The most in-demand certifications for cybersecurity pros

These certifications may put IT pros on the right track to a cybersecurity career and land a higher salary — but the sector is a tough one to crack.
23 October 2020
  • A survey by Specops Software identified the most in-demand qualifications for cybersecurity professionals 
  • The course can equip IT pros with the basic skill sets, but may not prepare them for the task ahead 

Every year, cyber-attacks become more sophisticated and frequent. In 2020, more than half (54%) of business owners from a range of sectors reported an increase in attempted cyber-attacks. Dogging everyone from large multinationals to small businesses, the attacks and breaches keep on coming, and with so much riding on sturdy cyber-defenses, business leaders have realized the importance of cybersecurity positions within their ranks.

But as we hear time and time again in the business technology press, despite more demand for them than ever, cybersecurity is a sector plagued by a shortage of professionals with required skillsets and experience — at least, that’s the perception. As we’ve argued previously here on TechHQ, cybersecurity technology can only go so far in plugging this gap. Organizations need these talented individuals, and while we aren’t talking about reskilling individuals from the arts industry into ‘cyber’ (unless they want to, of course), it’s worth exploring some of those qualifications’ most in-demand.

Specops Software analyzed data from job search specialists GlassDoor and Indeed to discover who the highest-paid cybersecurity specialists are in Europe and what the most desired technical skills/professional qualifications are for cybersecurity roles in the current job market.

When it comes to on-paper qualifications, Specops found that ‘Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)’ is the most-desired professional certification for cybersecurity positions, with 33% of listings looking for this credential.

Being CISSP certified is a strong indication that an individual can engineer and run information security programs. The course covers areas like security and risk management, security architecture and engineering, identity and access management, and software development security.

‘Information Security Manager (CISM – 21%)’ is the next most wanted cybersecurity professional certification. 174 out of 843 jobs analyzed listed it as a key qualification, and those employers who request it pay an average annual salary of £59,689 (US$78,100).

Other qualifications included ‘Information Systems Auditor (CISA – 14%)’, followed by ‘Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH – 5%)’ in fourth place.

Notably, holders of the ‘Cloud Security Professional (CCSP – 4%)’ certification have the highest earning potential at an average annual salary of £60,000. On the other end, the ‘Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)’ is the cybersecurity qualification least in demand, appearing in just 1% of listings.

Cybersecurity — more than just a certification

For IT professionals ready to step towards a career in cybersecurity, getting hold of one of those certifications could be the best first worst step to recruit the basic skills to get started.

The issue with certifications, however, is that they require between 3 to 5 years’ previous experience in cybersecurity roles to be eligible. These courses will deliver hands-on and relevant experiences, but on-paper qualifications may only land individuals a higher salary — they’re not necessarily deal-breakers for a transition into the industry, and they may not fully prepare those taking them for what lies ahead.

Cybersecurity is an interdisciplinary industry that draws in individuals from a variety of backgrounds. It requires knowledge of tech, human behavior, people skills, finance, risk, law regulation, and, of course, knowledge of the constantly-mutating cyber threat landscape.

On top of all that, and despite the role being increasingly (and rightly) valued among business leaders, cybersecurity professionals must have the mental fortitude to cope with the weight of responsibility the work entails and the strength to negotiate the resources they need. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Aside from formal certification, Specops Software also identified the most in-demand programming languages for cybersecurity professionals and found that Python (12%) is the most in-demand programming language for cybersecurity roles. C++ (9%) and C (6%) respectively rank second and third. Contrastingly, PHP (3%), JavaScript (3%), Ruby (3%), and Java (3%) are the programming languages employers are less interested in for cybersecurity roles.