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Decoding the Toughest Cyber Security Certifications

  • What is the hardest cyber security certification?
  • Published by: André Hammer on Jan 29, 2024

Navigating through the complexities of cyber security can be challenging. It is even harder to achieve the CISSP certification. CISSP is though to be the toughest certifications in the field of cyber security.

In this article, we will discuss why it is challenging to get the CISSP certification and the things you can do to pass with flying colors. Understanding CISSP is valuable whether you are interested in a profession in cybersecurity or just curious about digital security.

Understanding the Cybersecurity Certification Pathway

From Fundamentals to Specialised Roles

In order to obtain the top cybersecurity certification, you need to grasp advanced concepts. You also need to take part in practical activities and, must have prior experience.

Other certifications that you may also find quite challenging to acquire include the following: Certification in Information Systems Security Professional, Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP). You need to have some serious skills in security and risk management, ethical hacking, and software development security.

Earning these certifications involves practical experience, study, and passing tough exams.

As cyber threats become more complex, these roles help organisations protect their important data and assets.

Progressing from Entry-Level to Expert Certifications

The ranking of cybersecurity certifications is determined by the required level of technical skills and practical experience. Progressing from beginner to advanced certifications requires that you get some hands-on experience, understand system weaknesses, and that you master techniques for mitigating cyber risks.

As you advance, you might encounter obstacles like adjusting to fast-evolving technology, enhancing your problem-solving abilities, and focusing on a specific area in the cybersecurity field. Specialist certifications also require a good understanding of complex security ideas, have the necessary skills to strategize for security solutions over a long period, and also have the capability to adjust to new threats.

All these elements add to the difficulty of obtaining expert certifications in cybersecurity.

Which is the Hardest Cyber Security Certification?

Criteria for the Hardest Cybersecurity Certifications

Cybersecurity certifications are widely regarded as the most difficult. This is based on factors such as the level of knowledge required to pass the test, years of experience needed, and the rigorous renewal procedure.

Validation of skills through practical experience is evaluated by certifications like CISSP, CISM, and CRISC. This involves a required minimum number of years working in cybersecurity. Ongoing professional education and a comprehensive examination on different security domains are also necessary for these certifications.

The advanced certifications, such as CISM, CISA, and CRISC, are difficult because they emphasize risk management, governance, and control assurance. You must possess a thorough grasp of intricate security concepts. You must also have knowledge of the business elements of security, implementing cybersecurity solutions in practical situations. In addition, these certifications focus on assisting and controlling an organization’s capacity to reach its security objectives.

Certifications that Define Cybersecurity Expertise

A cybersecurity certification is thought to be hard for a number of reasons. The reasons range from the depth of knowledge you should have, how tough the exam is, to the subjects it coveres.

Certifications in cybersecurity typically focus on technical skills like penetration testing, secure coding, and digital forensics. In some cases, these certifications emphasize ethical and professional conduct.

You need to show deep understanding of ethical hacking and adherence to a strict code of conduct. These are important in many cybersecurity certifications. These certifications aim to ensure that you do not only have the technical skills to protect digital assets but can also act with integrity, honesty, and professionalism.

Acting ethically and professionally shape your mindset and actions as a cybersecurity professional, and also define the industry's standard of expertise.

Entry-Level Cybersecurity Certifications


Security+ is often the most sought-after certification by cybersecurity professionals. This certification involves intense training and an extensive exam, and covers a wide range of cybersecurity subjects.

In addition, it highlights the importance of behaving professionally, making ethical decisions, and the influence of ethical standards within the cybersecurity industry.

Any person who achieves this certification has the expertise needed to manage security incidents and uphold the ethical standards expected of security professionals.

The Security+ credential is highly respected in the cybersecurity industry for helping professionals maintain ethical standards, making it a prestigious and sought-after certification.

CompTIA Network+ and Its Role in Cybersecurity

Having CompTIA Network+ is important for cybersecurity. It gives you the basic knowledge and skills needed for a prosperous career. The certification includes networking concepts, security best practices, and the newest technologies.

This guarantees that you are ready for practical security issues. It equips you with the skills to create and apply networks, recognize and address security risks, and use standard tools to protect data and devices.

You can demonstrate your skills in network architecture, network operations, and security to stand out in a competitive job market.

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Information Security Fundamentals (GISF) is among the toughest cybersecurity certifications. The reason for this is that it covers quite an extensive material. The exam is also quite difficult, and it requires a high level of professional conduct.

