Advance your cloud security career with the right credential.
As more and more businesses move to the cloud, cybersecurity is increasingly becoming cloud security. In fact, cloud computing is the top technology companies are likely to adopt by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Survey . This means more job opportunities for those with the right combination of cloud and cybersecurity skills.
If you’re interested in starting or advancing your career in the information security industry, earning a cloud security certification can help you learn critical skills and validate those skills to recruiters and hiring managers. In this article, you’ll learn about seven cloud security certifications companies are hiring for, with tips on how to choose the right certification for you.
While a bachelor’s degree is the most common entry-level qualification for computer and IT jobs, many employers also look for an industry certification to demonstrate specific technical skills. This is especially true in cybersecurity, where 59 percent of all cybersecurity positions request at least one certification .
You’ll find a huge range of certifications out there, and not all of them are created equal. We searched three top job listing sites, LinkedIn, Indeed, and Simply Hired, to find the certifications that show up most frequently on job listings (as of July 2021). Companies are looking to hire candidates with these credentials, which may make them worth considering as part of your own career development.
Read more: 10 Popular Cybersecurity Certifications
Here they are, starting with the technology-specific certifications before moving on to the vendor-neutral ones.
Earning this certification from Google demonstrates your ability to design, configure, and implement secure infrastructures on the Google Cloud Platform. This includes:
Configuring identity and access management
Defining security policy
Implementing network security
Analyzing logs and managing incident response
Protecting data with Google Cloud technologies
Target job titles: Cloud security engineers, solutions engineer, cloud architect
Requirements: There are no prerequisites to take the exam. Google recommends that you have at least three years of experience, including at least one year managing and designing with the Google Cloud Platform.
Cost (US): $200
Learn the skills you’ll need for a job as a cloud security engineer with the Preparing for Google Cloud Certification: Cloud Security Engineer Professional Certificate on Coursera. Get hands-on experience with the Google Cloud Platform as you prepare for the exam, which can then be taken remotely or at a test center.
Passing the AZ-500 exam for this Microsoft Azure credential demonstrates your skills in scripting, automation, networking, virtualization, and cloud architecture and capabilities. Skills tested include:
Configuring and managing secure access in Azure Active Directory
Implementing platform protection
Managing security operations with Azure Monitor, Security Center, and Sentinel
Securing data and applications
Note: Exam AZ-500 will be updated on August 2, 2021. Be sure to download the latest version of the exam guide.
Target job titles: Cybersecurity engineer, cloud DevOps engineer, Azure security engineer, security and integration architect
Cost (US): $165
New to cloud technology? Consider starting with the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification. Prepare for the exam and get 50-percent off your exam voucher with the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals AZ-900 Exam Prep Specialization on Coursera.
If you’re looking for a security job at a company using Amazon Web Services (AWS), the AWS Certified Security - Specialty could be a good option. By earning this credential, you can show employers your proficiency in:
Encrypting and classifying data in AWS
Implementing secure internet protocols
Providing a secure production environment with AWS security services
Understanding security operations and risk management
Target job titles: Security architect, cloud security engineer, information security analyst, security and compliance engineer
Requirements: There are no prerequisites to take the exam. AWS recommends that you have at least two years of experience securing AWS workloads and five years of general IT security experience.
Cost (US): $300
Start building hands-on experience with AWS through the AWS Fundamentals Specialization on Coursera. Get an overview of the features and capabilities of the platform from the experts at Amazon.
The CompTIA Cloud+ validates your ability to plan, deploy, and automate secure cloud environments. The new version of the CV0-003 exam, which launched in June 2021, covers topics like:
High availability and disaster recovery
Automation and virtualization
Identity and access management
Securing networks in a cloud environment
OS and application security controls
Target job titles: Cloud specialist, cloud architect, information security manager, vulnerability tester, cybersecurity cloud specialist
Requirements: CompTIA sets no prerequisites for this certification. They do recommend that you have two to three years in systems administration or networking, as well as the CompTIA Network+ and Server+ certifications.
Cost (US): $338
As you advance your career in cloud security, the CCSP from security membership organization (ISC)² validates your more advanced technical skills in the industry. The exam tests skills across six different domains:
Cloud architecture and design
Cloud data security
Cloud platform and infrastructure security
Cloud application security
Legal, risk, and compliance
Cloud security operations
Target job titles: Cyber integration engineer, information security auditor, incident response specialist, senior security analyst, cloud application security consultant
Requirements: To become a CCSP, you have to pass an exam and have at least five years of paid work experience in IT. Three of those years must be in information security and one needs to be in one or more of six (ISC)² CCSP Common Body of Knowledge domains.
Cost (US): $599
This cloud security credential from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) covers a range of key cloud security issues that can empower you to tailor security solutions in a cloud environment. Topics covered include:
Governance, risk management, legal issues
Data security and encryption
Application security and security as a service
Target job titles: Threat analyst, cybersecurity architect, ethical hacker, security analyst, IT security engineer
Requirements: The CCSK has no experience requirements.
