CISM vs CISSP: Which One Do You Need for Career Advancement?
Rob Turner

With the right qualifications you can take your career to the next level, and pave a path towards long term prosperity.

The trick is to choose a course that suits your goals and fits in with your existing skills. If your focus is on digital security, there are quite a few options to weigh up.

The main contenders are the CISM (certified information security manager) and the CISSP (certified information systems security professional). So what does each offer and which will benefit your job progress the most?

The similarities

It’s first worth looking at the areas of overlap between the CISM and CISSP qualifications, and the most noteworthy of these is that you’ll have to boast five years of prior experience in a management-focused information security role to get started.

Likewise the underlying knowledge on which both certifications are founded is from the same shared pool, even if there are differences in terms of what aspects are covered in each.

The points of divergence

Simply put, the CISM places an emphasis on management, while the CISSP rolls this in alongside a deeper appreciation of the technical side of infosec.

So for CISM certification, you’ll focus on areas including information security governance, risk management and compliance, program development, and incident management.
It’s all about helping businesses work out what they can do to not just meet standards and manage their data resources securely, but also go above and beyond for everything from passwords to disaster recovery and beyond.

With a CISSP certification, the domains dealt with include asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, assessment and testing, software development security and so forth.

The technically advanced nature of the CISSP means that taking self-paced cybersecurity training is sensible. There’s a lot to learn and many aspects to master, so cutting corners or rushing won’t deliver the results you need.

The career prospects

The good news is that from an earnings perspective, it makes sense to secure an infosec certification of any kind, since salaries for qualified employees in this area are higher across the board than those without them.

At this point, you’ll need to keep your own career goals in mind, because this will be the ultimate deciding factor when weighing up the CISM and CISSP certification.

The managerial focus of the CISM gives it the edge if you are less interested in drilling down into the nitty gritty of handling cybersecurity on a technical level, and more enamored with making top-level decisions on things like governance, compliance and so on.

This is why it is a route that is preferred by those who aspire to be infosec managers, independent security consultants, or even chief information officers in large organizations.

The technical angle of the CISSP means that it makes sense as an option for anyone who wants to take on roles as varied as security or network architect, auditor, IT support manager and everything in between.

The bottom line

Whether you pursue the CISM or the CISSP is up to you, although the latter definitely gives you a bit more choice of career going forward, albeit at the expense of requiring a broader understanding of more topics and a more rigorous prep and exam process as a result.

Also, remember that you don’t have to feel like your career is set in an unalterable direction by any certification you attain. Many of these skills are transferable, and moreover desirable in other contexts, so employers will be falling over themselves to recruit you no matter what.