Contributed by Jack Roth
Today, people from all walks of life use the Internet to communicate, work and play on a global landscape. This dynamic technology has changed society and has become the underlying fabric of much of what we do. Everything has a downside, however, and the saturation of digital communication has brought with it individuals who would take advantage of others by hacking, spamming and committing any number of cyber crimes such as fraud and identity theft. As a result, cybersecurity has become a serious buzzword in recent years and a field in which well-trained professionals are desperately needed.
Cybersecurity involves protecting vast amounts of information by preventing, detecting, and responding to all kinds of cyber attacks. Computer users – from individuals to government agencies – rely on professionals with cybersecurity training to keep their information secure. A career in cybersecurity can provide years of stability and good income, but separating yourself from the professionals currently working in this arena requires something extra.
One way to stand out is to earn career-advancing cyber certifications. These certifications can prepare you to enter this sector with on average one year of cyber security training. Most of these certification courses, however, are designed for degreed professionals from other information technology fields such as computer science or network administration. Coursework tends to be highly focused on providing specific and detailed knowledge such as cryptography, emerging threats and defenses, mobile security, secure code and security protocols.
There are a number of certifications you can pursue. Here are just a few of the most in-demand ones:
- CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) – advanced professional level achievement that shows you are an expert in the cyber security industry
- CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) – focuses more on the managerial and risk management aspects of information security
- CISA – globally recognized certification with a high degree of visibility in the fields of IT security, IT audit, and IT risk management and governance.
- CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) – focuses on helping you learn how hackers think and the methods they use to compromise information
- GSEC (SANS GIAC Security Essentials) – covers a wide range of information that shows the certification holder possesses critical skills to begin a career in the world of IT security
- CompTIA Security+ – teaches all of the best practices dealing with many types of organizational security
- CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control) – touches on various topics concerning information security
- GPEN (GIAC Penetration Tester) – focuses on the ability to assess networks and identify vulnerabilities
- OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) – teaches the clear and practical understanding of the penetration testing process (Kali Linux) and lifecycle.
- GREM (GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware) – focuses on the knowledge and skills to reverse engineer malicious software (malware)
Worth the Investment
The costs of acquiring individual cybersecurity certifications vary depending on whether you need to take an entire certification course or are simply using your professional experience as preparation for the test. Exam costs vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, and certification programs range from approximately $400 to $4,000 depending on how you want to do it (online vs. traditional).
One thing is for certain … regardless of how you obtain them, it is worth the investment in the long run. Alec Ross, former Senior Advisor for Technology and Innovation at the State Department, stated in a recent Washington Post article, “If any college student asked me what career would most assure 30 years of steady, well-paying employment, I would respond, ‘cyber security.’”
When it comes to the technology sector, cyber security professionals are among the most highly compensated, posting a 9 percent salary premium over IT jobs in general. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net OnLine, the median annual wages for cybersecurity professionals range from $70,000 and $118,000, and wages are expected to increase due to high demand. On the high end, chief information security officers can expect to make around $185,000 annually.
Certifications + Masters Degree = Success
Many career-advancing cyber certifications are available for those who want to build on their knowledge base, but there is another way to help yourself stand out even more in a field where there aren’t nearly enough highly educated and qualified workers to fill the demand. By obtaining a master’s degree in cybersecurity, you can just about guarantee job security, increase your salary, expand your career options, and gain leadership and managerial skills in the process. Tuition for a master’s degree varies from school to school, but the total cost of a degree in this field will typically run anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. Flexible degree programs are available, and although tuition costs are high, there are a number of grants and scholarship programs available for those who wish to pursue a master’s degree in cyber crime. Additionally, the payoff is worth it when you consider that those who possess master’s degrees will demand the highest salaries in a field where career options abound and job security is almost guaranteed.
The bottom line: Certification complemented with formal education is a powerful combination in the world of cybersecurity.