CISSP vs CISA - Which Certification You Should Pursue


CISSP vs CISA - Which Certification You Should Pursue

Those individuals who have chosen to pursue a career in cyber-security in today’s world need to be lauded. That’s because, as the list of cyber-attacks grows and each one of these attacks becomes more intense, the demand for qualified Cybersecurity individuals will be on a consistent rise. And according to many different surveys, this demand is only likely to grow more in the future.

The current field of cybersecurity can give an incredible amount of financial benefits in the form of above-industry average salaries in the IT domain. But how do you increase your chances of not just landing a great job but negotiating a better salary package than your peers? One answer is certifications.

Global Knowledge ran a survey in 2018 which stated 41% of employers in the U.S. consider it a big challenge to find professionals who have certifications. On top of this, a certified professional in this sector will earn around 22% more on average as compared to those who don’t have these certifications.

The incentives to pursue professional certifications are strong, but which certifications should you opt for if you are willing to give your cybersecurity career a boost?

In the cybersecurity industry, two certification providers are highly recognized, ISC and ISACA, with both of them offering unique certifications. In this article, we’ll discuss each of the certifications, ISC’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

These certifications are for experienced professionals in the cybersecurity field. At least five years of experience is required to become eligible to enroll in them. There is also an incredible amount of maintenance and investment required post certification to continue maintaining the validity of these certifications.

Considering these requirements, the choice is not an easy decision to make. It’s best that you gain in-depth knowledge of what exactly each of these certifications entail, their advantages and what each offers.

Here is our analysis and a comparison of both certifications, which is aimed to arm you with the right knowledge necessary to make the best decision:

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)


CISSP is the top course offered by ISC and it’s popular, as more than 140,000 successful professionals hold this certification in the world.

Primed for top-level executives like managers and cybersecurity practitioners, this course focuses on multiple skills related to managing a cybersecurity environment in an organization ranging from implementation, design, control and even maintenance.

Candidates can even opt for three advanced level certifications in addition to this base course that focus on architecture, engineering and management of information systems security.

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Becoming a Qualified CISSP Professional

Passing the course is not enough to become a qualified CISSP professional. Prior work experience in a cybersecurity role for at least five years is also mandatory to enroll in this course in at least two of the following areas:

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

After passing the course, you will have a period of just nine months in which you have to secure an official endorsement by another CISSP certified professional.

Continuing the Certification’s Validity

An $85 fee is paid annually to keep your CISSP valid, but this validity period lasts for just three years, after which you have to take the exam again and repeat all other processes. If you want to avoid this, 120 continuing professional education (CPE) credits are required over the course of these three years.

Financial Incentives

The requirements to become a CISSP certified professional might be quite stringent, but the financial reward is worth the effort. The Global Information Security Workforce study in 2017 reported that a professional could earn up to $120,000 in average salary after becoming a CISSP professional, making a CISSP the most lucrative certification in the cybersecurity domain.

Read more: SSCP Vs CISSP; Which Is Better

Certified Information Systems Auditor – CISA


For jobs related to governance and audit of enterprise IT business systems, CISA is the course you need to opt for. Passing this course and all its requirements will enable you to perform tasks such as analysis, control, monitoring and audit of cybersecurity networks. Most professionals that get this certification are specialized in governance, consultancy or audit.

Individuals who come under these five CISA job domains are eligible to enroll in the course:

  • Domain 1: The Process of Auditing Information Systems
  • Domain 2: Governance and Management of IT
  • Domain 3: Information Systems Acquisition, Development and Implementation
  • Domain 4: Information Systems Operations, Maintenance and Service Management
  • Domain 5: Protection and Information Assets

Becoming a Qualified CISSP Professional

Candidates require five years of prior experience in related job domains (listed above), an agreement to observe the certification’s code of ethics and passing the course itself. The CISA exam is held at three different times each year.

Continuing the Certification’s Validity

A maintenance fee of $45 for members of its accreditation body and $85 for non-members is to be paid each year. The certification will expire after three years if you don’t earn 20 CPEs each year.

Financial Incentives

With an average salary in the range of $97,000, becoming a CISA professional will allow you to attain the average salary range currently prevalent in the U.S.

Which One Should You Exactly Opt For?

If you take a look at the average salary you can earn with each certification, then CISSP is obviously the more lucrative career choice with earnings much higher than a CISA professional. While financial incentives are definitely one of the most important factors that can affect your final decision, you should really introspect in your career path before making the plunge.

CISA is most suitable for you if you wish to remain in audit or governance-related roles in the cybersecurity industry. But if you want to gain a high-level certification that enables you to become an authority on most cybersecurity related aspects, then CISSP is the most suitable choice you can opt for.

Connect with our experts for a detailed understanding on which certification to opt for. 

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