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How to Earn the CISSP Certification for Cyber Security

By DeVry University

February 12, 2024

6 min read

As you look around at the different opportunities that exist in the information technology and cyber security fields, you may notice the range and abundance of industry-recognized certifications. One such certification is the CISSP. In this article, we will examine the CISSP, taking a close look at the benefits of CISSP certification, the scope of the CISSP exam and how you go about earning this credential.

What is the CISSP Certification?

Offered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2), the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential is designed for experienced cyber security professionals. It is intended to validate the skills associated with the design, implementation and management of a best-in-class cyber security program.

According to ICS2, the CISSP is ideal for cyber security practitioners with 5 or more years of professional experience, in positions like director of security, security systems engineer, security auditor and network architect, among others. This sets it apart from industry certifications intended for cyber security beginners

For cyber security professionals working in government, the CISSP certification meets the U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570.1.

Why is pursuing a career in cyber security worthwhile?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of information security analysts to grow 32% on a national level from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations, with around 16,800 job openings for these cyber security professionals each year, on average, over the decade.1 This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers. 

In making its projections, the BLS attributes this fast rate of employment growth to the need for cyber defenders to safeguard against threats to information systems, such as in healthcare, where the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and the rise of telehealth is expected to increase data security risks for healthcare providers.   

Benefits of CISSP Certification

Amidst a competitive employment landscape in the information security industry, CISSP certification can deliver the following potential benefits to experienced cyber security professionals:

  • Build cyber security knowledge: To pass the CISSP exam and maintain certification, the CISSP process requires cyber security professionals to build familiarity with a broad range of relevant information in the cyber security environment. After earning certification, the continuing professional education requirements of the CISSP ensure that holders maintain skills that are relevant and current.

  • Become a more competitive job candidate: As a resume-builder, the CISSP is an effective way to signify to prospective employers that you are a candidate with a minimum of 4 or 5 years of hands-on cyber security experience. In its 2021 workforce study, ISC2 found that CISSP certification was, in fact, the most commonly-held certification among experienced cyber security pros.

  • Networking opportunities: All CISSP certification holders become members of ISC2, a group of more than 365,000 cyber security professionals, associates and candidates. This affiliation affords each CISSP the opportunity to network with members to share knowledge and discover opportunities for further career advancement. ISC2 members must also commit to and fully support the organization’s Code of Ethics.

  • Employers report benefits as well: Participants in the ISC2 study we previously mentioned recognized that workers with the CISSP credential had a deeper knowledge of critical cyber security topics, and these certified workers increased the confidence in their teams’ abilities to handle security challenges. Employers further acknowledged that certification allows them to hire high-level workers with more work experience and demonstrated skills in cyber security.

What Does the CISSP Exam Cover?

As is the case with many other cyber security-related certifications, the CISSP entails passing a certification exam. The 250-question CISSP exam covers 8 cyber security domains:

1. Security and risk management
2. Asset security
3. Security architecture and engineering
4. Communications and network security
5. Identity and access management
6. Security assessment and testing
7. Security operations
8. Software development security

ISC2 provides an Exam Outline and several resources for exam preparation. The exam currently has a 4-hour time limit, but ISC2 has announced that, effective April 2024, the test will have a time limit of 3 hours and contain 100-150 items.

How to Earn the CISSP Certification?

CISSP certification requires a multi-step process that is a bit more complex than merely submitting an application and taking an exam. Here’s an outline of the process:

  • Schedule your exam: Get information regarding pricing, review the requirements for CISSP candidates and find the exam agreement. You’ll be expected to set up an ISC2 account. After submitting your account information, you’ll be redirected to the Pearson VUE website. CISSP Exams are administered at Pearson VUE testing centers, and you will choose your test location when you register. At this step in the process, you will also learn about exam pricing and pay for your exam.

  • Prep for the exam: Before your exam, prepare by reviewing exam formats, scoring details and how to request special accommodations if you need them. Exam outlines are available for all ISC2 certifications providing details of all the domains covered on each exam. ISC2 provides CISSP training in different formats, including online self-paced or instructor-led training, or classroom-based training.

  • Take the exam: When you arrive at the test center, you will be required to show 2 forms if ID, give a palm vein scan and have your photo taken. After a brief orientation you’ll be escorted to a computer terminal, where you will have to agree to the terms of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before beginning your exam. To pass, you need a score of at least 700 out of a total of 1,000.

  • After the exam: When you’ve completed your CISSP Exam, official exam results will be emailed to you by ISC2. If you passed, you’ll be given instructions on how to complete your certification process. If you don’t pass on your first attempt, a retake policy allows you to retest after 30 test-free days and up to 4 exam attempts within a 12-month period.  After passing the exam, the final step is an endorsement process, which verifies that you have the industry experience required. Your endorsement application must be signed by an ISC2-certified professional in good standing and, once approved, your membership cycle begins.

Prepare to Make Your Mark in Cyber Security with a Flexible, Online Degree from DeVry

If you’re interested in building a career around safeguarding networks and data systems from cybercriminals, our online Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Cyber Security may be right for you. This degree program can show you first-hand many of the methods used to protect organizations from hackers, such as network security testing, countermeasure testing and risk factor analysis as you prepare to pursue a number of cyber security career opportunities.

At DeVry, you can choose the schedule that fits best with your professional goals and personal commitments. On an accelerated schedule, you can earn this degree in as little as 2 years and 8 months or follow a normal schedule and complete the program in 4 years.2  

1 Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.
2Per 12-month period, assumes completion of 3 semesters, enrollment in 12-19 credit hours per semester and continuous, full-time year-round enrollment with no breaks. Per 12-month period, assumes completion of 2 semesters and full-time enrollment in 12-19 credit hours per semester.

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