Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing industry today and this makes it a lucrative career option. Given the unprecedented increase in the number and complexity of cyberattacks and threats around the world, organizations increasingly understand the importance of cybersecurity. They realize the need to have efficient cybersecurity teams and advanced solutions in place to detect and mitigate the risk of cyberattacks to maintain their overall security. Organizations might have in-house security teams or choose to outsource tasks to third-party cybersecurity technology and service providers. Either way, this has led to an increase in cybersecurity roles at different levels, across different organizations.

As with any technical field, keeping up-to-date with the latest advancements is crucial for progressing in your career as a cybersecurity professional. Cybersecurity certifications provide a great way to validate a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and expertise in the respective domains. Whether you are looking to start a career in cybersecurity, or trying to advance in this field, there are various certifications available. In our previous blog, we discussed some of the top beginner-level cybersecurity certifications suitable for candidates with 1–2 years of experience. You can read it here. In this blog, we'll explore some of the best and most coveted advanced level certifications in cybersecurity for experienced professionals.

CompTIA Cyber Security Analyst (CySA+)

This is an intermediate-level exam and the most sought-after certification for security analysts, threat intelligence analysts, threat hunters, incidence responders or handlers, and application security analysts. It covers the most up-to-date skills needed by these analysts to proactively capture, monitor, and combat threats within the organization and suggest preventive measures. Some of the skills that can be mastered with this certification include threat and vulnerability management, compliance assessment, software and systems security, and incident response.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

An advanced-level cybersecurity certification, this focuses on security engineering and architecture. Some of the skills candidates master by gaining this certification include security architecture, security requirements in hybrid networks, security operations, advanced threat management, digital forensics analysis, advanced cybersecurity configurations for endpoint security controls, and cryptography. It is recommended for professionals with more than 10 years of IT security experience. This is best suited for security architects and engineers who wish to advance in the technology domain itself, and not in management.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

This is an advanced-level certification provided by International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, a leading cybersecurity professional organization, and is one of the most preferred certifications in the industry. This is suitable for cybersecurity professionals with five or more years of experience in at least two of the eight cybersecurity domains (as per CISSP) such as security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations or software development security, and wishing to move towards more senior and managerial roles.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association's (ISACA) CISM is another advanced level certification, suitable for professionals with five or more years of experience. It is suitable for professionals with technical expertise and experience in IS or IT security who want to advance from the technical to the management side of cybersecurity. A CISM certification validates your expertise in information security governance, information security risk management, information security program, and incident management.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Another advanced level certification from the IT professional association, ISACA, is the CISA certification. It is a renowned certification for mid-career professionals interested in auditing, compliance, and governance roles within the information security space. Some of the skills that can be mastered with this certification include information systems auditing, governance and IT management, information systems acquisition, development, and implementation, information systems operations and business resilience, and protection of information assets.

Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO)

This certification is provided by the EC Council and prepares candidates to take on the highest executive level roles in information security in an organization. The chief information security officer is a high-ranking executive position or C-level position, on par with CTOs, COOs, and CFOs in an organization. This position demands the highest levels of knowledge, expertise, hands-on skills, and experience across all facets of information security. The CCISO certification covers crucial principles across five domains: governance, IS management controls and auditing management, security program management and operations, information security core competencies and strategic planning, finance, procurement, and vendor management. The certification program focuses a lot on the real-time practical application of information security principles thereby enabling the executives to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities of a CISO effectively.

This table summarizes these certifications, along with some details about the exam pattern and more:

Certifications Test Format, Details, and Recommendations
  • ~85 questions in 165 minutes.
  • Includes multiple choice questions (MCQs), and performance-based questions.
  • Cost: ~$390 per exam.
  • Prerequisites: 3–4 years of hands-on experience in IT security or related roles.
  • Suitable for security professionals moving to analyst roles.

  • Computer adaptive test (CAT) of 125 to 175 questions in 4 hours.
  • Includes MCQs and advanced innovative items.
  • Cost: ~$750 per exam.
  • Prerequisites: 5+ years of experience.
  • Suitable for cybersecurity professionals seeking senior and managerial roles.

  • 150 MCQs in 4 hours.
  • Cost: ~$575 (for members) and ~$760 (for non members) per exam.
  • Prerequisites: 5+ years of experience.
  • Suitable for mid-career IT and IS professionals seeking to advance in auditing, compliance, and governance roles.

  • 150 MCQs in 150 minutes.
  • Cost: ~$999 (excluding application fee of $100) per exam.
  • Prerequisites: 5+ years of experience in each of the five CCISO domains; waivers are allowed based on the candidate’s educational qualifications.
  • Suitable for IS professionals eyeing top-level executive positions.

Note that the test formats and costs mentioned above are for reference only. Exam patterns aren't regularly updated and their costs change from time to time. Some certifications also come with a validity period. Refer to the official websites to remain up-to-date with the latest information about these certifications.

With so many certifications available today, choosing the appropriate certification for your needs can be confusing. It is wise to take these factors into consideration:

  • Experience level: Whether you are a beginner, have a few years of experience, or are at a senior level, there are different certifications available.
  • Area of Specialization: For a beginner, the certifications could be somewhat generic, but if you are looking to excel in a specific area, or advance to higher or more technical roles, a more specialized certification might be useful.
  • Job Requirements: If you are eyeing a specific role or a specific organization, you might want to go through the job description in detail to see if it cites specific IT security certification requirements.

SOC or cybersecurity certifications alone cannot guarantee a candidate’s expertise in any given area, and it is the candidate's overall knowledge, experience, skills, expertise, and ability to apply knowledge to practical situations that helps them succeed in this field. But certifications serve as an added advantage and are a great way to validate the candidate’s knowledge and expertise, and ultimately help them advance in their career.

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