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March 25, 2024

If you're aiming to elevate your cybersecurity career, pursuing a certification is an excellent strategy. Two of the most prestigious certifications in the field are CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker). Each certification serves a unique purpose and can set your career on a different trajectory. Given their significance, the question arises: which one should you choose?

In this article, we will delve into the primary differences between CISSP and CEH and highlight their benefits. Our goal is to equip you with the essential information needed to make an informed decision and help you understand which certification best aligns with your career objectives in the dynamic field of cybersecurity

What Is CISSP Certification?

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a globally recognized certification offered by ISC2 that validates an individual's expertise and knowledge in the field of information security. 

Designed for security practitioners, managers, and executives, the CISSP certification demonstrates an individual's ability to design, implement, and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program. With a CISSP, professionals are acknowledged as having the high-level technical skills and knowledge necessary to protect organizations from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

Advantages of Becoming a CISSP

  1. Recognition of Expertise: Earning a CISSP certification places you among the elite group of security professionals recognized globally for their expertise in information security. This certification is highly respected by companies worldwide, enhancing your professional credibility and reputation in the cybersecurity domain.
  2. Increased Job Opportunities: CISSP certification opens the door to a myriad of cybersecurity roles. Employers often list CISSP as a preferred or required qualification for positions such as Security Manager, IT Director/Manager, Security Analyst, Security Systems Engineer, and more. This certification significantly broadens your job prospects and opportunities for advancement.
  3. Higher Salary Potential: CISSP-certified professionals command higher salaries compared to their non-certified peers. The certification is often associated with top-tier salary brackets due to the high demand for skilled and certified information security personnel. Therefore, investing in CISSP certification can lead to a substantial return in terms of salary and compensation benefits.
  4. Professional Development and Networking: By becoming a CISSP, you gain access to a vast network of like-minded professionals and continuous learning opportunities. ISC2 offers resources, educational programs, and networking events that keep you at the forefront of cybersecurity advancements and trends. This ongoing professional development is crucial for staying relevant in the fast-evolving cybersecurity landscape.
  5. Enhanced Job Security: As cybersecurity threats continue to escalate, the demand for qualified security professionals is at an all-time high. CISSP certification enhances job security as organizations prioritize retaining employees with proven expertise in safeguarding their data and IT infrastructure.

What Is CEH Certification?

The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is a prestigious credential in cybersecurity offered by the EC-Council. It is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of hacking tools and techniques from an ethical standpoint, enabling professionals to assess the security of computer systems legally.

The CEH certification equips individuals with the knowledge to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in target systems, employing the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a system.

Advantages of Becoming a CEH

  1. Mastery of Ethical Hacking Techniques: Achieving CEH certification demonstrates your expertise in the latest ethical hacking techniques, tools, and methodologies used by hackers and information security professionals. It signifies that you possess the practical skills necessary to test, secure, and manage your organization's networks and information systems effectively.
  2. Recognition in the Cybersecurity Community: Holding a CEH certification is highly regarded in the cybersecurity community and beyond. It validates your commitment to cybersecurity and ethical hacking as a profession, setting you apart as a trusted and knowledgeable security expert capable of addressing and mitigating potential threats.
  3. Increased Career Opportunities: CEH certification opens up a wide range of career paths within the cybersecurity domain, including roles such as Ethical Hacker, Security Consultant, Information Security Analyst, Security Engineer, and Penetration Tester. Organizations across various sectors seek CEH-certified professionals to strengthen their defense mechanisms against cyber attacks.
  4. Higher Earning Potential: Professionals with a CEH certification often enjoy a competitive edge in the job market, leading to higher salary prospects. The specialized knowledge and skills verified by this certification are in high demand, translating into lucrative compensation packages for certified ethical hackers.
  5. Stay Ahead of Security Trends: The CEH certification requires you to stay updated with the latest cybersecurity trends, tools, and technologies. This continuous learning ensures you are well-equipped to protect against emerging security threats, keeping your organization's data and systems safe in a constantly evolving digital landscape.

CISSP vs. CEH: Pros and Cons

Feature

CISSP

CEH

Focus

Comprehensive coverage of information security management and technical operations.

Ethical hacking techniques and tools to assess the security posture of information systems.

Pros

  • Recognized globally across industries.
  • Opens doors to both technical and high-level security roles.
  • Ensures a deep understanding of various domains of information security.
  • Provides practical skills in ethical hacking and penetration testing.
  • Highly valued by employers for roles that require defensive and offensive security capabilities.
  • Encourages a hands-on approach to cybersecurity, focusing on real-world applications.

