7 Popular Cloud Security Certifications for 2021

Written by Coursera • Jul 20, 2021

Advance your cloud security career with the right credential.

A man in a purple sweater and white collared shirt sits at his laptop in a bright cafe studying for a cloud security certification.

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 [1]. 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.

Just getting started in cybersecurity or information technology (IT)? Start building job-ready skills from industry experts with the Google IT Support or IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificates.

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7 cloud security certifications companies are hiring for

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 [2].

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. 

1. Google Professional Cloud Security Engineer

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

Prepare for the exam

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.

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2. Microsoft Certified Azure Security Engineer Associate

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

Requirements: None

Cost (US): $165

Get started with Azure

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.

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3. AWS Certified Security

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

Get started with AWS

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.

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4. CompTIA Cloud+

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

  • Cloud architecture

  • 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

5. Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

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

6. Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

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:

  • Cloud architecture

  • Governance, risk management, legal issues

  • Infrastructure security

  • Data security and encryption

  • Incident response

  • 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

7. GIAC Cloud Security Automation (GCSA)

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

  • Compliance

  • Container and microservice security

  • Data protection

  • 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

Are cloud security certifications worth it?

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 [3].

How to choose a cloud security certification

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.

Tip: Forty percent of cybersecurity professionals surveyed by (ISC)² had their certification exams and fees paid for by their employers [3]. Be sure to ask your employer if they’ll help cover costs.

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  • 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.

Top cloud services to get certified in

AWS ranks as the largest cloud infrastructure provider, followed by Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

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How to get into cloud security: First steps

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.

1. Develop technical skills through courses, bootcamps, or a degree. 

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.

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2. Start with an entry-level IT job.

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

3. Earn an entry-level IT or cloud certification.

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.

4. Build your cloud and security skills.

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

  • Information security

  • DevOps

  • Programming languages like Python and Ruby

  • Network and application security

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is cloud 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.  

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What is cloud security? Nataraj Nagaratnam from IBM Cloud explains.

How do I get cloud security certified?

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.

How long does it take to get cloud security certified?

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.

What is the easiest cloud certification to get?

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+.

What jobs can I get with these certifications?

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

Get started in cybersecurity

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.

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Article sources

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.

Written by Coursera • Jul 20, 2021

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