Many will rightfully say that nothing beats experience, but certifications can help you stand out from other candidates and give you skills you wouldn’t have learned otherwise to move your career forward. They may range in cost from as low as $100 to the thousands. It may also be worthwhile to attend training classes so that you have a greater chance of passing the first time. You’ll also need to renew your certifications to keep them active. Sometimes these costs are absorbed by employers but often they are not.
The two types of certifications you can earn are general certifications from organizations like (ISC)2 or the SANS Institute, as well as vendor certifications. General doesn’t always mean broad. These may cover specific topics like application security, but are vendor-neutral. Often you’ll earn vendor-neutral cybersecurity certifications initially, and over time as you gain experience with certain products obtain certifications from vendors. If you become a consultant implementing vendor solutions your company may even have SLAs in place that require their employees have specific vendor certifications.
Although the degree you earned in college has nothing to do with the job you have or are applying for, many employers still require a degree. Do you need what you learned in Chemistry 101 now? Probably not, but earning your degree shows the initiative to finish something. Certifications are much the same except they are more relevant to the job at hand. All things considered equal, why wouldn’t you be hired over the competition for a role if you’ve taken the initiative to earn a relevant certification?
Experience on your resume and passing a technical interview are extremely important, but an employer still doesn’t know exactly what they’re getting until they see you in action. Passing a respected exam for a certification helps validate your ability and can ease concern.
Jump Start Your Career
If you have an area you’d like your career path to follow, earning a certification is a great way to fast track yourself. If you want to be a penetration tester, a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is a way to show prospective employers you have the initiative and ability to be one. You don’t want to take an entry level job hoping you can transition to something different only to realize two or three years later you’ve built up skills that aren’t relevant to what you really enjoy.
Improve Your Pay
This is the most obvious of all the reasons to earn a certification. From data at the CyberSeek organization, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is the most required cybersecurity certification, and there are as many open positions requiring them to all people that hold one. If you look at salary information from the website Payscale, an information security analyst averages $70,754 annually. While an information security analyst with a CISSP averages $86,352 annually. That’s nearly a 20 percent raise by obtaining a CISSP. Every city will have different average salaries due to cost of living differences but a 15-20 percent salary increase wherever you live is reasonable considering this data. Just because you earn this certification doesn’t mean you can walk into your boss’ office and ask for it. You may need to take a new role at a new organization that requires it, but now you have more leverage.