As in other industries, gaining certifications in information security can help boost your career to greater levels. As a matter of fact, certifications are the preferred method for information security professionals to demonstrate to the world that they are competent in the field and possess the knowledge to be a success in the role.
While there are many certifications available for the entry level information security professional, there are five certifications that outshine the rest. This article will detail the five best entry-level information security certifications to earn.
5. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
As the EC-Council website puts it: “To beat a hacker, you need to think like one!” This vendor-neutral certification demonstrates that the certification holder has the knowledge and tools that malicious hackers have and can use those same forces against them. This certification of lawful and legitimate hacking skills also shows the world that the information security professional knows how to assess the security posture of a system/network and how to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities within it.
Information security professions that want to bring hacking skills to their day job should consider the CEH certification. This is for one reason: an organization that is trying to protect itself from outside hackers should hire a hacker. Having a hacker in your organization can help the organization better spot its own vulnerabilities and will be able to shed light on how hackers think in any given situation, making a CEH a valuable addition to the team.
Please note, though, that this certification is not completely, bare-bones entry-level. To be eligible to take the CEH certification exam, candidates must have at least two years of experience working in the information security industry. But even professionals who have zero experience can take an official EC-Council training course.
In either case, though, candidates are required to pay a non-refundable application fee. Candidates can expect an exam that will be four hours in duration and contain 125 questions.
For those interested, InfoSec Institute offers an Ethical Hacking Boot Camp – CEH v10 training. This boot camp teaches the skills to successfully (and ethically) hack an organization and features a repeatable, documentable penetration testing method that can be used in real-world practice on the job. This boot camp can be found here.
4. GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
Hosted by GIAC, GSEC is a certification that validates skills which are in highly desirable and very much in demand. In short, GSEC demonstrates that the certification holder has competent knowledge of best practices for general information security and the methodology required for effective real-world application.
GSEC is an excellent choice of first certification for an information security professional. It can be very difficult to distinguish yourself from the pack when you are an entry-level information security professional. Earning the GSEC certification and listing it on your resume or CV can be a good way to distinguish yourself and begin a fruitful and focused career.
3. (ISC)2 Associate
For those specifically looking for an entry-level cybersecurity certification, look no further. Offered by (ISC)2, the Associate certification was designed for those who are knowledgeable in cybersecurity and IT but do not yet have the required experience for more advanced certifications such as CISSP, CAP and CCSP.
One of the biggest differences about the Associate certification is that it does not require any specific prerequisites, such as years of professional experience, before you take your certification exam. Candidates are free to take the certification exam before they have any experience and then submit their experience toward their certification as they earn the experience. This is truly the best of both worlds for the certification holder, because candidates for entry-level roles rarely have much experience.
The key point of attraction for this certification is the track that you are put on once you earn this certification. (ISC)2 hosts many useful certifications for information security professionals, but the problem here is that those certifications are for professionals with at least two to five years of professional experience. Thankfully, the Associate certification allows those at entry level to distinguish themselves based upon their knowledgeability and not their lack of professional experience.
Taking the number two spot are both the A+ and Network+ certifications offered by CompTIA. Both of these exams are a great starting point for those looking for their first certifications for many reasons. First, these two certifications are often some of the first certifications earned by information security professionals because of their broad-based, foundational character. Many employers explicitly look for candidates with at least one of these two certifications, even for entry-level Information technology and information security roles.
Second, the information and knowledge covered by these certifications can be considered almost “general education” when it comes to information security.
Third, A+/Network+ are geared toward computer technicians, further demonstrating their base, broad appeal.
Last, these certifications are great compliments to the certification that has been picked for the number one spot, being that they are all part of the same three-certification suite offered by the exam host.
Operationally speaking, A+ certifies the competency to install, operate, maintain and customize PCs. These skills are practically universal in the information security field, giving this certification broad appeal amongst information security professionals.
Network+ certifies that the holder has the competency to keep organizations connected. Among the knowledge and skills covered by Network+ are included: the design and implementation of functional networks, network management, network maintenance, configuring networks, effective usage of switches/routers, identifying pros and cons of network configurations, implementation of information security policies and procedures — just to name a few.
For those considering these certifications, InfoSec offers a comprehensive A+/Network Training Boot Camp. This boot camp is an in-depth, accelerated eight-day course that will teach candidates the knowledge and tools required to earn these very useful certifications. The InfoSec CompTIA A+/Network+ Training Boot Camp can be found here.
At last we reach the top of the list, and for more than one reason Security+ has earned the top spot. If there had to be just one information security certification to earn, I would have to strongly suggest this certification. Simply put, Security+ represents all of the knowledge and tools required for entry-level information security professionals to become wildly successful in the information security industry.
Again, I have to state just how important it is that Security+ offers comprehensive coverage of the basics of information security, but more on that later. Right now I can hear you asking for basics on the CompTIA Security+ exam.
Security+ is an entry-level, vendor-neutral, global information security certification. Earning this certification demonstrates competency to perform core information security functions. Employers who see this certification on a resume can rest assured that the certification holder is serious about progressing in their information security career.
Most Security+ certification candidates will choose Security+ to be either their first or second information security certification. True as this may be, it extends far up the rungs of the proverbial corporate ladder, as you will be hard-pressed to find a Chief Information Officer without a Security+ certification (or at the very least a Security+ study guide that they use as reference material). The knowledge and tools covered by Security+ form such a strong foundation for information security and information technology careers that its basics will follow an information security professional throughout their entire career.
The objectives that Security+ candidates are responsible for include:
- Install and configure secure applications, devices and networks onto systems
- Perform threat analysis and response procedures with appropriate mitigation techniques
- Participation in risk mitigation action/activities
- Operate with an awareness of applicable law, regulations and policies
As mentioned earlier, Security+ covers a broad swath of material. Generally speaking, the material covers six basic domains, which are broken down on the exam as follows:
- Cryptography and PKI (12%)
- Risk Management (14%)
- Identity and Access Management (16%)
- Architecture and Design (15%)
- Technologies and Tools (22%)
- Threats, Attacks, and Vulnerabilities (21%)
Luckily, InfoSec Institute offers a Security+ Training Boot Camp to help candidates tackle this universe of information. The CompTIA Security+ Training Boot Camp is an intensive, five-day that provides the most comprehensive, accelerated environment to learn the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully pass the Security+ certification exam.
A unique feature of the InfoSec Institute Security+ Training Boot Camp is that it offers hands-on exercises to give candidates a “learn by doing” perspective that will not only help them pass their certification exam but may even extend into their day-to-day information security roles. For those interested in taking advantage of the Security+ Training Boot Camp, it can be found here.
There are many certifications available to the entry-level information security professional. Above are the top five entry-level information security certifications that outshine the rest and will give their respective certification holders a leg up on the competition for the next milestone role in their careers.
Certified Ethical Hacker, EC-Council
Network+ Certification, CompTIA
GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC), GIAC Certifications