There’s no question that many people with a tech-savvy approach to life are wanting to move into cybersecurity careers, but why do all entry-level jobs ask for some array of cybersecurity certifications? Whilst not uncommon, people who want security staff often want people to hit the ground running, but this isn’t fair on new starters or people wanting to burst into the industry.
In today’s Hakubi blog, we’re looking at 5 of the best beginner cybersecurity certifications, and the benefits of each one.
Reasons to get Cybersecurity Certifications
There are several reasons why businesses look for people with cybersecurity certifications from the get-go, and they have good reasons to. Below is a bit of a list I’ve put together for some of the main reasons you should get a cybersecurity certification.
- You can better your knowledge of common cybersecurity processes and procedures.
- You can learn about attack types, vectors, and how to defend a system or an organization.
- Typically, the better the certification the better the pay.
- You can show that you’re committed to cybersecurity.
- Can help you move across the Tech-sector should Cybersecurity not be for you.
5 of the Best Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners
CompTIA’s Security+ is one of the main foundation certifications that doesn’t only cover IT security in general, but a wide array of cybersecurity topics too. Whilst being very entry-level, there are some exams you can take before it, however as long as you learn the course material well, you can pass this quite easily.
What does the CompTIA Security+ Cover?
The CompTIA Security+ covers an array of cybersecurity, and system-security content, such as;
- Identifying attacks, and vulnerabilities as well as mitigation tactics.
- Gain an understanding of secure virtualization, automation, and deployment concepts.
- Identify and implement business-standard protocols and encryption methods.
- Understand business compliance, especially around data at rest, and it transit.
How much does the CompTIA Security+ Cost?
At the time of writing (Feb 2023) the price of the CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 is $392 (£233/€353). This is for the base exam only and does not include a re-sit or the training material provided by CompTIA.
With this being said, there is an S+ bundle for labs, self-paced study guides, and much more which can be up to 33% off. Make sure to check the bundles!
What are the benefits of Security+?
Whilst it might seem a bit too entry-level, Security+ is the younger sibling to some more advanced cybersecurity exams, like the CySA+. Security+ is quite an extensive exam that covers all of the basics of cybersecurity as well as system security and compliance requirements.
Whilst this may be a breeze to some, and difficult for others, I still think this is one of the core exams you need to be able to get yourself into a cybersecurity position. Not only this, you’ll also get some critical knowledge in cybersecurity, especially if you’re new to the industry.
What Cybersecurity jobs can Security+ help with?
Security+ is one of the primary foundation exams that you can get and pass to get most cybersecurity jobs. However, with it being quite foundational, I would suggest that the exam can help with;
- Entry Level Cybersecurity Roles
- Entry-Level SOC Analyst Roles
- Entry-Level Incident Response Roles
- Entry-Level Infrastructure Security Roles
GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)
GIAC Security Essentials Certification (Abbreviated to GSEC) is another great foundation exam for many beginner cybersecurity experts. Similarly, to the above exam, the exam covers an array of cybersecurity fundamentals as well as general security and compliance within the industry.
What does the GIAC Security Essentials Certification Cover?
The GIAC Security Essentials Certifications (GSEC) covers an array of cybersecurity knowledge, such as;
- Basics to Access Control and Password Management
- Basic Cryptography concepts, their algorithms, deployment and applications.
- Cloud infrastructure such as AWS and Microsoft Cloud (Azure).
- Incident Response (CSIRT), including DLP, mobile device security, pen testing and vulnerability testing.
- Basics of Linux, how to secure it, and the basics of Linux shell.
- SIEM controls, exploit mitigation, and SOC processes.
- Defence-based Network Architecture, including network security and protocols.
- Web Security, Virtualization, and Endpoint security.
- Windows forensics and security services.
How much does the GIAC GSEC cost?
GIAC prices their exams slightly differently, where all their cybersecurity exams (or at least the certification attempts) are $949.
What are the benefits of the Security Essentials Certification?
GIAC GSEC has several benefits, and can really help with understanding more about cybersecurity and the various technologies that branch from it. Whilst other exams are good for specific areas, the GSEC gives a detailed but very spread-out overview of cybersecurity.
What Cybersecurity jobs can GSEC help with?
The GSEC can be better for people who are wanting an entry-level cybersecurity position, such as;
- Entry-Level Information Security Jobs
- Cybersecurity Professionals
- IT Engineers and Security Engineers
- Forensic Analysts
- SOC Analysts
- Junior Penetration Testers
Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals (SC-900)
Microsoft is no stranger to certifications, with most tech professionals having a Microsoft certification in some shape or form. The Microsoft SC-900 is the exam tied to the Microsoft Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals that gives you an amazing overview of all things cybersecurity, with specific features from the Microsoft stack.
What does the Microsoft SC-900 Cover?