The GSE certification from GIAC is considered prestigious and necessitates a challenging examination process, calling for extensive knowledge and real-world experience in cybersecurity.

Both certifications emphasize the significance of ethical behavior and professional conduct in handling sensitive information.

Becoming a Certified Cybersecurity Professional

CompTIA's Cybersecurity Pathway

There are a range of CompTIA cybersecurity certifications for professionals at different career levels. The entry-level certification is the Security+, which is where you start off, and then progress to much more advanced ones such as the CySA+ and CASP+.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) is an expert-level certifications. It requires you to have a good understanding of enterprise security, risk management, and research & analysis.

If you are a cybersecurity manager, there are certifications such as CompTIA Security Analytics Expert (CSAE) and CompTIA Certified Security Professional (CCSP). These focus on strategic planning, how to manage risk, and integrating information security in your organization.

These certifications show you have the skills and knowledge an organization needs to secure its critical systems and data against cyber threats.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification is considered very challenging in cybersecurity. You need at least five years of experience in two out of its eight domains. You also need to pass the CISSP exam to get certified. The other two important cybersecurity certifications are Certified Ethical Hacker and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

You must adhere to a strict code of ethics and professional conduct as you seek these certifications. This is important as it emphasizes the importance of integrity, confidentiality, and other ethical values in handling sensitive information.

As a certified professional, you are not only knowledgeable in technical aspects of cybersecurity but must also uphold ethical standards in you professional practice.

Advanced Cybersecurity Certifications and Their Challenges

Certified Information Systems Security Manager (CISM)

The Certified Information Systems Security Manager certification is well-known around the world. It is for people whose job is to manage, design, oversee, and assess the information security of an enterprise.

Its main focus is the relationship between information security of an organization and its business objectives. CISM is considered quite challenging when compared to other advanced cybersecurity certifications. This is because it emphasizes, a lot, on governance, risk management, and compliance.

You need at least five years of experience in information security management to qualify for a CISM certification. You must also follow the Code of Professional Ethics and pass the CISM exam.

Getting this certification shows you can manage, design, and oversee efficient information security programs.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The CISA certification is quite important in your cybersecurity certification process. It indicates that you are proficient in evaluating weaknesses, overseeing adherence, and guaranteeing the efficiency of information security measures.

Getting CISA certification presents difficulties like meeting job experience requirements, passing a demanding test, and being active in continuing your professional development. Candidates are also required to follow a strict set of professional ethics and behavior guidelines.

Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

You need to have worked for at least three years inIT risk management and must pass your CRISC exam to earn a certification. This certification tests your ability to identify and manage risks in IT and business, and your capacity to implement information systems controls.

Do the following to get certification:

  • Sign up for the exam
  • Read the CRISC Review Manual
  • Pass your exam

You must follow the ISACA Code of Professional Ethics and show proof of having relevant work experience within five years after passing. This certification is quite tough to achieve because it thoroughly evaluates your expertise of risk management and information systems control.

Specialised Penetration Testing Certifications

CompTIA PenTest+

CompTIA PenTest+ is one of the most difficult certifications to get because of its rigorous process and the depth of knowledge you require to pass it. This certification tests on penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. You require a deep understanding of network security, tools, and techniques to pass this certification.

You need to be hands-on and have good understanding of real-world scenarios. This is part of the reason this certification is tough to earn.

In addition, the changing nature of cyber threats requires you stay current with the latest trends and technologies in order to succeed. The demanding nature of the certification, along with the high level of expertise you must demonstrate, places it among the most difficult in cybersecurity.

Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) by EC-Council

The Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) is run by the EC-Council. It is a challenging cyber security certification for certifying professionals in the UK. You need to have a good knowledge of penetration testing as well as practical industry experience. The exam is quite tough and it tests your ability to identify and exploit vulnerabilities within networks and systems. There is also a hands-on test that is 18 hours long.

The LPT is quite rigorous and covers a wider range of topics in information security compared to certifications such as CompTIA PenTest+ or the GIAC's Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN).

Because of its difficulty, very few pass it, which makes it an elite certification. However, it is still quite popular among cyber security professionals who are looking to show their expertise.

Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN) by GIAC

The Certified Penetration Tester by GIAC is also a tough cybersecurity certification. It has really strict requirements. One the requirements is a tough exam whose main job is to test how well you can exploit networks and systems.

