What Is GIAC Certification? A Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

GIAC certification equips cybersecurity professionals with specialized, up-to-date industry skills and knowledge for entry-level and advanced roles.

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GIAC Certifications is a leading certification body specializing in information security. The organization was founded in 1999 by cybersecurity think tank the SANS Institute and has built a reputation for developing some of the most rigorous and well-recognized information security certification standards in the world. 

GIAC, formerly known as Global Information Assurance Certification, provides more than 40 information security-related certifications for professionals [1]. Each certification covers a skill-specific domain or focus area, such as ethical hacking, cyber defense, and penetration testing.  

Obtaining a SANS GIAC certification is a credible way to validate your cybersecurity knowledge and let employers know you’re trained in the latest information security thinking and techniques.  

What is GIAC certification?

GIAC certification ensures that cybersecurity professionals meet and demonstrate specific levels of technical proficiency. You’ll get hands-on training in the latest cybersecurity skills across various roles, meaning you can put your certification expertise to work immediately.

Certification status levels

Becoming certified through GIAC means you have learned and mastered cybersecurity fundamentals. GIAC offers three levels of certification: GIAC Silver, GIAC Gold, and GIAC Security Expert (GSE) certification.

  • Silver level means you have passed a GIAC exam and earned a certification in one of GIAC’s dozens of focus areas. 

  • To achieve GIAC Gold level certification, you must be certified at the silver level, apply for GIAC Gold, and complete a research paper within six months of acceptance into the program. GIAC Gold candidates work with an advisor to produce a report that demonstrates written in addition to technical skills. 

  • GSE certification establishes expertise across all major areas of information security and has prerequisites spanning various silver- and gold-level certifications.

How long does certification take?

GIAC candidates at the silver level spend an average of 55 hours or more studying and take an average of two practice exams before sitting for the official certification exam [2]. 

Certification renewal

GIAC certifications last four years, after which you’ll need to renew in one of two ways: 

  • Retake the exam.

  • Collect 36 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits during the four years your certification is active [3].

How much does certification cost?

Cost varies depending on certification level and type of exam (extensions, retakes, etc.). A basic GIAC Certification costs $849 per attempt, and renewals cost $429 [4].

GIAC certification focus areas

GIAC certifications are classified into six focus areas:

  • Offensive operations

  • Cyber defense

  • Cloud security

  • Industry control systems

  • Management, legal, and audit (also referred to as security management)

  • Digital forensics and incident response

Each area tests candidates on the skills necessary to meet the cybersecurity standards of firms across industries. 

Offensive operations

Offensive operations GIAC certifications focus on a range of security topics related to maintaining and securing devices, systems, networks, and hardware. You can expect to build vital skills necessary for identifying, assessing, and resolving flaws, threats, and breaches. Successful completion of an offensive operations certification qualifies you to work with purple, exploit, and red development teams.

Cyber defense

With cyber defense GIAC certifications, you’ll develop skills to prevent and mitigate cyberattacks. You will learn how to identify cyber actions that threaten security against systems, devices, or other IT resources, and best practices for actively countering intrusions.

Cloud security

You’ll learn how to protect against data loss and design environments that detect and resolve threats, help minimize damage and prioritize remediation when necessary.

Management, legal, and audit

Learn to build, manage, and lead security teams and best practices for incorporating organizational leadership insight and input into security practices to help strengthen organizations’ security frameworks.

Industrial control systems

With a GIAC industrial control systems certification, you’ll learn to protect and defend information and data for essential infrastructure like power grids and telecommunications and manufacturing systems that play a crucial role in organizational and industry processes. 

Digital forensics and incident response

Strengthen your ability to identify when a system has been compromised and know what action to take to employ and preserve remediation.

Benefits of GIAC certification

Each of the focus areas covered through GIAC certifications aligns with the cybersecurity needs of government, military, and business industry organizations worldwide. When you decide to pursue GIAC certification, you're putting yourself on the path to enhance your skills and knowledge in the areas of infosec and cybersecurity. 

A GIAC certification:

  • Represents a quantifiable understanding of the information security field

  • Offers a path for you to build the specific skills and expertise you need to succeed in a cybersecurity role

  • Demonstrates job readiness

  • Serves as evidence of training and technical skills that align with career interests

  • Illustrates your understanding of the current industry standards

  • Certifies you as a trained professional

Is GIAC certification right for you?

GIAC certifications require your time and financial investment. But becoming GIAC certified will add another layer of industry-approved value to your qualifications. GIAC certification could be right for you if you will benefit from: 

  • Choosing from an extensive range of certifications

  • Obtaining certifications for job-focused tasks

  • Leveraging access to a large community of cybersecurity professionals

Taking the next step in your cybersecurity career

As you consider whether GIAC certification is right for you, explore cybersecurity further with courses like Introduction to Cyber Security Specialization from New York University to gain a broader understanding of the industry.

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Introduction to Cyber Security

Cyber Security. An introduction to modern information and system protection technology and methods.

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Average time: 4 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Cryptography, Cybersecurity, Risk Assessment, Cyber Defense, Cyber Attacks, Information Security (INFOSEC), Denial-Of-Service Attack (DOS), Public-Key Cryptography

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Article sources

1. GIAC Certifications. "About, https://www.giac.org/about/." Accessed Feb. 28, 2022.

2. GIAC Certifications. "Best Practices for GIAC Exam Preparation, https://www.giac.org/how-to-prepare/." Accessed Feb. 28, 2022.

3. GIAC Certifications. "How to Renew Your GIAC Certification, https://www.giac.org/renewal/how-to-renew." Accessed Feb. 28, 2022.

4. GIAC Certifications. "Cybersecurity Certifications: Pricing, https://www.giac.org/pricing/." Accessed Feb. 28, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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