The Microsoft SC-900 covers;
- Concepts of Security, Compliance, and Identity – including Zero-trust and encryption.
- Concepts and Capabilities of Microsoft Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Entra.
- Concepts and Capabilities of Microsoft Security Solutions (cloud and on-prem).
- Concepts and Capabilities of Microsoft Compliance Solutions.
A full list of what this exam covers can be found in the SC-900 Study Guide, as this is quite extensive.
How much does the Microsoft SC-900 cost?
The Microsoft SC-900, Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals is one of the cheapest foundation exams on this list, costing only around $99 at the time of writing, and can be learnt through their self-paced online training. This is also open to anyone to study and can be taken for free with Microsoft Ignite.
What are the benefits of the SC-900 Certification?
Whilst this Microsoft SC-900 is aimed towards candidates who are looking to secure or learn more about the security of Azure and O365, the SC-900 does still provide a good overview of cybersecurity. If you read through the study guide, a lot of their content is around AD and Defender, however, there is still a good overview of system security, compliance, and identity threats.
What Cybersecurity jobs can the Microsoft Certified SC-900 exam help with?
Unlike other exams on this list, with Microsoft being more specific to ‘Microsoft products’ (no surprise), the jobs you can get might be more specific to using the Azure/Microsoft stack. With this being said, the SC-900 would help with;
- Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure Engineer
- Microsoft Cloud Security Engineer
- Entry-Level Security Position
- Entry-Level Information Security Position in a business that uses the Microsoft stack.
GIAC Information Security Fundamentals Certification (GISF)
The GIAC Information Security Fundamentals Certification (Abbreviated to GISF) is another GIAC exam that offers a great deal of information and knowledge within the cybersecurity space, focusing on information security rather than technical security.
What does the GIAC Information Security Fundamentals Certification cover?
The GIAC Information Security Fundamentals Certification (GISF) covers a few areas within cybersecurity, specific information security such as;
- Common Cybersecurity and Information Security Terminology
- The Basics of Computer Topology and Networking
- Security policies and Processes
- Incident Response and CSIRT
- Basics of Cryptographic Principles
How much does the GIAC GISF cost?
As we mentioned, GIAC has a set price for cybersecurity exams of $949 per exam. Re-sits, renewals, practice exams and training material is all at extra costs, however, can be reduced per situation.
What are the benefits of the Information Security fundamentals Certification?
Although the covered topics might not be something you want to learn, it will really give you a great overview of cybersecurity terms and how teams operate within a business. Whereas other exams on this list might provide you with a good level of detail on specific cybersecurity areas, the GIAC GISF will help generally with business processes.
What Cybersecurity jobs can GISF help with?
The GISF can help anyone who is new to cybersecurity or someone who would like to learn security fundamentals. This includes positions/roles such as;
- IT Security Managers (although I do see it being good for non-IT managers too)
- Information Security Officers
- Infrastructure Security Roles
- IT Professionals (who may be using policies)
- Entry-Level Cybersecurity staff.
ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals (ISACA-CF)
The ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals is another certification that is quite cost-effective but offers a wide range of knowledge on the basics of cybersecurity. This, alongside the Security+, are the two exams I would recommend to anyone wanting to break into the cybersecurity field.
What does the ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals Certification cover?
The ISACA Cybersecurity fundamentals once completed will give you an array of demonstratable knowledge, including the likes of;
- Cybersecurity Risk, and Terminology
- Data Security / Information Security
- Languages and Technologies relating to Cybersecurity
As someone who hasn’t taken the ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals for some time, I can’t quite remember the specifics, but in general, it does cover the above in a good foundational capacity.
How much does the ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals cost?
The ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals exam cost is $150 for ISACA members, or $199 for non-members, and can be re-sat for a reduced cost as well as extra training materials. Training materials are also quite inexpensive, around $40 for the self-paced training.
What are the benefits of the Cybersecurity Fundamentals Certification?
Other exam providers are purely based on knowledge points, however, the ISACA Cybersecurity Fundamentals are focused on being able to provide you with a great level of demonstratable knowledge. Once you’ve got this, you should be able to jump into an entry-level cybersecurity job without many issues.
What Cybersecurity jobs can ISACA-CF help with?
The ISACA is not a super-common exam, and many people who have it would demonstrate they know entry-level foundations to cybersecurity, but someone who is unfamiliar with the exam may not see that. Jobs and positions that could be achieved include;
- Entry-Level Cybersecurity Role (I.e Junior SOC Analyst/Junior Information Security Analyst)
- Information Security Staff
- IT Professionals wanting to get a breakthrough in Cybersecurity
What does it take to get into Cybersecurity?
If you’re looking to get into cybersecurity, there’s a chance you’ll have to have a bit of grit and determination. Whilst not impossible, there are usually a few prerequisites to be able to burst your way into cybersecurity.
