Becoming an IT Security Consultant - Learning Paths Explored

Becoming an IT Security Consultant - Learning Paths Explored
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Avantika Monnappa

Last updated December 1, 2016


  • 4845 Views

With the increase in attacks every day, IT security has become an important and demanding industry to work for. The demand for employees in the industry has gone up. Businesses and organizations have made it their top priority to bring in talent that can help in the protection of their infrastructure and digital data. In a field such as IT security, which has stakes that are touching the sky, only the ones with the latest and the greatest skills will succeed.

Certification are the best way to prove your relevance and value.

With various certifications that are globally recognized, mapping out the right IT security learning path may be mind boggling.

Thus, we give you a tried and tested learning path to choose from to shine in your position in the IT security industry.

There are mainly two recommended learning paths that an interested candidate can follow:

1. Becoming an Information Security consultant
2. Becoming an Information Security Architect

IT Security learning path


NOTE: This learning path has been divided into two articles. One consists of the learning path to becoming an Information Security Consultant, while the other looks at the route to becoming an Information Security Architect.


Information Security Consultant

What do they do?

The IT security consultant is the real-world equivalent of Obi Wan Kenobi, a guide, advisor, and an all-round security guru. A security consultant uses his vast expertise on the subject to advice organizations, businesses, and companies to protect and secure their physical, monetary and information capital, like investments, office buildings, computer systems, and various other items.

Security consultant specializations exist in areas such as computer security, building security, or the manmade/ natural disaster security. Consultants may work as self-employed contractors or as consulting firms.

The recommended learning path to follow

IT Security Consultant Learning path

1. CompTIA Security+

For an ideal starting point in a cyber-security certification path, a CompTIA Security+ certification does the job.

  • The certification cover both practical and theory applications in a wide range of security topics such as network attacks and counter measures, risk management, application security, operational security, and compliance. 
  • This certification is set as a bench mark for entry level talent, by government organizations such as the US Dept. of Defense.
  • Thus, the door to a wide range of opportunities in the public sector are opened.
  • Leading certifying bodies and enterprises like IBM use the Security+ certification as a prerequisite to their trainings and certification tracks.

The prerequisites to this exam are:

There are no prerequisites for this exam.

2. Ethical Hacking

  • With this certification the network security specialists are taught how to think like malicious hackers.
  • With the techniques and tools used by hackers, professionals who are certified in ethical hacking are taught to proficiently identify any sort of system vulnerabilities and implement appropriate safeguard and counter measures.
  • While it is evident that Ethical hacking has its focus on the penetration testing, its usefulness and marketability transcends this niche.
  • Thus, making it the ideal intermediate credential.

The prerequisites to this exam are:

For the Ethical hacker training and certification course, a candidate must have-

  • Information security related experience
  • Strong knowledge of TCP/ IP
  • An educational background that reflects specialization in information security

3. CISA

  • For Information System Auditors, this certification is the standard.
  • Systems auditors who are CISA certified have the expertise and the skills to audit computer systems, institute security controls, manage vulnerabilities, and oversee compliance at enterprise levels.

Protip: Get an insider’s view on the CISA training and how the certification helped him in his career.

The prerequisites to this exam are:

To become a CISA certified professional, you need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • A completed application must be submitted within 5 years from the date of initially passing the examination.
  • All experience must be verified independently with employers.
  • This experience must have been gained within the 10-year period preceding the application date for certification or within five years of passing the examination.

4. CISSP

This is certification is at an expert level.

  • Those professionals who are certified CISSPs possess in depth knowledge of real world tactics in ten of the vital cyber security domains including risk management, network security, business continuity, policy recreation, software development security, operations security, and regulatory compliance.
  • Those with 5+ years of experience in two or more of the 8 CISSP security domains can sit for this exam to get certified.

The prerequisites to this exam are:

5 years of full time security work experience in 2 or more of these 8 domains of the (ISC)² CISSP CBK:

  • Asset Security (Protecting Security of Assets)
  • Security and Risk Management (Security, Risk, Compliance, Law, Regulations, and Business Continuity)
  • Communication and Network Security (Designing and Protecting Network Security)
  • Security Engineering (Engineering and Management of Security)
  • Security Operations (Foundational Concepts, Investigations, Incident Management, and Disaster Recovery)
  • Identity and Access Management (Controlling Access and Managing Identity)
  • Security Assessment and Testing (Designing, Performing, and Analyzing Security Testing)
  • Software Development Security (Understanding, Applying, and Enforcing Software Security)

5. CISM

With the CISM certification professionals attain a mastery of four skill areas which are vital and crucial to cyber security management.

These skills include risk management, information security governance, incidence response, and security program creation.

Unlike CISSP, CISM does not cover as many domains and individual tactics.

They key advantage of this certification, however, is the focus it holds on how information security fits into the larger picture, i.e. the relationship between broader business goals and security programs.

What makes it an ideal certification for those seeking a position in IT security leadership, such as a CSO, is its unique focus on global security management and strategy.

The prerequisites to this exam are:

  • A completed application must be submitted within 5 years from the date of initially passing the examination.
  • All experience must be verified independently with employers.
  • This experience must have been gained within the 10-year period preceding the application date for certification or within five years of passing the examination.
  • Three (3) years of the five (5) years of work experience must be gained performing the role of an information security manager
  • In addition, this work experience must be broad and gained in three (3) of the four (4) CISM® domains

The positions you should land to get to the top

To become a Security Consultant, consider gaining some work experience in the intermediate level security jobs like:

  • Security Administrator
  • Security Specialist
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Security Auditor

If you’re looking for a salary hike and a chance of lead a bigger team, these jobs are logical next steps:

  • Security Architect
  • Security Manager
  • IT Project Manager

The highest seniority and pay generally comes with being a:

  • Security Director
  • CISO
  • Security Consultant

Salary Prospects

According to Payscale.com, the median salary that an IT security Consultant earns is $80,673 per annum. The total pay, however, is between $48,127 - $147,143, which includes a bonus, profit sharing, and the commission.

We have given you a path to follow. Now it is your turn to shine!

Simplilearn offer training courses in CompTIA Security+, CISSP, CISA, CISM, and CEH. Get ahead in the world of IT security with Simplilearn’s world class training.

About the Author

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies. With a degree in journalism, she also covers the latest trends in the industry, and is a passionate writer.


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