Cybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your Career ProspectsCybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your Career ProspectsCybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your Career Prospects

The need for organizations to invest in cybersecurity has never been greater. According to a report from the cybersecurity firm Risk Based Security, 2020 was the “worst year on record” in terms of the number of records exposed in data breaches, reaching 36 billion just in the first nine months. Analyses suggest that the combination of the massive shift to remote work and the strain on information technology resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic put organizations at greater risk.

This elevated threat level underscores the important role highly skilled cybersecurity professionals play in protecting sensitive company data.

One of the ways technology professionals can strengthen their credentials is by earning cybersecurity certifications. These certifications are highly desired by employers and provide job seekers with a competitive edge. Many certifications require prior experience, either professional or educational. One of the ways individuals looking to pursue certifications can gain the necessary experience is by earning a master’s in cybersecurity.

A cybersecurity professional is standing in front of servers at a cloud computing service provider.

Why cybersecurity certifications matter

Dozens of cybersecurity certifications are available, both for those just starting out in the field as well as for seasoned professionals. They cover various areas of expertise including networks, operating systems, hacking, and cloud computing. Maryville University’s online master’s in cybersecurity program offers several courses that can teach students the knowledge and skills they need to earn specific certifications. The following are among the more highly sought-after certifications:

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

CISSP is an advanced certification for experienced security professionals. It’s notable for its standards of excellence and is featured on many surveys as a “most-wanted” security certification. CISSP certification holders are expected to possess the expertise to plan, implement, and direct an information security framework.

Candidates need to have a minimum of five years of work experience in at least two of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge domains, which include security and risk management, security architecture and engineering, and communications and network security, among others. A four-year degree or approved prerequisite credential may be substituted for one year of work experience.

Maryville’s Domains of Cybersecurity course focuses on protecting the virtual enterprise through specific methodologies. Students learn how to identify and implement proper defense methods by directing resources toward cyber risks that are unique to specific organizations or functions. The course helps students gain the necessary skills to take the CISSP exam.

EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)

Often called “white hat” hackers, ethical hackers employ the same skills and techniques criminal hackers use to test systems for vulnerabilities so they can prevent actual threats. An advanced certification, the ECSA is the next step up from the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential. The ECSA builds on the tools and techniques covered in the CEH program, focusing on penetration testing methodology with an emphasis on hands-on learning.

In order to be eligible for the exam, the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) — the cybersecurity organization that administers the ECSA — requires either a previous ECSA certification, formal training from an EC-Council accredited training channel, or a minimum of two years’ experience working in information security.

Maryville’s Ethical Hacking course takes a hands-on approach to ethical hacking, with a focus on penetration testing. Its follow-up, Ethical Hacking II, builds on the knowledge and techniques learned in the first course and is designed to help prepare students for the ECSA exam.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Administered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, a CISA certification is considered the benchmark for IT professionals interested in information security, audit control, and assurance. This cybersecurity certification demonstrates that an individual is skilled at identifying risks and offering solutions to safeguard IT security.

Candidates need to pass a single exam to earn this certification and need at least one year of experience working with information systems to qualify. Some substitutions for education and experience with auditing are allowed. Maryville’s Auditing of Cybersecurity course prepares students to earn a CISA certification by covering the principles of cybersecurity auditing, with a focus on best practices for auditing organizational cyber defense, evaluation, and response.

Certified Cloud Security Practitioner (CCSP)

Cloud-based security certifications are becoming increasingly valuable as more organizations, big and small, rely on cloud computing to power their operations. Research firm Canalys reported that companies worldwide spent a record $36.5 billion on cloud services in the third quarter of 2020, up 33% from the same period in 2019.

A CCSP certification shows broader knowledge of cloud security and the latest technological advances in the field. It’s considered the gold standard for cloud security expertise, and holders of this certification are recognized as experts and authority figures on cloud security. Candidates need at least five years of paid, full-time professional experience in IT, though earning the CISSP certification can be substituted for the CCSP experience requirement.

Students in Maryville University’s Cloud Migration and Security course explore security issues related to cloud technology and network-based computing systems such as clusters, social networking, peer to peer, and the Internet of Things.

How cybersecurity certifications can help your career

The good news for those pursuing a cybersecurity career is that plenty of jobs are available. According to estimates from Cyber Seek, more than 500,000 cybersecurity jobs are currently available in the U.S. alone, and hundreds of thousands more are available globally.

Cyber Seek also reports that employers are increasingly seeking candidates who hold certifications, including CISA and CISSP. Forbes reports that 96% of IT leaders believe employees with cybersecurity certifications add value to their organizations, and nearly half say they help boost productivity. Certifications are an excellent way for those new to the field to demonstrate their commitment to learning about security from industry experts.

Salaries for those in information security vary depending on experience, education level, and other factors. The median annual salary for information security analysts was $99,730 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the lowest 10% of earners making less than $57,810 and the highest 10% earning more than $158,860. Moreover, according to data from ISC(2), the largest association of certified cybersecurity professionals in the world, those holding cybersecurity certifications can earn more. The BLS also projects that jobs in the information security analyst sector will grow 31% over the next decade, much faster than the national average job growth projected across all sectors.

Pursue a career in cybersecurity at Maryville University

Compelling evidence demonstrates that earning cybersecurity certifications not only expands professionals’ knowledge of information security, but also can help improve their job prospects in a fast-growing and in-demand field.

A master’s in cybersecurity may qualify to meet some of the certification work requirements listed above. Discover how Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program can prepare you to earn cybersecurity certifications and help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Reading

Careers in Cybersecurity: Cryptography vs. Encryption

Security Engineer vs. Software Engineer: A Guide

Can We Learn from White-Hat Hackers?


Business News Daily, “Best InfoSec and Cybersecurity Certifications of 2020”

Cyber Seek, “Heat Map”

Canalys, “Global Cloud Infrastructure Market Q3 2020”

EC-Council, “EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA): Penetration Testing”

Forbes, “Top 10 Most Popular Cybersecurity Certifications in 2020”

Global Knowledge, “CCSP — Certified Cloud Security Professional”, “5 Common Security Certifications to Advance Your Career”

Risk Based Security, “2020 Q3 Report”

Security Magazine, “The Top 10 Data Breaches of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal, “Cloud Spending Hits Record Amid Economic Fallout from COVID-19”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Information Security Analysts”

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