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SANS and GIAC are here to help you along your certification journey. Review our handy step-by-step guide and tips for success.
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HR and Cyber Security
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Cyber Security Certifications FAQs
Choosing a cybersecurity certification can seem like a daunting task. But with the below few tips, you will be scheduling your cybersecurity certification in no time.
The first thing to consider is where you are in your cybersecurity career. If you are just starting your cybersecurity career journey, look for introductory cybersecurity courses. These courses will be general in nature, providing you the foundational knowledge you need to work in a cybersecurity field.
Introductory cybersecurity courses will also help you identify an aspect of cybersecurity that most interest you.
If you have cybersecurity experience, you may have already found your cybersecurity niche and want to further develop your skills to find that new job, get that next promotion, or simply for your own enjoyment. If this is the case, you will want to look at those certifications which align with your cybersecurity niche or the cyber discipline you are interested in gain more experience in.
The next step is to find a reputable certification provider. There are many providers out there, and some are clearly better than others. The best way to find a reputable certification provider is to do your research. Do an internet search for providers, and then do some research on those organizations. Many internet forums have communities who are eager to provide their opinion on the different certifications and certification providers.
One of the most reputable certification organizations is GIAC, administrators of some of the most valued and coveted cybersecurity certifications on the planet. They provide more than 40 certifications across all information security domains. From introductory to highly advances cybersecurity courses, GIAC provides the certification you’re looking for.
There are many paths to starting a career in IT. Do you want to build websites, learn to code, secure the cloud, or become a security expert and foil hackers? If you ever wanted a career in IT, the first thing you must do is conduct some research. Find those fields that spark your interest and play to your strengths, then create a list of those fields.
Next, you will want to find a few jobs in each area of interest and add the qualifications and experience necessary for those jobs to your list. It is important to understand the commitment it takes to acquire the skills needed when pursuing a new career. Take some time to explore the requirements for those jobs and whether you’d like to start a career in that field. Familiarize yourself with the skills and education required of the positions on your list.
After you’ve conducted your research and completed your list of interesting IT fields, jobs, and qualifications, the next step is to find a reputable provider of IT training. Again, there a several paths you can take, an undergraduate degree, a certification program, courses at a local university or online, or pursuing one or more certification tests that align with your career trajectory.
Certifications and undergraduate degrees are an excellent way to gain necessary skills and expertise and to show prospective employers your dedication to your chosen field. Now that you have earned one or more IT credentials, you will want to start looking for an entry-level position. Draft your resume, create or update your LinkedIn profile, apply for jobs on several job boards, and start to network. It is difficult to stress how important and helpful networking is in your job search.
- Find your path
- Take some courses
- Get certified
- Look for an entry level position
- If going through STI, you get career center help
Getting a cybersecurity certification is one of the most important steps in your cybersecurity career. Use your certification to prove to yourself and current or prospective employers that you have the skills to take that first or next step in your career.
The cybersecurity field in which you work will likely determine the certificates you should pursue. However, you may also want to certify in another area of cybersecurity to round out your skills or pursue. There is no shortage of cybersecurity certifications from which to choose.
Before you certify, you need to find a reputable certification provider and study for the exam.
There are many companies that provide valuable certification exams and prep courses to prepare for them. GIAC is one of the most reputable certification providers in the world. And one of the best ways to prepare for a GIAC certification is to take an affiliated SANS Institute training course.
After you’ve found reputable training and certification providers, identified the certification you want to pursue, you will want to begin studying for the exam, either through self-guided learning or enrolling in a formal training program. Once you feel prepared with the knowledge you need to pass the test, schedule your certification day and time. Leading up to your exam date, continue to study and consider purchasing practice exams to get a feel for what certification testing is like.
The certification exam itself is not a long process, regularly taking 2-5 hours depending on the exam. It is the process of preparing to take a certification test that takes time. And that prep time will vary depending on factors like your comfort level with the certification materials and whether you are self-learning or taking a certificate training course.
Most SANS Institute training courses take five to six days to complete, are available in person, live online, or OnDemand, and consist of hands-on training, course materials that are yours to keep, and the unparalleled guidance of some of the most respected instructors in the world of cybersecurity.
Those pursuing a GIAC certification spend an average of 55+ hours studying and take an average of two practice tests before taking the certification exam.
There are many available certifications for people new to cybersecurity. Introductory certifications test your knowledge of foundational IT and cybersecurity practices. They should cover topics like computer hardware, networks, operating systems, Windows, Linux, cloud, passwords, among many other areas.
