Cyber security certifications have exploded in popularity in recent years, with new certs emerging constantly. With so many options to choose from, it can be incredibly overwhelming trying to decide which certifications are worth your time and money.
In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the most popular and respected cyber security certifications, from S-Tier all the way down to F-Tier. We will analyze the reputation, cost, difficulty, and usefulness of each certification, so you can make an informed decision about which cert is right for your career goals. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to advance to the next level, read on to find the perfect cert for you!
S-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
The CISSP is widely considered the gold standard in cyber security certifications. Offered by (ISC)2, the CISSP covers eight domains of information security and requires candidates to have at least five years of professional work experience in two or more of the domains.
The CISSP is globally recognized as prestigious and demonstrates your depth of knowledge across cyber security. It’s also highly versatile, relevant to many different cyber security roles. The exam costs $749 and is notoriously difficult, but passing grants you an invaluable certification. For these reasons, the CISSP earns S-Tier status.
CCSK – Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge
As cloud technology grows exponentially, cloud security skills are in massive demand. The CCSK from the Cloud Security Alliance is the industry’s first certification focused exclusively on cloud security knowledge.
First introduced in 2010, the CCSK covers comprehensive cloud security topics. The open-book exam only costs $395, can be taken remotely, and never expires. It’s also less intensive than the CCSP (more on this later). For its cloud security specialty, affordable price, and convenience, the trendsetting CCSK earns an S-Tier ranking.
A-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
The CompTIA Security+ certification is the industry’s leading entry-level cyber security certification. While it won’t guarantee a job by itself, the Security+ provides foundation knowledge that HR departments everywhere recognize.
Given its reputation, affordability at $392, and broad applicability, the Security+ is an essential certification, earning a solid A-Tier ranking. Even better, pair it with the Google IT Professional Certificate to get a Security+ exam voucher discount!
CCSP – Certified Cloud Security Professional
The CCSP from (ISC)2 demonstrates your advanced technical skills in cloud security. With comprehensive coverage across six domains, this certification shows deep cloud security know-how.
The CCSP is more intensive than the CCSK, requiring 5 years of IT experience and costing $599. While prestigious, the CCSP’s knowledge niche and steeper requirements push it down to A-Tier, just under the pioneering CCSK.
Azure Security Certifications
With Microsoft Azure’s massive reach, Azure certifications are in high demand. Even just the entry-level Azure Fundamentals certification can help land lucrative cloud jobs. More advanced Azure certs like Azure Security Engineer cover specific skills like cloud data and service protection.
Known for practical, hands-on learning, Azure certs start at only $165. Given Microsoft’s dominance and accessible pricing, Azure certifications earn a strong A-Tier ranking.
B-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
CASP+ – CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner
The CASP+ certifies advanced technical skills in cyber security operations, architecture, engineering, cryptography, incident response, and more. While comprehensive, the $494 CASP+ is eclipsed by the more prestigious CISSP, so it falls to B-Tier.
CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate
This renowned Cisco certification covers essential networking skills. The CCNA is cheaper ($346) and more respected than CompTIA’s Network+, making it the better networking foundation choice. The CCNA earns B-Tier status for its networking focus, which is useful but not core cyber security.
ISACA Certifications – CISA, CISM, etc.
ISACA certifications like CISA and CISM are well-known in the industry and demonstrate compliance knowledge. However, they cover specific niches at a hefty $760 each. With high costs and narrow focuses, ISACA certs rate as B-Tier options.
C-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker
The CEH covers penetration testing and vulnerability assessments but has a reputation for teaching to the test. It costs $1199 and may get HR attention but lacks practicality, so it earns a C-Tier ranking.
CompTIA’s Network+ provides baseline networking knowledge but won’t get you a cyber security job. Still, understanding networking is crucial, landing Network+ in C-Tier.
GCIH – GIAC Certified Incident Handler
Part of the GIAC certification family, the GCIH focuses entirely on incident response. Niche focus and $1169 price tag push this cert to C-Tier.
D-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
CySA+ – CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst
Slightly underwhelming, the CySA+ falls short of the more valued Security+. Narrow scope and redundancy with higher-ranked certs earns CySA+ a D-Tier ranking.
PenTest+ – CompTIA Penetration Tester
The PenTest+ certifies basic penetration testing skills but is overshadowed by respected offensive certs like OSCP. Weak reputation and limited scope relegate the PenTest+ to D-Tier.
GSEC – GIAC Security Essentials
The entry-level GSEC covers generalized security principles. While holistic, it costs $1169 with low name recognition, putting GSEC in D-Tier.
F-Tier Cyber Security Certifications
A+ – CompTIA IT Technician
Well-known but strictly IT infrastructure focused, the A+ will not get you a cyber security job. No security knowledge makes this an F-Tier choice.
Cloud+ – CompTIA Cloud Essentials
Cloud+ is far overshadowed by the vendor-specific cloud certs mentioned above. Weak cloud security content and recognition rank this as an F-Tier option.
With this comprehensive certification breakdown, you can make a strategic decision based on your experience level, interests, and career goals. Foundational certs like Security+ and CCNA lay the groundwork, while advanced certs like CISSP and OSCP take years of dedication.
Cloud certs like CCSP and CCSK are smart moves for the future. Azure and AWS vendor certs validate in-demand skills. No certification will guarantee a job alone, but the right ones make you stand out from the pack.
Remember to supplement your certs with hands-on labs, projects, and technical interview prep. With the right certifications and experience, you can break into this exciting industry! Let us know which certs you plan to tackle next in the comments below!