5 Best Cybersecurity Certifications for Beginners (+ Tips to Prepare)

Updated May 2023

Cybersecurity is a hot field. We're seeing a massive skills gap in this industry with huge demand for trained professionals all over the world.

On any given day, there are thousands of unfilled cybersecurity jobs across Canada. The shortage of talent is making it easier for newcomers to land their first job - and giving salaries a good boost, too.

Hoping to ride this wave and break into the industry? One way to begin is by earning globally recognized cybersecurity certifications.

Certifications can make a big difference for beginners. In a survey by ESG and ISSA, 42 percent of cybersecurity pros said certifications were just as important as hands-on experience when it came to finding a job.

But there are so many options at so many skill levels. Which ones are best if you're just starting out?

In this post, we take you through 5 of the best cybersecurity certifications for beginners plus tips on how to prepare for exams.

Let's dive in.



Security+ is a vendor-neutral cybersecurity certification for beginners. It tests your ability to install and manage security systems, mitigate risks, and respond to security incidents.

It's aimed at security administrators, systems administrators, IT support specialists, and network engineers.

There are no formal requirements to take the exam. However, CompTIA recommends that candidates have the Network+ credential plus a couple years of IT security administration experience.

The exam is 1.5 hours long. It includes multiple-choice questions along with performance-based tasks.

Testing covers topics like:

☑️ Vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks

☑️ Network design and architecture

☑️ Access and identity management

☑️ Threat detection and risk mitigation

☑️ Cryptography



The SSCP is an entry-level certification from ISC2 that focuses on IT infrastructure security. It's geared toward systems administrators, security analysts, network security engineers, database administrators, and similar professionals.

The three-hour exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions.

To become certified, you must have one year of experience in at least one of the seven domains covered on the test. These include:

☑️ Security administration and operations

☑️ Applications and system security

☑️ Network and communications security

☑️ Access controls

☑️ Risk identification, analysis, and monitoring

☑️ Incident response and recovery

☑️ Cryptography



The CEH certification from EC-Council validates your ability to break into networks and systems to find security flaws and vulnerabilities.

You don't need any formal training to take the exam if you have two years of related experience.

The exam has 125 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in four hours. It tests your knowledge in areas like:

☑️ IT security controls and laws

☑️ Reconnaissance and attack techniques

☑️ Hacking tactics for networks, web applications, and mobile platforms

☑️ Cloud computing

☑️ Cryptography



The OSCP is focused on penetration testing. It's useful for network administrators and other security professionals who want to prove their knowledge of hacking techniques and tools.

You don't need any work experience. But you must take Offensive Security's PEN-200 training course.

You should have a solid grasp of networking and Linux fundamentals before you enroll.

The exam is a hands-on exercise. Instead of a written test, you're given a few IP addresses and must find a way to hack into them within 24 hours.



Also from ISC2, the CCSP certification validates your ability to manage and secure data and applications in the cloud. It's designed for security administrators, systems architects, and the like.

This was one of the most popular certifications in a recent ISCN survey of over 90,000 cybersecurity professionals.

To become a CCSP, you must have five years of relevant experience. Internships (both paid and unpaid) and part-time work all count. 

That 5-year total should include three years in information security and at least one year in any of the following domains:

☑️ Cloud concepts, design, and architecture

☑️ Cloud data security

☑️ Cloud infrastructure and platform security

☑️ Cloud application security

☑️ Cloud operations

☑️ Legal and compliance



The CISSP from ISC2 consistently ranks as the most in-demand cybersecurity certification. In the ISCN survey, over 70 percent of respondents said the CISSP was the top cert employers looked for.

However, it's not for beginners. It's meant for seasoned IT security professionals, managers, and executives.

The CISSP requires five years of paid full-time information security experience in at least two different domains. But if you get the SSCP certification we mentioned above, you can shave a year off those requirements.

So if you're looking long term, the CISSP is a good credential to strive for.



There are basically three ways you can go.

1. Take provider training.

You can take official training courses from certification providers or authorized training representatives. Many offer a variety of self-paced or instructor-led options.

In cases like the OSCP, you have no choice. You must take the official course no matter what other education or experience you have.

The downside of going this route is that you will only learn what is necessary for those specific certs. The training is very narrow.


2. Study on your own.

You can read books, blogs, and online forums, and play around on your own until you master the concepts. This is the cheapest option.

But self-study alone doesn't work for everybody. It can be confusing and frustrating to try to teach yourself material you've never seen before.


3. Take a college course.

Focused college-level cybersecurity training can be a good middle ground.

It can help you develop the foundation of knowledge you need to prepare for multiple certifications. Plus, you can learn from experienced instructors and get hands-on help.

A good cybersecurity program will teach you about:

☑️ Security practices and risk mitigation techniques for Windows and Linux

☑️ Web application and cloud security

☑️ Ethical hacking tactics

☑️ Network monitoring methods

☑️ The latest IT security threats and vulnerabilities

Some accelerated cybersecurity courses can be completed in just 1 year. They can prepare you for valuable cybersecurity certifications like the SSCP, CCSP, and CISSP.

A good course can help you land your first cybersecurity job, where you can earn a salary while working toward certifications.



Cybersecurity certifications are helpful to advance your career and progress toward senior roles. But they aren't typically required for beginner positions.

In fact, you usually need a few years of work experience before you can become certified.

Completing a basic cybersecurity course can get you hired even without certifications. You can get your foot in the door and start gaining the experience required for certification.



Ready to take the first step toward cybersecurity certifications?

Check out Herzing College's unique cybersecurity program, which takes just 12 months to complete. The training is delivered online and helps prepare students for four different certifications:

☑️ Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

☑️ Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

☑️ Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

☑️ Cyber Security Practitioner (CSXP)

Wondering if it's right for you?

Click below to explore training details and connect live with an admissions advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Cybersecurity Diploma Program

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