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Cyber Security Certification Path

By DeVry University

May 13, 2023
9 min read

When applying for cyber security jobs, showing employers that you’ve followed a cyber security certification path can be a great way to prove you’ve got the skills they’re looking for. Cyber security certifications are typically awarded by highly regarded industry associations and show that the holder has a high level of competence with a particular skill.

Certifications are more than just a nice-to-have thing. They can be a useful tool as you prepare to advance in your career, not to mention a boost to your self-confidence. Each certification on your resume demonstrates your abilities in specific areas of IT security and may help you stand out among other IT professionals as a strong job candidate.

The process of studying for a certification exam can also help reinforce many of the concepts you already know and introduce you to new information in cyber security architecture and operations that you can utilize on your cyber security career path.


In this article, you'll learn about cyber security certifications, why they’re important and how to prepare yourself to pursue them as we explore the following sections:

Do I Need Advanced Cyber Security Qualifications or Certifications?

A cyber security certification can help you prepare to pursue certain entry-level positions in the cyber security field. Advanced certifications may help you work toward a promotion or meet certain qualifications for intermediate to advanced-level positions. Keep in mind that, for some jobs in the cyber security field, certification in a particular area may be a prerequisite for consideration or hiring.

Following a cyber security certification path can also help you continue your learning journey as you move up in your career.

Cyber Security Certifications You Should Consider

Whatever your personal goals, cyber security certifications that you may consider pursuing at the beginner, intermediate and advanced stages of your career include:

CompTIA A+

An entry-level certification that speaks to your ability to perform basic IT tasks. Areas covered include networking, hardware, troubleshooting, operating systems and network tests.

CompTIA Cloud+

A certification that demonstrates your capability to perform cloud computing tasks. It primarily covers your ability to set up, manage and troubleshoot cloud computing systems.


A certification that shows that you are capable of utilizing the Linux operating system. It mostly touches on how this operating system interacts with devices.


A certification designed to prove your knowledge of emerging technologies such as cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT).

CompTIA PenTest+

A cyber security-focused certification that verifies your abilities as a penetration tester or ethical hacker, testing systems by using techniques similar to those malicious hackers might employ.

CompTIA Security+

This cyber security certification proves your ability to perform basic cyber security defense tasks such as testing the strength of a network and system construction capabilities.

ComptTIA CySA+

Focusing on your ability to proactively capture, monitor and respond to network traffic findings, this intermediate-level analyst credential emphasizes software and application security, automation, incident response, threat hunting and IT regulatory compliance.

EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Similar to the PenTest+ certification, this credential from the EC Council verifies your ability to conduct penetration testing, which is also called ethical hacking, to exploit vulnerabilities in computer networks.

EC Council Certified Network Defender (CND)

This cyber security certification is the defensive counterpart to the EC Council's Ethical Hacker credential. It proves your ability to set up secure networks and systems and is often pursued by network administrators.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Offered by ISC2, the CISSP credential is intended for experienced information security practitioners who want to advance to senior-level positions in the field.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

Another offering from ISC2, the SSCP certification demonstrates advanced technical skills and knowledge to monitor, implement and manage IT infrastructure using ISC2-established best practices, policies and procedures. This credential is optimal for network security professionals responsible for the operational security of critical assets.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

This certification verifies skills in auditing, controlling and securing information systems. The top CISA skills are vulnerability assessment and identification, information systems (IS) audit and assurance guidelines, governance and IT management, and IS operations maintenance and service management.

Certified Digital Forensics Examiner (CDFE)

Designed to train cybercrime and fraud investigators, the CDFE program from the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) teaches discovery and advanced investigative techniques. The credential is intended for anyone encountering digital forensics in an investigation. 

While there are many options to choose from, it’s best to create a cyber security certification path that fits your personal goals. Combining one or more of the above certifications with a cyber security-focused degree or undergraduate certificate may increase your chances of standing out to employers by showcasing your knowledge and comprehension of the field.

How to Prepare for a Cyber Security Certification Exam

There is no one-size fits-all approach to preparing for a cyber security certification exam. You may want to experiment with a variety of strategies such as diligent studying, taking practice exams or taking  a course.

If you’re just beginning your cyber security education, earning a cyber security certificate through an undergraduate certificate program can help you familiarize yourself with some of the basics of cyber security.

