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April 18, 2024

Let's be real. Comparing CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and PMP (Project Management Professional) is like comparing apples to oranges. Both hold significant prestige in the IT and security industries but pave the way for very different career paths.

The choice between pursuing CISSP or PMP hinges on understanding their unique advantages and the specific career trajectories they support. Whether your passion lies in the complexities of cybersecurity or the strategic challenges of project management, deciphering the specifics between the two is key.

This comparison aims to clarify the differences and help you pick the right certification for your professional advancement. Let's explore which path aligns with your career aspirations.

CISSP Overview (Certified Information Systems Security Professional

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) stands as a gold standard for IT security professionals. Administered by ISC2, the CISSP certification encompasses a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from security and risk management to software development security, offering a comprehensive overview of the information security landscape.

Earning the CISSP certification signifies that you possess the skills, knowledge, and competency in implementing and managing a best-in-class cybersecurity program. With a focus on real-world applications, the CISSP prepares professionals to tackle security challenges with advanced and deep technical and managerial knowledge.

It's designed for those at the forefront of information security, including security analysts, managers, and executives who want to affirm their expertise and step up their career game.

PMP Overview (Project Management Professional)

The PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is widely regarded as a mark of excellence in project management. Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), it encompasses a wide-ranging curriculum that delves into the core principles of project management, methodologies, and their practical applications across different sectors.

Securing the PMP certification is a clear indicator of your proficiency in managing projects from start to finish. It highlights your capability to lead project teams, allocate resources efficiently, and achieve project objectives within the constraints of time, budget, and quality standards.

Designed for project managers looking to affirm their skills and elevate their career prospects, the PMP validates one's commitment to project management excellence and continuous professional development. Ideal for those managing projects in IT, construction, or any project-centric industry, the PMP arms you with the strategies and methodologies needed to steer projects to successful completion and bring significant value to your organization

CISSP vs. PMP: Pros and Cons

It's already clear that CISSP and PMP certifications cater to distinct areas of expertise, with one diving deep into information and cyber security and the other focusing on project management principles. But beyond their different coverage and the unique career trajectories they each support, are there more nuances that set them apart?

Well, let's find out!

Experience Requirements

The CISSP and PMP certifications are not just tests of knowledge but also practical experience in their respective fields. Before you can even sit for the exam, you're required to demonstrate a certain level of hands-on experience in the industry. This prerequisite ensures that certified professionals not only understand the theory behind their field but can also apply it effectively in real-world scenarios.

Let's break down the work experience requirements for each certification to better understand what you'll need to bring to the table.

CISSP Experience Requirements

To qualify for the CISSP exam, candidates must have a minimum of five years of cumulative, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains. This experience could be in roles directly involved in information security, such as security analyst, security manager, or consultant.

However, ISC2 allows for certain accommodations. For instance, a candidate can satisfy one year of the required experience with a relevant four-year college degree or an approved credential from the ISC2-approved list, effectively reducing the requirement to four years.

Additionally, candidates with part-time experience may also qualify, provided they have worked at least 20 hours a week in information security roles. Internships, whether paid or unpaid, can also count towards the experience requirement, offering flexibility for those who need more work experience.

PMP Experience Requirements

The PMP certification, on the other hand, has a more structured approach to experience requirements. For those holding a four-year degree, PMI requires at least three years (36 months) of project management experience, during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing projects.

For individuals without a four-year degree but with a secondary degree (such as a high school diploma or an associate's degree), the requirements increase to five years (60 months) of project management experience and at least 7,500 hours in a leadership role. PMI also recognizes the value of formal education, and as such, project management education can count towards these requirements.

However, unlike the CISSP, the PMP does not consider internships part of the experience criteria.

Difficulty and Exam Format

Both exams are known for their rigor and are designed to test not just theoretical knowledge but the ability to apply that knowledge in practical scenarios. Let's dive into what each of these exams entails, setting you up with insights to better prepare for the challenge ahead.

CISSP Difficulty and Exam Format

The CISSP exam is often described as "a mile wide and an inch deep," covering eight domains of information security. This wide-ranging coverage makes the exam challenging, as candidates must demonstrate proficiency across all areas of information security, from security and risk management to software development security. 

The exam is in English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish, catering to a global audience. The English version employs a Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT) format, with 125 to 175 questions and a three to four-hour time limit, depending on when you take it. Exams in other languages are delivered in a linear format, with 225 to 250 questions to be completed within six hours.

The CISSP domains and their weights are as follows:

  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%)

PMP Difficulty and Exam Format

Like the CISSP, the PMP exam is rigorous, testing candidates on a wide spectrum of project management principles and practices. The exam is rooted in the PMBOK® Guide but also includes content from other relevant sources, ensuring that candidates are tested on a comprehensive body of knowledge. 

The PMP exam is offered in multiple languages, including English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, and Spanish, making it accessible to project managers worldwide.

The exam format features 180 questions to be completed in 230 minutes and includes a mix of multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank questions. These questions are distributed across three domains:

  1. People (42%)
  2. Process (50%)
  3. Business Environment (8%)

This distribution reflects the PMI's emphasis on the importance of leadership, technical project management, and strategic and business management skills in successful project delivery.

