’ll need the right certifications.

CompTIA PenTest+

CompTIA PenTest+ helps IT professionals master penetration testing. It is the most comprehensive exam on the market, covering all stages of penetration testing. Other penetration testing exams only cover some of the stages of penetration testing.

CompTIA PenTest+ ensures candidates can propose remediation techniques, communicate results to their management team and provide practical recommendations effectively. It covers topics and skills such as:

  • Planning and scoping
  • Reporting and communication
  • Information gathering and vulnerability scanning
  • Tools and code analysis
  • Attacks and exploits

Prerequisites: While there is no required prerequisite, CompTIA PenTest+ is intended to follow CompTIA Security+ or equivalent experience and has a technical, hands-on focus. Candidates are recommended to have CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ or equivalent knowledge, and at least three to four years of information security or related experience.

Exam details: This 165-minute exam consists of no more than 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions. On a scale of 100-900, the passing score is 750.

Exam cost: $404

CompTIA PenTest+ can help technicians land a job role as a:

The Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report states CompTIA certifications yield an average annual salary of $109,814.

GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)

GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) prepares technicians to conduct effective penetration testing. The skills and areas covered by GPEN include:

  • Comprehensive pen test planning, recon and scoping
  • In-depth scanning and exploitation, post-exploitation and pivoting
  • Azure overview, integration and attacks and in-depth password attacks

Prerequisites: Knowledge of Windows OS, computer networking, basic cryptographic concepts and use of the Linux and Windows command line.

Exam details: The three-hour exam consists of 82 questions and requires a minimum passing score of 75%.

Exam cost: $979 for first-time test takers, $499 with active related GIAC certification.

A few job titles associated with GPEN include:

  • Penetration tester
  • Ethical hacker
  • Forensic specialist

According to the Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report, GIAC certifications yield an average annual salary of $154,138.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) is a gateway certification into penetration testing. Those who earn it prove their expertise in ethical hacking and penetration testing through the use of tools engrained in the Kali Linux distribution. OSCP covers skills including penetration testing, cyber defense, offensive attack methods and vulnerability identification.

Prerequisites: Completion of the OffSec Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (PEN-200) course.

Exam details: The OSCP exam is unique because it simulates a live network in a private VPN containing a few vulnerable machines. OffSec gives test takers 23 hours and 45 minutes to take the exam. Candidates must report each cyberattack in the form of a penetration test report.

“Sixty points are possible for the successful compromise of three independent machines and 40 points for attacking two client machines (AD set) for 100 possible points,” according to an article by Cybersecurity Guide.

Exam cost: To take the OSCP exam, candidates must complete the PEN-200 course. The self-guided course costs $1,499 and includes one exam attempt.

OSCP can help IT professionals work in the following job roles:

The Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report states Offensive Security certifications yield an average annual salary of $132,378.

Senior-Level Cybersecurity Certifications

Getting at least one senior-level security certification can boost your pay and help you land a higher-level job role. It can also distinguish you as a subject-matter expert in cybersecurity.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

CASP+ covers the hands-on skills needed to implement impactful solutions within set cybersecurity policies and frameworks. It differs from other certifications because it covers security architecture and engineering - not just one or the other.

CASP+ covers skills including:

  • Security architecture
  • Governance, risk and compliance
  • Security operations
  • Security engineering and cryptography

CASP+ is the only performance-based certification designed for advanced cybersecurity technicians, not managers. These technicians, including security architects, technical lead analysts, senior security engineers and application security analysts, are good candidates for this certification.

Prerequisites: At least ten years of basic hands-on IT experience, with at least five years of broad hands-on security experience.

Exam details: Candidates are given 165 minutes to answer 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions. There is no scaled score for this test. It is a pass/fail exam.

Exam cost: $509

CASP+ can help IT professionals function effectively in job roles such as:

The Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report states CompTIA certifications yield an average annual salary of $109,814.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is one of the best cybersecurity certifications an IT professional can hold. Those who earn CISSP prove to employers that they can design, implement and manage an effective cybersecurity program.

The CISSP exam covers eight domains:

  • Security and risk management
  • Asset security
  • Security architecture and engineering
  • Communication and network security
  • Identity and access management (IAM)
  • Security assessment and testing
  • Security operations
  • Software development security

Prerequisites: At least five years of experience in at least two of the eight CISSP domains.

Exam details: The six-hour exam includes 250 multiple-choice questions and advanced innovative items. The minimum passing score is 700 out of 1,000.

Exam cost: $749

CISSP can help IT professionals work in the following job roles:

  • Chief information security officer
  • Security administrator
  • Security architect

The average annual salary for CISSP holders is $140,069.

GIAC Security Expert (GSE)

GIAC Security Expert (GSE) is one of the most challenging certifications. However, once earned, it proves that an IT professional is the best in the field of information security. Those who earn GSE prove they have the highest level of expertise in many areas of the cybersecurity discipline. These areas include writing, hands-on technical work, research, collaborative work and solo presentations.

Unlike the other certifications mentioned in this article, GSE is awarded. Candidates must earn six GIAC Practitioner Certifications and four GIAC Applied Knowledge Certifications. There are no prerequisites for GSE.

The annual yearly salary of a GSE holder varies depending on their job role, and the certification applies to many job roles. According to the Skillsoft 2023 IT Skills and Salary report, GIAC certifications yield an average annual salary of $154,138.

What Cybersecurity Certifications Should I Get First?

Starting out, you should get entry-level, vendor-neutral cybersecurity certifications—such as CompTIA Security+—that cover cybersecurity fundamentals and lay the groundwork for earning more advanced certifications.

According to CertWizard, CompTIA Security+ is “the best place to begin if you want a career in cybersecurity.”

CompTIA Security+ is chosen by more corporations and defense organizations than any other certification for validating baseline security skills.

How Can I Prepare for the CompTIA Security+ Exam?

The best way to prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam is by using CompTIA CertMaster learning and training tools. These tools enable any learner to become fully prepared for their CompTIA certification exam more quickly and efficiently than other training materials.

  • CertMaster Learn is a comprehensive eLearning tool that effectively prepares candidates for both their certification exam and a career in IT. It is ideal for beginners as well as seasoned IT pros. CertMaster Learn includes interactive learning with flashcards and performance-based questions and videos that demonstrate key concepts and processes. Also included is a customizable learning plan, self-assessments and learning progress analytics and reporting.
  • CertMaster Labs provides real virtual environments in which learners can get hands-on exam prep experience. With CompTIA Labs, candidates learn by doing. This user-friendly tool includes extensive step-by-step lab guides aligned with exam objectives and pre-configured exercises that require minimal setup.
  • CertMaster Practice is an online knowledge assessment and certification exam practice tool. It helps learners adequately prepare for their certification exam by identifying and filling knowledge gaps. CertMaster Practice includes quick knowledge assessment and adaptive learning that reinforces existing and new knowledge. It also offers learners personalized feedback and real-time learning analytics.

Get your free 30-day trial of CertMaster Learn +Labs to begin preparing for the CompTIA Security+ exam.  

Advance Your IT Career With CompTIA Cybersecurity Certifications

To take advantage of opportunities in cybersecurity, you’ll need the best cybersecurity programs and certifications. Start with CompTIA Security+. Once you have this certification, consider other vendor-neutral designations along the CompTIA Cybersecurity Specialist Career Pathway, such as:

CompTIA offers a full suite of training products to help you succeed. These resources can help you prepare for and pass any CompTIA certification exam you choose. Read “+ Means Careers: How CompTIA Can Help You” to learn more.

Ready to get started? Download the CompTIA exam objectives of your choice for free!

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