These three cybersecurity certifications can help you land $150K-plus paychecks

BY Sydney LakeSeptember 29, 2022, 1:11 PM
People visit the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino booth setup at the Mega Job Fair held at the FLA Live Arena, as seen in June 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With more than 700,000 unfilled positions in the U.S., cybersecurity skills are among the highest in-demand tech competencies. And despite the massive talent gap in the industry, it’s nowhere near peak growth. During the next decade, the number of cybersecurity jobs will jump 36%—much faster than the average of all other occupations at just 5%, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are plenty of ways to break into cybersecurity, as industry leaders like Ryan LaSalle, head of Accenture Security’s North America practice, and Jonathan Reiber, vice president of cybersecurity strategy and policy at AttackIQ, have previously told Fortune. Popular options include upskilling programs through your company, earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity or another related field, or even taking courses on your own time. 

While investing in continuing education can require an upfront cost, the payoff can be worthwhile. An information security analyst (typically an entry-level cybersecurity role) earned a median salary of $102,600 in 2021, Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show.

Another way to increase your cybersecurity salary is by earning related certifications, which “demonstrate a level of commitment and knowledge,” to the field, Mike Hendrickson, Skillsoft’s vice president of tech and development, tells Fortune. “They indicate that an individual is motivated to put the time, effort, and expense into improving their job performance and acquiring new skills,” he adds. “That’s something that pays off and fosters growth for both the employer and employee alike.”

Skillsoft offers online training and courses on tech subjects and gave Fortune a first look at its 2022 list of the top-paying IT certifications. Among the top 15, three of the highest-paying IT certifications were cybersecurity specific. 

“Security has always been well-paying and it really comes down to scarcity—both in the number of professionals and in the required skills,” Hendrickson says. “With today’s limited pool of security professionals, organizations need to make their offers quite attractive, both in compensation and opportunities for professional development. Skills expectations are also high for these professionals.”

These three cybersecurity certifications can help you land starting average paychecks of $150,000 and up. 

1. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Average salary: $162,347

What certification shows: Expertise in information security governance, management, programs, as well as incident management

What you need: Five years of professional work experience before sitting for the exam

Cost of certification: $575 for Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) members and $760 for non-members

2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Average salary: $158,191

What certification shows: Mastery of security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. It’s also “been compared to earning a master’s degree in IT security,” according to Skillsoft.

What you need: Five years of paid, relevant work experience in one of the above domains

Cost of certification: $749

3. AWS Certified Security—Specialty

Average salary: $149,741

What certification shows: An ability to secure AWS cloud data and “navigate complex security challenges”

What you need: AWS recommends having at least five years of IT security experience with two securing AWS workloads

Cost of certification: $300

What to know before working toward certifications

Like earning most accolades, cybersecurity certifications require people to have real-world experience, then commit to study and pay for the test itself. There are several ways to study for the certifications, including books, on-demand courses, classroom-style prep, and even bootcamps, Hendrickson says. 

“Learning shouldn’t be approached with a one-size-fits-all model,” he adds. “Everyone follows a different path to skill proficiency, competency, and eventually mastery.”

After earning a certification, Hendrickson also emphasizes the importance of continuing to learn on the job. 

“You still need to be able to do the job once you are hired,” he says. “Hands-on training is critical, especially in security, because newly acquired skills can immediately transfer to the workplace.”

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in data science (in-person and online), nursing, computer science, cybersecurity, psychology, public health, and business analytics, as well as the doctorate in education programs MBA programs (part-time, executive, full-time, and online).