Salary and Career Opportunities

Professionals armed with either CISSP or PMP certifications—or even both—often find themselves at a significant advantage in the job market compared to their non-certified peers. These certifications are not just accolades; they reflect specialized skills and dedication to one's field, commanding higher salaries and opening doors to expansive career opportunities.

But what exactly can you expect in terms of financial and professional growth upon earning these certifications?

CISSP Salary and Career Opportunities

The CISSP certification is highly valued in cybersecurity, often leading to considerable salary uplifts and access to senior-level positions. On average, CISSP holders can earn an annual salary of US $120,552, depending on their location, experience, and specific roles.

The certification opens up opportunities for roles such as:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Systems Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Network Architect
  • Security Manager

Organizations across various sectors, including government, finance, healthcare, and technology, seek CISSP-certified professionals to bolster their information security teams and protect their data and systems against cyber threats.

PMP Salary and Career Opportunities

Similarly, the PMP certification can significantly impact your earning potential and career trajectory within project management. PMP-certified professionals often command higher salaries than their non-certified counterparts, with the certification being a globally recognized endorsement of their skills and experience in leading and directing projects.

The average salary for PMP holders is about US $116,000. It varies by country, industry, and experience level but is generally seen as a benchmark for high competence in project management. Positions that benefit from the PMP certification include:

  • Project Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Project Consultant
  • Project Director

Industries ranging from construction and engineering to IT and healthcare are continuously in need of PMP-certified project managers to lead their initiatives to successful completion.

Certification Cost and Renewal

Achieving either the CISSP or PMP certification demands not just a significant investment of time and effort but also a financial commitment. Beyond the initial cost of getting certified, maintaining these credentials through renewal involves ongoing expenses, especially as you fulfill the requirements to keep your certificate active.

So, how much do you need to prepare?

CISSP Certification Cost and Renewal

The journey to becoming CISSP certified includes several costs, with the exam fee being a primary expense. Candidates can expect to pay around US $799, depending on the region. In addition to the exam fee, there may be costs associated with preparation materials, https://destcert.com/cissp/online courses, and practice tests.

Once certified, CISSP holders are required to renew their certification every three years. The renewal process involves earning Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits to ensure that the professional's skills and knowledge remain current.

Additionally, certified professionals must pay an Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) of US $125 to maintain their certification status. The AMF contributes to the costs of developing and maintaining the CISSP credential and supporting the certified community.

PMP Certification Cost and Renewal

For the PMP certification, the exam fee is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. Additional costs may include study materials, courses, and membership fees if you choose to join PMI for a reduced exam fee and access to various resources to aid in preparation.

To renew the PMP certification, professionals must accumulate Professional Development Units (PDUs) within three years. These PDUs can be earned through various professional development activities focused on education and giving back to the profession. There is also a renewal fee for maintaining the PMP certification status: $60 for PMI members and $150 for non-members.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between CISSP and the PMP exam?

The CISSP exam focuses on information security, covering domains like risk management and cybersecurity practices, and targets IT security professionals. The PMP exam centers on project management principles and assesses skills in leading projects aimed at project managers across various industries.

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.

What is a CISSP equivalent to?

CISSP is often considered equivalent to a master's level degree in information security in terms of the coverage of the knowledge required, as well as the professional experience it signifies. However, it's a certification rather than an academic degree, focusing on practical, real-world security skills and knowledge.

Ready to Elevate Your IT Career?

Earning multiple certifications, especially within the IT and cybersecurity industry, is not just beneficial—it's a strategic move towards ensuring your expertise is both broad and deep. Diversifying your certification portfolio can significantly enhance your value in different sectors of the industry, boosting both your career opportunities and salary prospects. 

For those with a keen focus on project management, pursuing the PMP certification alone can streamline your path toward your goals, marking you as a specialist in your field.

However, if you're eyeing a C-suite position within cybersecurity, combining the PMP's project management expertise with the CISSP's comprehensive security insights can be a game-changer. This powerful duo of certifications can dramatically increase your chances of landing your dream job, showcasing your versatility and in-depth understanding of managing complex projects and safeguarding information assets.

If you've decided that CISSP is the next step on your path, let Destination Certification be your guide. Our CISSP MasterClass goes beyond mere exam preparation. It's designed to enrich your cybersecurity knowledge base with a flexible online class structure that adapts not just to your schedule but also to your personal learning needs. Our curriculum isn't static; it dynamically adjusts to focus more on the areas where you need reinforcement.

So, what are you waiting for? Join us on this journey, and let's unlock the doors to your future together.

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Rob Witcher

Rob is the driving force behind the success of the Destination Certification CISSP program, leveraging over 15 years of security, privacy, and cloud assurance expertise. As a seasoned leader, he has guided numerous companies through high-profile security breaches and managed the development of multi-year security strategies. With a passion for education, Rob has delivered hundreds of globally acclaimed CCSP, CISSP, and ISACA classes, combining entertaining delivery with profound insights for exam success. You can reach out to Rob on LinkedIn.

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