As a side note, you don’t necessarily have to be in anything technical prior to applying for cybersecurity roles, I’ve known a few people who’ve worked in retail, healthcare, and even manufacturing who’ve all broken into the industry without prior experience. However – if you’re looking to get into cybersecurity, here are a few things you could do with.
- Determination and Commitment – Things aren’t going to happen overnight.
- A Passion for Technology
- If possible* a pre-existing career in IT or Technical Problem Solving
- If possible* certification in cybersecurity.
- A Proactive Mind – you’ll probably be applying for 1-3 months before you get anywhere.
- Strong Soft Skills (Problem Solving, teamwork, time management, prioritization etc.).
As always, you could just walk into the position overnight, and all of the above may not be relevant – however, in most cases you should at least have some of the above, if possible, to give yourself the best chance of landing that dream role.
Why are cybersecurity certifications so expensive?
If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure. Cybersecurity is quite an ‘ever-changing’ industry, and a lot of the certification providers update their exams yearly or every 2-3 years with small changes to new research or intelligence. Whilst this shouldn’t really come at a cost to you, it can often land at your doorstep.
From experience, they’ve usually all been this price, with very basic entry-level exams being around $100-$250, with advanced and heavily experience-required exams reaching $10,000-$15,000 which, well – I wouldn’t want to fork out a loan to sit an exam that isn’t a guaranteed.
In the future, I do see the price of cybersecurity certifications coming down in price, the more people who complete them – as at the moment these exams are often out of the price range of most beginners. That’s why we would always suggest reading through course material if it’s free, or taking courses on exams, without needing to take the exam straight away.
Is there a way to get cheaper cybersecurity certifications?
For the most part, there isn’t really a cheaper way of getting cybersecurity certifications as they are often quite expensive to individuals. There are, however, a few ways you can knock some hard-earned cash off the total.
- Get a Cybersecurity Job and ask for a Training Budget
- Getting a position where you’re looked after by the business, can be really helpful for you. Although there is often paperwork tying your employment to the exam, if you’re planning to stick to a company then asking the business to pay for your learning is often an easy way to save yourself some money.
- Use ‘Trainer’ Discount Codes
- Certified training partners like Dion Training, often have 10-15% off codes for when you come to book your exam. This is obviously only for specific courses, but if you have a course that they’re covering – you might be in luck!
- Wait for Offers/Promotions
- Although some people are already aware, some training/certification providers do actually offer promotions. The most common is Microsoft’s Ignite program which typically runs through August/November time where you can take one of many foundation exams.
CompTIA also has these promotions, which can range from 10% to 100% off if your situation meets their requirements. You can find out more about CompTIAs promotions here.
We’d be interested to hear how expensive these exams are for you – let us know in the comments and tell us your thoughts on the prices.
What not to do with your Cybersecurity Certifications
Although this might seem a bit rude, please don’t waste your own time and an organization’s time. Cybersecurity exams are expensive but are written and taken in a way that allows people with a good memory, or people who can answer a specific set of questions rather than actually learning the content.
Certifications are a good way to prove you’re well-informed and have proven yourself to an exam board that you are capable of achieving a certain level. However, I’ve come across many people who on paper look amazing, and have more certifications than I do, but when put into an easy SOC role, perform as if they’ve never taken the exam.
Please, do not waste your own time, and money trying to take an exam if you have no intention of learning the course material.
Frequently Asked Cybersecurity Certification Questions
Is Cybersecurity a good career?
Absolutely! Although cybersecurity is hardly ever like what you see in the movies, the industry in general is quite nice to work in and does have its perks. Although there are sometimes when you may feel pressure or stress, this always blows over and peace can be restored quickly. You can find out more about cybersecurity careers on Hakubi.
Is a cybersecurity certificate worth it?
Cybersecurity certificates are expensive, there’s no denying that. However, if you can get yourself into a business that will offer you a pay rise on completion, then these are typically worth the value of them. In another aspect, the knowledge you should learn from top-cybersecurity certifications will be invaluable to your future career.
Do you need cybersecurity certifications?
Whilst you don’t require certifications, for an entry cybersecurity position, you should look to get some basic certifications under your belt. Not only does this look good on your resume/cv – you will be able to jump the queue on other applicants without them.
What is the entry-level for cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity entry-level would be someone who has basic information and knowledge about technology, and a passion to learn specifics within the cybersecurity industry. Jobs for an entry-level cybersecurity role could be a Junior SOC Analyst, Junior Information Security specialist, or Infrastructure Security Technician amongst others.
Is it hard to get an entry-level cybersecurity job?
With the cybersecurity industry getting bigger by the second, jobs are becoming slightly harder to come by. However, many organizations are turning to entry-level positions that may not be the best paying, in the hope to build candidates up to better cybersecurity experts for a lower cost.