Which cyber security certificate is right for you?

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Which cyber security certifications matter and which do not? Do you really need a cyber security certificate to work in the cyber industry? How much do they cost and do you have to keep paying for them every year? 

Deciding to change careers to the cyber security industry makes sense. Incredible job growth and very lucrative salaries even for entry-level roles, makes it an appealing career opportunity.

But after you make the no-brainer choice of becoming a cyber security professional, you are immediately bombarded with numerous certification exam tests all telling you that you need their certificate to work in the industry.

With so many cyber security certificate products out there, it’s very confusing and many people get hung up on this problem.

During the intensive Cyber Security Program run by the Institute of Data (IOD), we take a three-step approach to helping you solve the certificate problem:

  1. Firstly, our seasoned industry professionals teach you the practical skills you need to actually do the job and then certify your competency with both the IOD industry certificate and a university certificate
  2. We help you land your first industry role with our comprehensive Job Outcomes Program, dedicated career coaches (that you can access for 12 months after the course if you need to), industry network, and job board
  3. We help you identify which additional cyber security certificates (if any) make the most sense for you and help you to complete the requirements for them as well

Such a rigorous approach is important, because in fact, many aspiring cyber professionals come to the IOD after paying for and completing a certificate test and they tell us they haven’t been able to get a job. 

The reason for this is that in order to get a role in cyber security you need to have more than just a certificate. You also need:

Practical skills training To be able to do the job from day one
Project experience To discuss the problems you’ve solved and tell stories that demonstrate your knowledge and abilities in a job interview
Job outcomes skills & focus Salary negotiation skills, STAR technique mastery, interpersonal skills, discipline, motivation and focus so you can achieve success
Career support To assess your own strengths and weaknesses so you ensure you grow and don’t continue making the same mistakes
A network of peers and mentors So you can stay connected, get support and be supportive to others and stay in the loop. 


Remember, a certificate is just a piece of paper/PDF and it will not guarantee you a job. Having a certificate is just one of the many things you need to get into the industry. 

The good news is that if you learn the practical skills to perform the role and if you are taught by leading industry practitioners, then what you learn will align with any good quality certification product.

And yes! You absolutely can get into cyber security without any previous tech experience as our non-IT graduates can attest.

Here, we’ll explore three of the common cyber security certificate tests, and which one might be the best for you. You do need to understand which cyber security certificate makes the most sense for your circumstance.


Comptia A+. Comptia Security+. CompTIA Network+. CompTIA PenTest+. CompTIA CTT+, we could go on. There are over 10 different certifications provided by CompTIA alone. CompTIA (or the Computing Technology Industry Association) is one of the most well-known IT certification bodies across the globe. 

CompTIA certificates are organised by four groups:

  • Core, which is offered through 4 separate certifications that focus on separate aspects such as user support, device connectivity, and targeting core system connections with endpoint devices
  • Infrastructure, which has 3 different certifications available – Server+, aimed at issues in server support and administration, Cloud+, which covers hybrid cloud, virtual system administration and deploying network storage resources, and Linux+ which teaches the Linux operating system management and administration
  • Cybersecurity, which are certificates for those already established in cyber security and looking to further their knowledge through gaining credentials such as the CySA+, CASP+ and PenTest+
  • And finally, Additional Professional Certificates, which are bridging pathways to master-level credentials and have been specifically designed for highly experienced cyber security professionals

The cost of a CompTIA certificate test varies across each of the 4 levels, with individual certificates priced at a range between $478 to $649SGD. Institute of Data students can access discounted CompTIA tests as well, so ask your Course Advisor for more details. Classes are run virtually and are self-paced, which can be great for those who don’t mind going at it alone, but the level of autonomy provided might be unsettling for students who could benefit from that additional hands-on support of a trainer. 

Their certifications test beginners for the basic IT fundamentals needed across various IT pathways, and while they test you for foundational knowledge, they don’t provide support when it comes to job-hunting and employment. 


The CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification is offered by the ISC², or the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. This certification covers cyber security aspects such as:

  • 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 and security

The CISSP is best for those who are already established in the cyber security field. Gaining a CISSP certification is a great way to build on pre-existing cyber security knowledge, but it’s definitely not a great avenue for those with no previous cyber security experience.

Especially because payment can be quite a barrier for this particular certification. Fees include $974SGD, which is the cost of actually sitting the CISSP exam, plus an annual maintenance fee of $175SGD if you want to keep your certification. There’s also a requirement of previous work experience in the field, which needs to be endorsed by cyber security professionals with whom you’ve worked. 


CISA, or Certified Information Systems Auditor, certification is suitable for entry-to-mid level cyber security professionals. CISA is provided by an international organisation called ISACA, who also offer a range of other certifications such as the CRISC, CISM, CGEIT, CSX-P, and CDPSE. 

CISA certifications cover cyber security domains such as information systems auditing, governance and management of IT, information systems acquisition, development and implementation, operations and business resilience, and protection of information assets. 

Perhaps most importantly, achieving CISA certifications can be an arduous process as it includes an intensive exam – and in order to even sit this exam, you’re required to have employment experience in the cyber security field. 

As for payment for this particular certification? You can opt for an ISACA membership prior to sitting the CISA exam, which ranges from $0–$200SGD, depending on both where you’re located and if you’re a professional or a student. While this isn’t a necessary step, being an ISACA member gives you access to a discount on the CISA exam itself. ISACA members pay $802SGD to sit the exam, while non-members pay $1,054SGD. 

And unfortunately, these fees aren’t refundable or transferable, which isn’t good news if you don’t pass or are unable to sit your booked exam. It’s also important to mention that the cost of the exam doesn’t cover any study materials you’ll need, which can cost anywhere between $55SGD to over $400SGD. 

There’s also an application processing fee after you’ve passed your exam and have the required hours of work experience, which is a further $70SGD for both ISACA members and non-members.

Plus, CISA has a yearly membership fee you’re required to pay. This comes in at around $60SGD per year for ISACA members, and $120SGD for non-members.

So many acronyms, what’s the easiest way?

Too many options might seem like a good thing – after all, all these certifications certainly sound legit, but actually, none of them will guarantee you a job. They can seem too good to be true, but without career coaching and support (which the majority of these certificates don’t offer) you might find the struggle to get a job is real, and the certificate is not much help.

So, what will actually help you get a job? A certificate looks good on paper and it might get you an interview. But, employers are looking for people to hire who have the practical skills needed to get the job done, interpersonal skills required to excel in market, and the ability to speak the industry language. 

You need to be able to show you can back up any certifications you have with skills and knowledge, and we’ve found the best way to do this is through guidance from industry professionals who do the job themselves and know what is involved day to day. 

The Institute of Data only selects trainers that work in the industry as professionals themselves. They are well-informed, they keep their finger on the pulse of all relevant news and trends, and share this knowledge with the students they guide and teach. 

That, alongside continued support from our Job Outcomes team, is why we have a 93% job success rate within 180 days of graduation. We not only provide you with a cyber security certificate, but we also provide you with every opportunity to help you to land your dream job in cyber security including access to an extensive industry network. 

The easiest place to start your journey and become a cyber security professional (even if you don’t have any previous experience like IOD graduate Ez Yiap) is to book a career consult with one of our expert course advisors. They’ll be able to help you solve the certification problem and take your first step towards a career as a cyber security professional.

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