Cons

  • Requires broad knowledge across eight domains, making it challenging to prepare for.
  • May be perceived as too broad for specialists who prefer to focus on specific areas of cybersecurity.
  • Primarily focused on offensive security, which might not align with all cybersecurity roles.
  • Requires constant updating of skills to stay relevant with the latest hacking techniques.

CISSP vs. CEH: How Do They Differ

CISSP and CEH certifications stand at different spectrums of the cybersecurity field, each with its unique emphasis and scope. Let's explore the distinct paths they carve out, helping you discern which certification is the right fit for your professional journey.

Eligibility Requirements

Many cybersecurity certifications, including CISSP and CEH, set specific prerequisites to ensure candidates possess the necessary experience and knowledge before taking the exam. Understanding what experiences and educational backgrounds qualify you for these exams is crucial. Here's a closer look at what you need to meet these requirements.

CISSP Eligibility Requirements

For the CISSP certification, candidates are expected to have a substantial background in information security. Specifically, you need five years of full-time, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK). There is flexibility in meeting this requirement; part-time work and internships that align with the CBK domains can also contribute towards this experience threshold.

Moreover, candidates holding a four-year college degree, an approved credential from the CISSP Prerequisite pathway, or an additional credential from the ISC2-approved list can reduce the required work experience to four years. This blend of practical experience and relevant education ensures that CISSP candidates have a well-rounded background in various aspects of information security.

CEH Eligibility Requirements

The CEH certification targets professionals with direct experience in information security, particularly in ethical hacking practices. Candidates should have at least two years of work experience in information security to apply for the CEH exam. This requirement ensures that examinees have been exposed to and understand security concerns and solutions in a real-world context.

While direct work experience is pivotal, the EC-Council provides an eligibility application process for candidates who may lack traditional experience but have equivalent educational or training backgrounds. This process allows a broader range of professionals to demonstrate their readiness for the certification exam, acknowledging the diverse paths individuals may take toward a career in ethical hacking.

Exam Details

For those who meet the eligibility criteria for both the CISSP and CEH exams, understanding the specific details of each exam can significantly influence your decision. The exam's structure, language availability, and content coverage are critical factors to consider, especially for non-native English speakers.

Choosing a certification exam that's available in your native language can not only make your preparation more manageable but also improve your chances of success. Here's what you need to know about each exam.

CISSP Exam Details

The CISSP exam is offered in multiple languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish. This ensures that candidates can take the exam in a language they're comfortable with, reducing language barriers to certification. The exam utilizes a Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) format for English-language candidates, offering a tailored testing experience that adjusts the difficulty of questions based on the candidate's responses. For other languages, a linear format is used, with a fixed set of questions for all examinees.

In terms of content, the CISSP exam covers eight domains from the CBK:

  1. Security and Risk Management (15%)
  2. Asset Security (10%)
  3. Security Architecture and Design (13%
  4. Communication and Network Security (13%)
  5. Identity and Access Management (IAM) (13%)
  6. Security Assessment and Testing (12%)
  7. Security Operations (13%)
  8. Software Development Security (11%)

This coverage ensures a comprehensive assessment of a candidate's knowledge across different areas of information security. The domains are weighted differently, reflecting their importance and relevance in the field, which guides the study focus of CISSP candidates.

CEH Exam Details

Similarly, the CEH exam is available in multiple languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. This inclusivity ensures that ethical hacking professionals can certify their skills without language being a barrier.

The CEH exam assesses a candidate's knowledge and skills in ethical hacking and penetration testing. It is structured in a linear format, with all candidates receiving the same set of questions. This approach ensures a standardized evaluation of abilities across the board. The exam covers 26 topics related to ethical hacking, including network and application attacks, security protocols, and methods for testing and securing systems against cyber threats.

Average Salary and Job Opportunities

Achieving certification in CISSP or CEH can significantly elevate your career in the cybersecurity field. Not only will it enhance your professional credibility, but it will also expand your access to higher-paying positions and a broader range of job opportunities. But what exactly can you expect to gain from each of these certifications in terms of financial rewards and career paths?

