Best 5 Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners

Best 5 Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners

Written & Submitted by: Dr. Keith Morneau, Dean of Computer & Information Science at ECPI University

In today’s advanced digital world, everybody is an expert. To stand out in the competitive job market, it is important to have more than just a cybersecurity degree or a nice resume. Demonstrate your competency and enthusiasm for the field by earning a Cybersecurity certification or two, along with your Cybersecurity degree.

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Let’s take a look at what Cybersecurity is, what certifications are available, why they are relevant, and where you can obtain them. Some institutions even combine their Cybersecurity degree programs with certification programs, enabling students to graduate with both (often at a reduced cost).

What is Cybersecurity?

Some organizations offer certifications for Cybersecurity professionals, which demonstrate to employers that these candidates have the necessary skills, knowledge, and dedication for the role. Some colleges even include certification opportunities within a Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree Program.

Here are a few of the most compelling reasons to earn your Cybersecurity Certification:

  • Earning a certification in this field can help you gain the respect of your professional peers and future employers. Even if you are just starting out in your Cybersecurity career, you can feel confident and competent on your first day. Going the extra mile and earning a certificate demonstrates your commitment to quality and professionalism.
  • Whether you are considering a Cybersecurity degree or already have one and are now looking for ways to further your education, a Cybersecurity certification could be just the ticket. By working towards an additional certification, you’ll stay updated with the latest advancements in the industry and expand your professional network at conferences and seminars. You never know where your next opportunity may arise.
  • Along with your Cybersecurity degree, a Cybersecurity certification can lend you extra leverage when negotiating salary. Remember, job potential earnings can vary from state to state and region to region, so be prepared for the discussion.
  • Cybersecurity is an important job. Should you choose to pursue this field of study by earning a degree and certifications, you’ll be making a positive difference in the world by protecting others from cyberattacks, theft, fraud, and more. Cybercrime is on the rise, and as technology advances, so do the cybercriminals.

Guide to Cybersecurity Certifications

There may be some requirements and boxes to check before working towards a Cybersecurity certification. The most important first step to become a certified professional is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity from a regionally-accredited university. This degree should form a solid educational foundation upon which you can continue to build and grow.

Cybersecurity Certifications

  • CompTIA A+ - entry level
    • Offered by the nonprofit trade association Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), an A+ is widely considered the industry standard for any career in Information Technology (IT).
    • The entry level A+ certification covers hardware and software foundations required by employers for IT technical support positions, due to the performance-based nature of the role.
    • This certification program is regularly reviewed and updated by IT experts to ensure that it imbues graduates with the skills and abilities most highly valued (and needed) for the workplace.
    • CompTIA A+ is trusted worldwide as the go-to proof that a candidate is capable in endpoint management and technical support roles.
    • Learn baseline security skills, troubleshooting and problem-solving, data backup and recovery methods, and so much more.
  • Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer (PCEP) - entry level
    • Offered by the Python Institute Online Education & Development Group, this certification demonstrates familiarity with universal programming concepts (data types, containers, functions, conditions, loops, syntax, semantics, runtime environments). 
    • Terms & definitions, Python's logic & structure, literals, variables, numeral systems, operators, data types, I/O operations, control flow mechanisms, data collections, functions, exceptions, and more.
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) - fundamentals
    • CCNA Certifications are offered by industry giant Cisco, and act as a comprehensive gateway to the Cisco technological world (which is vast and complex).
    • A CCNA Certification is best for those who are already capable of subnetting, managing Wi-Fi networks, pulling and labeling cable, etc.
    • Becoming a Cisco Certified Network Associate involves routing, VLSM, VLAN, and theoretical as well as practical switching.
  • CompTIA Security+ - intermediate
    • CompTIA’s Security+ takes the next steps in your Cybersecurity education by applying your knowledge to hands-on practical applications.
    • Security+ Certificate holders are favored by enterprise corporations and defense organizations when it comes to securing systems, software, and hardware.
    • This certification program emphasizes practical core technical skills such as Risk Assessment, Incident Response, Forensics, Security Controls, and more, to prepare you for real-world troubleshooting.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) - advanced​
    • Offered by the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) a CEH Certification can impart the latest large-scale hacking techniques on the rise in the field of Cybersecurity.
    • Through coursework and hands-on hacking challenges, learn to attack vectors, exploit technologies, analyze malware, and more.

As mentioned above, the best colleges and university programs will incorporate certification programs into their degree courses and align them with the curriculum. While you’re working towards your Cybersecurity degree, you could also sit for these certification exams.

Steps to Becoming a Cybersecurity Professional:

  • Complete your coursework to earn your Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity
  • Sign up for test prep through your university
  • Complete practice tests until you meet success thresholds
  • Request and receive test vouchers to sit for exams at significantly discounted rates
  • Register for the certification, take the exam, earn bragging rights

If you don’t pass the exam on the first try, don’t fret. You can always try again, and be thankful you didn’t have to pay full price! The more exams you take and the more certifications you earn, the easier they become.

Are You Ready to Start a Cybersecurity Career?

Interested in a career in cybersecurity? ECPI University offers discount vouchers to significantly reduce the cost of Cybersecurity Certification exams, and our experienced faculty and staff will also help you study. Consider enrolling for a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science with a major in Cyber and Network Security at ECPI University. Connect with a knowledgeable admissions representative for more information.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated ECPI University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) for the Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science: Cyber and Information Security Technology major, Cybersecurity Track through academic year 2023. Designation Letter can be viewed here.

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