Cost (US): $395
If you’re interested in building and deploying secure systems and applications, you might consider the GCSA. While the GCSA isn’t affiliated with a particular cloud platform, the materials do cover open-source tools like AWS and Azure. Topics covered include:
Cloud security fundamentals
Cloud security monitoring
Container and microservice security
DevOps and DevSecOps fundamentals and controls
Target job titles: Security consultant, application security analyst, security engineer, cloud security developer, Dev SecOps engineer
Requirements: There are no prerequisites for the GCSA certification exam.
Cost (US): $2,499
Earning a cloud security certification often requires investing both time and money into preparing for and taking the exam. Whether that investment is worth it depends on your career goals. The right certification can help give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs. According to a survey by (ISC)², earning a cybersecurity certification can come with an average salary increase of some $18,000 in the US .
Once you’ve decided to earn a cloud security certification, it’s important to choose the right one for your professional goals. Here are some things to think about when deciding which credential is the best fit.
Cost: Certification exams and prep courses can cost hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars. Think about your certification as an investment in higher-paying job opportunities. Do your research and invest wisely.
Vendor-specific vs. vendor-neutral: Do you want to specialize in a specific cloud platform, or would you prefer to keep your options open?
Experience level: Start with a certification you currently qualify for, then progress to more advanced certifications as you gain work experience.
Area of focus: Many of the certifications on this list cover general cloud security practices, though options like the GCSA are more specialized. Think about whether you’re interested in cloud security architecture, engineering, incident response, development, or something else; there might be a certification that addresses that specialty.
Potential employers: Search some job listings for positions and organizations you’d like to apply for. Make a list of what certifications show up most often. Those could be beneficial to pursue.
AWS ranks as the largest cloud infrastructure provider, followed by Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
Many of the top cloud security certifications require or recommend previous experience in information security or IT. If you’re considering a career securing cloud environments, here are some tips for getting started.
Before shifting your focus to cloud security, establish a base of IT and computer science skills and knowledge. You don’t necessarily need a degree to get a job in cybersecurity. But by completing a degree program, online course, or bootcamp, you can build a strong foundation to set yourself up for future success. Some certifications will waive a portion of the work experience requirement if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or a related field.
Even if you don’t have a degree, start building job-ready skills in IT or cybersecurity with a Professional Certificate on Coursera. Learn from industry leaders with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate or the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate.
Many security professionals start out in an entry-level IT role before making the switch to security. Working as an IT support specialist, systems administrator, or cybersecurity analyst can often give you hands-on experience in cloud environments
After gaining some experience in IT, consider earning your first certification in IT. You’ll find a range of entry-level IT certifications that you can use to build your knowledge, enhance your resume, and possibly qualify for new roles.
As you gain experience on the job, look for opportunities to work on your cloud and security skills. Some essential skills for cloud security engineers include:
Experience with cloud service providers
Programming languages like Python and Ruby
Network and application security
Cloud security applies cybersecurity concepts and practices to cloud environments. This helps secure cloud systems from both internal and external threats. Watch the video below for a more thorough introduction to the core concepts of cloud security.
Earning a cloud security certification typically requires passing an exam. For some certifications, you’ll have to have a specified amount of work experience before you qualify. In most cases, you’ll need to take continuing education courses and pay a fee every few years to maintain your credential.
The time it takes you to get certified will depend on a number of factors. These include which certification you’re going after, whether you meet the requirements, how much base knowledge you already have, and how much time you can dedicate to test preparation. If you meet the prerequisites, preparing for a certification exam could take anywhere from a week to several months.
Whether you’re just getting started with cloud technology or simply want to build your confidence, consider starting with an entry-level cloud certification. Options include the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate, Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals, or CompTIA Cloud+.
As migrations to the cloud become more common, more IT and security tasks will also rely on professionals skilled in cloud security best practices. Here are just a few job titles that request one or more of the certifications listed above (all US average salaries pulled from Glassdoor in July 2021):
Cloud DevOps engineer: $102,608
Cybersecurity engineer: $100,280
Security threat analyst: $74,891
Security compliance analyst: $103,363
Cybersecurity architect: $129,942
Technology risk analyst: $88,032
Start building the job-ready skills you need for a career in cybersecurity with the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate on Coursera. Get hands-on experience with IBM security technologies as you learn from industry leaders.
1. World Economic Forum. "The Future of Jobs Report 2020, https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020." Accessed July 20, 2021.
2. Burning Glass Technologies. "Recruiting Watchers for the Virtual Walls: The State of Cybersecurity Hiring, https://www.burning-glass.com/research-project/cybersecurity/." Accessed July 20, 2021.
3. (ISC)². "(ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, https://www.isc2.org/Research/Workforce-Study." Accessed July 20, 2021.