CISSP Average Salary and Job Opportunities

Holding a CISSP certification is often associated with high-level managerial positions within the information security domain, such as:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Director of Security
  • IT Director or IT Manager
  • Security Consultant
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Systems Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Network Architect

These roles come with substantial responsibility, overseeing the security posture of an entire organization, and are compensated accordingly. According to industry surveys and job boards, CISSP-certified professionals can expect an average salary of about US $120,552 annually, varying by location, experience, and specific job role.

The certification opens doors to advanced security positions across a wide range of sectors, including finance, healthcare, and government, where the demand for skilled security leaders continues to grow.

CEH Average Salary and Job Opportunities

The CEH certification, with its focus on ethical hacking and penetration testing, gears professionals towards more technical roles such as:

  • Ethical Hacker
  • Penetration Tester
  • Security Consultant
  • Security Analyst

These positions are critical in identifying vulnerabilities and strengthening the security of IT systems against cyber threats.

The average salary for CEH-certified individuals ranges from US $86,000 per year, depending on the professional's experience level, the complexity of their job role, and their industry.
Beyond traditional employment, CEH certification can also open the door to lucrative freelance and consulting opportunities, catering to organizations that require periodic security assessments but do not maintain a full-time penetration testing team.

Cost and Recertification

Earning a cybersecurity certification like CISSP or CEH involves more than just the initial exam fee. Candidates often invest in preparatory classes, study materials, and additional resources to ensure they're adequately prepared. Furthermore, maintaining your certification requires ongoing commitment and expenses.

Let's explore the financial considerations and recertification requirements for CISSP and CEH certifications.

CISSP Cost and Recertification

The CISSP certification comes with an exam fee of US $749 and can vary depending on the region. Beyond this, candidates may choose to invest in study guides, training courses, and practice exams, which can significantly add to the total cost. 

Once certified, CISSPs must pay an annual maintenance fee of US $125 and earn 120 CPE credits over three years to maintain their certification status. This ensures that professionals stay up-to-date with the latest knowledge and practices in information security.

CEH Cost and Recertification

The CEH certification fee is approximately US $1,199, including the exam voucher cost. Depending on the individual's study preferences and needs, preparatory courses, books, and practice tests may incur additional costs.

To keep the CEH certification active, professionals are required to accumulate 120 CPE credits within a three-year period and pay an annual membership fee of US $80 to the EC-Council. This continuous learning commitment is crucial for staying current with the rapidly evolving field of ethical hacking and cybersecurity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Better Than CEH Certification?

Determining what is "better" than CEH certification depends on your career goals and the specific skills you wish to develop. If your interest lies in broad information security management practices, CISSP might be a more suitable choice, offering a comprehensive overview of security program development and management.

Alternatively, if your interests are more aligned with cloud security, the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) could be more fitting, focusing on cloud computing security knowledge. Ultimately, the certification that best aligns with your career goals and expands your expertise in your chosen direction can be considered the "better" option.

Is CISSP Still Worth It?

Absolutely, the CISSP certification remains highly valuable and relevant in the field of information security. It is recognized worldwide and demonstrates a high level of knowledge and competence in information security.

Is CEH Still Worth It?

Yes, the CEH certification is still a valuable asset for professionals interested in offensive cybersecurity roles, such as ethical hacking and penetration testing. It provides a strong foundation in the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by hackers, which is critical for identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities effectively.

CISSP vs. CEH: Which Is the Certification for You?

In the cybersecurity industry, certifications carry significant weight and can often be the key to unlocking the next level in your career. The question isn't necessarily what certification to pursue but rather when to pursue it based on your current career stage and future aspirations.

If your focus is on ethical hacking and you're in the early stages of your career, CEH offers a practical entry point. For those aiming for leadership roles and possessing a broader experience base, CISSP is the key to unlocking high-level positions.

Choosing between CISSP and CEH ultimately depends on where you stand in your career and where you aim to go. Each certification paves a different path in the cybersecurity landscape, and selecting the right one can accelerate your journey toward your professional goals.

For CISSP aspirants, Destination Certification offers the support and resources you need to succeed. Our CISSP MasterClass is uniquely designed to fit your schedule, ensuring you can prepare without compromising on work or personal commitments.

More than just flexible, our course is dynamic, adapting to your individual learning needs by concentrating on the areas where you require the most preparation. This personalized approach ensures you're not just ready to take the exam but poised to excel.

So, if you're set to start your CISSP journey, Destination Certification is here to guide you every step of the way. With our expert-led training and adaptive learning model, you're not just preparing for an exam—you're preparing for the next big leap in your cybersecurity career.

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