Entry-level certifications are for:
- Anyone new to cybersecurity
- Non-IT security managers
- Professionals with basic IT knowledge
- Those looking to change careers to cybersecurity
- Managers, security officers, system administrators
The following introductory certifications are some of the most popular and well-respected available today.
The GIAC Foundational Cybersecurity Technologies (GFACT) validates your foundational cybersecurity knowledge. If you are interested in taking an affiliated training course to prepare for the GFACT, GIAC suggests SANS Institute’s SEC275: Foundations: Computers, Technology, & Security.
The GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF) tests your expertise on skills including networking, cryptography, understanding threats and risks and identifying best practice for protecting resources and data. An ideal affiliate training course to pursue in preparation on the GISF is SANS Institute’s SEC301: Introduction to Cyber Security.
The GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) tests your knowledge beyond the foundational concepts of cybersecurity. In taking the GSEC, you will demonstrate your capacity to handle hands-on security roles and tasks. The recommended affiliate training course for the GSEC is SANS Institute’s
Writing in a programming language, also known as coding, is a skill that is quite intimidating to many people. And while cybersecurity is a deeply technical field requiring many skills, tools, and techniques, few entry-level cybersecurity jobs require coding or programming experience. Instead, a few of the most important attributes someone wishing to enter the field of cybersecurity should possess are a problem solving, analytical mind, and a well-rounded technical proficiency.
Still, learning programming code is a valuable resource that can lead to many opportunities and may be required of mid- and senior-level cybersecurity jobs. So, ultimately, the answer is “it depends.” While you may not need coding experience in an entry-level position, there are cybersecurity positions where coding is valuable.
The greatest asset in a cybersecurity professional isn’t necessarily the number of technical skills they can master, but the desire to learn and understand how technology works and the technology’s weaknesses.
Fear of coding should not keep you from pursuing a career in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is an area of such breadth and depth that it encompasses many different technical fields. From providing network administration to conducting defensive white hat hacking, there is no shortage of cybersecurity disciplines. Despite the many varying cybersecurity fields, there are a few key soft and technical skills everyone in cybersecurity must possess.
Soft skills are those skills that enable someone to interact effectively with other people. Some of the most valuable soft skills in cybersecurity are:
- Communication Skills
- Problem Solving
- Passion for Learning
Technical skills are skills that refer to knowledge and expertise needed to perform a job. Some of the most valuable technical skills in cybersecurity are:
- Cyber Terminology
- Security Policies
- Incident Response
- Risk Management
- Computer Forensics
If you are a cybersecurity manager interested in getting your team certified, SANS Institute provides a group voucher program that will give your organization the ability to establish a training and certification budget. Upon opening your organization’s account, you will be able to enroll your employees in SANS training courses, Summit events, GIAC certifications and certification renewals, and security training courses; view employee certification status; obtain course progress; and receive bonus funding.
Another team certification option is SANS Institute’s private training. Available Live Online or In-Person, SANS’s private training offering provides customized training from anywhere in the world, confidential discussions about sensitive issues relevant to your organization, and options to add GIAC certification testing to the training course.
Cybersecurity certifications work in a very straightforward way. First, you need to find the certification you want to pursue, take an affiliate training course and/or study, and schedule the exam.
The exams are often open book and open note as long as the notes don’t include prep exams or cheat sheets. You will be notified of the results immediately after you complete the exam.
Once you receive your certification, it will be active for a certain period of time. Most CompTIA certifications are valid for three years, while most GIAC certifications are valid for four years. To ensure your certification remains active, it must be regularly renewed. Renewals vary, but most often you must retake the exam or collect continuing professional education (CPE) credits, the number varying by certification.
Cybersecurity certificates are indeed worth it. Study after study shows both employees and employers see value in and return on investment on certifications.
Organizations find certification beneficial:
- 60% of organizations find it difficult to find qualified, certified cybersecurity talent.
- 91% of employers look for candidate with certifications.
- 95% of organizations think certifications have a beneficial impact on their business.
- 91% of organizations are willing to pay for certifications for their employees.
- 81% of organizations say they prefer to hire certified people.
Certified professionals find certification beneficial:
- 34% of IT managers say certified employees add $25,000+ in value to their organization.
- 79% of certified people say they increased knowledge and perform their duties better.
- 34% of certificate holders report faster career growth and/or receiving a promotion.
- 29% of those certified say they received a higher salary.
An added bonus regarding the worth of certificates is your personal satisfaction. A 2021 report finds:
- 91% of certificate holders find they have increased confidence.
- 84% of those certified find they have greater determination to succeed professionally.
- 76% report greater job satisfaction.