An undergraduate certificate is a non-degree college credential that is generally earned in less time than a full-length degree. Certificate programs cover some of the basic concepts that one might find in a cyber security associate degree or bachelor's degree program, but with fewer course requirements. This makes an undergraduate certificate an excellent choice for anyone who wants to earn a credential and build their skills quickly so they can prepare to enter the workforce sooner.

Earning a certificate can be useful when looking for entry-level opportunities in the cyber security and information technology fields, but it can also be a foundational credential to build on as well, especially if you’re looking to advance your education. At DeVry, our online Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security can help you build your hands-on experience while gaining qualifying credits that can apply toward an associate or bachelor's degree1 in a related field, should you continue your education with us.

How to Choose Which Cyber Security Certification to Pursue

With so many options, which cyber security certification path should you pursue? According to Indeed, employers may encourage, or even require, their new cyber security hires to earn certifications that are targeted to specific areas of cyber security. They describe 12 cyber security certifications for beginners, covering everything from cyber security fundamentals to specific topics such as penetration testing, networks, risk management and cryptography. Indeed’s list of recommended certifications includes several of the credentials we’ve outlined here.

Cyber security industry insiders recommend that beginners look for certifications that are widely recognized, require only one exam and have no minimum requirement for experience in the field.  Based on these criteria, a 3-step cyber security certification path for beginners would start with CompTIA’s Network+ and/or Security+, then move on to Cisco’s CCNA or CompTIA’s CySA+ and finish up with CompTIA’s Linux+ and/or PenTest+. 

Do I Need Hands-on Training to Pursue a Job in Cyber Security?

Hands-on cyber security training can be beneficial for those looking to find a job in the field. This style of training reinforces concepts learned in the classroom and helps prepare you to adapt to the modern workplace. Hands-on learning may also help you more thoroughly grasp many of the concepts that are covered by cyber security certification exams.

You can pursue hands-on learning through several different methods including work experience or education. While you can get hands-on experience in the field, some cyber security programs, such as our Associate Degree in Cybersecurity and Networking or our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Cyber Security, offer hands-on learning methods built into their curriculum, and teach students through simulations of real-world problems.

Hands-on experience can also help you choose which cyber security certification path you want to pursue. If you’re interested in getting hands-on learning before deciding on a cyber security certification, our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security program includes several learning opportunities. For instance, our course on network security testing includes a lab element where you'll have the chance to test the security of a real network. Plus, our course on ethical hacking gives you the opportunity to explore and execute ethical hacking programs the way you might in the field.

Do I Need Experience to Go into Cyber Security?

The minimum application requirements for a cyber security job will vary, depending on the employer and the qualifications required for the position. If you haven’t worked in a cyber security role previously, you may need to pursue an entry-level IT position to gain some hands-on industry experience before making the transition into cyber security.    

Do I Need to be Able to Program before Pursuing a Qualification in Cyber Security?

No, you do not need to be able to program before pursuing many lower-level cyber security certifications. However, a program like our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security explores foundational programming elements needed to help you start pursuing higher-level industry certifications.

Still, many cyber security jobs require candidates to have competency across a few basic programming languages. Understanding these languages is not only important for finding employment, but also needed to protect customer data. Those looking to pursue a career in cyber security may enroll in a programming essentials course if they so choose.

Cyber Security Certifications for Beginners

To earn a cyber security certification, you need to pass a standardized exam. As you begin your preparation, it might help to familiarize yourself with a variety of cyber security concepts. An education is just one way to do that.

Our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security was designed to help you develop many of the skills that are covered in various cyber security certification exams. 

Some of the courses you'll take as a part of this program include:

  • Introduction to Technology and Information Systems

  • Introduction to Operating Systems

  • Introduction to Programming

  • Introduction to Digital Devices

  • Fundamentals of Information Security

  • Fundamentals of Infrastructure Security

  • Ethical Hacking

  • Principles and Theory of Security Management

  • Network Security Testing with Lab

If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in cyber security and want to learn more about the field and the industry’s certifications, check out our article on how to get into cyber security.

Ready to Learn More?

An Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security can be the first step in your journey toward a new career protecting critical data systems and networks from cybercriminals. We can help you develop the skills cyber defenders need and prepare you to pursue industry-recognized certifications. Balance your commitment to education with work, family and other elements of your busy life with our 100% online class options. Ready to get started? 

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credits will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.

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