The GPEN certification focuses specifically on penetration testing and ethical hacking. This is why it is different from other advanced cybersecurity certifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Manager or the Certified Information Systems Auditor.

Earning a GPEN certification shows you have the expertise and practical skills to find and fix network vulnerabilities.

What is the Hardest Cyber Security Certification?

The Elite GIAC Security Expert (GSE)

You need hands-on experience, advanced knowledge, and the ability to solve complex security challenges in the cyber security to pass the Elite GIAC Security Expert certification.

The certification process is comprehensive and multi-tiered, and evaluates your practical skills, theoretical understanding, and real-world application of the principles of cybersecurity. This makes sure that your GSE certification has equipped you with a good understanding of cybersecurity and the technical expertise handle security threats.

Proving Your Mettle: The GSE Examination Process

Many cybersecurity experts seek the Global Information Assurance Certification Security Expert title as a proof of their skills. This qualification is considered quite difficult within the field, as it requires you to showcase expertise, capabilities, and competencies across different cybersecurity areas.

The GSE test assesses your technical skills, capacity to solve problems, and understanding of topics like network security, incident response, and penetration testing. In order to achieve this certification, you must satisfy rigorous requirements, such as you must have various GIAC certifications, showing practical experience, and having received professional recommendations.

Certification Options for Cybersecurity Managers

What Makes a Cybersecurity Manager?

An information technology background is essential for a Cybersecurity Manager. In addition, you require good leadership and communication abilities to efficiently run a team of experts and to address the challenges of IT security.

Getting the Certified Information Security Manager certification is important for if you want to advance in your career. It equips you with the knowledge and technical expertise you need to oversee, create, and evaluate information security in an organization.

As a cybersecurity manager, you must also emphasize ethical and professional behavior.

In that capacity, you handle sensitive information and are responsible for ensuring that your organization complies with legal and regulatory requirements.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): A Closer Look

You need to have deep theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and to pass a tough exam to get the CISM, one of the toughest cybersecurity certifications.

As a Certified Information Security Manager, you will be well-respected in cybersecurity space because of its focus on information risk management and governance. You need a strong understanding of the business impact of security programs, and not just technical skills.

Each of the advanced certifications, such as CISSM, Certified Information Systems Auditor, and CRISC, has its own unique challenges and specific criteria.

CISM concentrates on managing information risks, while CISA focuses on auditing, CRISC on managing risks, and CISSP covers a wider scope of information security subjects. This implies that the complexity and demands of these certifications differ depending on their distinct cybersecurity focuses.

The Role of Ethics and Professional Conduct in Cybersecurity Certifications

Ethical considerations and maintaining professional conduct are crucial aspects for cybersecurity certifications. They make sure that you follow ethical principles in your work. This makes it easier for you and other professionals to trust and rely on each other.

You are required to maintain client confidentiality and privacy rights by ensuring that sensitive data remains secure. Having ethical skills and behaving professionally can also improve your reputation and credibility.

Over to you

The CISSP is quite a tough certification in cyber security to get. It’s widely recognized and you need a minimum of five years of experience in cybersecurity. You also need to pass the CISSP exam.

Topics that the curriculum covers include security and risk management, asset security, and security architecture. Other topics include engineering, communication and network security, as well as identity and access management.

Readynez offers a comprehensive portfolio of Security courses, including the above mentioned CISSP, CISA, CRISC and GIAC GPEN. You have a full course list here and you find all the Security courses included in our Unlimited Security Training license here, where license holders can attend all these security courses for FREE.


What is the toughest cyber security certification?

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional is one of the toughest cyber security certifications.

What are the requirements for obtaining the toughest cyber security certification?

The requirements for obtaining the toughest cyber security certification, such as the Offensive Security Certified Professional include the following: you have to complete the PWK course, pass a 18-hour hands-on exam, and submit a penetration testing report.

How long does it take to prepare for the toughest cyber security certification?

The time it takes varies depending on your experience and background knowledge. On average, you are likely to spend between 6 and 12 months studying and practicing for certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional or Offensive Security Certified Professional.

What are the benefits of obtaining the toughest cyber security certification?

Getting the toughest cyber security certification enables you to show proof of expertise, get credibility, and improve your chances of a great job opportunity. For example, getting a CISSP certification can lead you to a higher-paying role or a better career growth.

What are the job opportunities available after obtaining the toughest cyber security certification?

Some of the job opportunities available include security analyst, cybersecurity engineer, penetration tester, and vulnerability researcher.


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