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CISM and CISSP: Which is Best for You?

By: Jenna Waters, Senior Security Consultant at Cerberus Sentinel

According to Fortinet’s recent report, 80% of organizations suffered one or more breaches that they could attribute to a lack of cybersecurity skills and/or awareness.

Not only is the cybersecurity workforce gap an international crisis in the global economy, but also it’s a matter of national security and opportunity for governments around the globe. In short, cyber skills gap is very real, and there has never been a better time to position yourself for career growth. Having recently added CISSP to my own certifications as a Senior Security Consultant, AQSA, and PCI specialist at Cerberus Sentinel, I’d like to share some insight for your journey.

CISM CISSP Featured image

Specialization and credentialing within the cybersecurity field is a critical and necessary step toward advancing a career in an industry that is defined by (and has redefined) the world of digital information. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) are cybersecurity certifications that are considered required and thus in high demand. They are competitive credentials that demonstrate the required knowledge for security professionals around the world. 

Differences between CISM and CISSP?

Understanding the strategic advantages of the CISM and CISSP certifications will help your decision as to which one you should earn. It should be noted, however. that from a comparative standpoint the CISSP and CISM certifications complement rather than compete with one another. In other words, both are great to have as a cybersecurity professional.

The CISM certification is managerial based indicating that you understand the business objectives vis-à-vis a company’s cyber landscape.  It focuses on the management of an organization’s security program enumerating the strategic goals of the security operations.  The CISM covers the following four cyber domains:

  • Information Security Governance
  • Information Risk Management and Compliance
  • Information Security Program Development and Management
  • Information Security Incident Management 

The CISSP certification is both technical and managerial preferred for those s who design, engineer, implement the cybersecurity tools and processes of an organization. The CISSP highlights eight cyber domains: 

  • Security and Risk Management 
  • Asset Security
  • Security Architecture and Engineering 
  • Communication and Network Security 
  • Identity and Access Management 
  • Security Assessment and Testing
  • Security Operations 
  • Software Development Security 

The similarities between the CISM and CISSP are best summarized as follows: 

  • vendor-agnostic,
  • offered by independent agencies,  
  • need a certain number of years of cybersecurity experience prior to sitting for the exam, and
  • require continuing education and training to maintain the certification.

CISSP stands out as the premier credential for information security leaders, identifying those who possess the advanced skills required to design, implement, and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program. 

Worldwide there are more than 156,000 CISSPs compared to just over 48,000 CISMs. According to ZipRecruiter, the national (US) average annual salary of a professional with a CISSP is just shy of $130,000 and a CISM slightly higher at $130,645.  

Where Certifications Fit In Your Career Growth 

If you decide to pursue the CISM, CISSP, or ultimately both, it’s important to remember that this signals a commitment to grow and learn as innovation continues and attitudes change in our industry. While many industry professionals and HR departments take credentials like these into consideration when recruiting cybersecurity professionals, real world experience will always trump the number of certification acronyms on your resume. For this reason, it is even more important for an individual to be selective in the credentials and certifications they pursue and ensure they align with their future career goals. Getting a certification, just for the sake of having it, does not guarantee success and can never replace experience and subject matter knowledge accumulated over years in the field. A certification should enhance and communicate your level of industry knowledge.

We value your commitment to the cybersecurity industry and see ourselves as compatriots, working together to make positive change by creating cultures of cybersecurity wherever we are. If you are interested in joining the Cerberus team, check out our Careers page for current listings and click “Learn More” on what catches your attention!