CISA Vs CISSP: Which Is the Best Cybersecurity Certification for You?

CISA Vs CISSP: Which Is the Best Cybersecurity Certification for You?

Looking to get certified in cybersecurity but can’t decide between the CISA and CISSP? You’re not alone in feeling torn. These two heavy hitters often leave aspiring infosec professionals scratching their heads over which certification will give them the biggest bang for their buck.

In this article, we’ll go toe-to-toe on the CISA Vs CISSP debate and give you the lowdown on how these certifications stack up across factors like CISA vs CISSP salary potential, CISA vs CISSP difficulty, and CISA vs CISSP jobs. You’ll walk away with clarity on which certification lines up best with your professional goals and background.

While both the CISA and CISSP carry weight, they cater to different audiences. The CISA focuses more narrowly on auditing and control, while the CISSP takes a broad view of security practices. By the end, you’ll have the inside scoop on how employers view these certifications and what doors they can open in terms of lucrative job roles and security domains.

Understanding CISA and CISSP Certifications

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Below, we discuss the key differences between CISA and CISSP certifications.

We kick off with an overview of CISA and CISSP, laying out what each entails. This head-to-head comparison illuminates the unique value prop of each. The insights below clear up any confusion surrounding these two powerhouse credentials.

Definition and Overview

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications are heavy hitters in the world of cybersecurity credentials. But they take different approaches to validating expertise.

CISA focuses on auditing and controlling information systems to align with policies, regulations, and best practices. CISSP covers a broader scope of proactively designing, implementing and managing the overall security posture of organizations.

While CISA drills down deep into auditing tools, standards, and techniques, CISSP aims to provide broad security knowledge across industries and domains. In a paradoxical way, CISA’s narrow specialty contrasts with the CISSP’s wide generalist approach.

Professionals pursuing CISA look backward at existing systems to monitor risks, gaps, and compliance. CISSPs take a forward-thinking view to build secure frameworks from the ground up. CISA holders call out deficiencies in hindsight, while CISSPs work to prevent them in foresight.

But both certifications carry clout and signal high competence. CISA prepares candidates to take on auditing roles, and CISSP opens doors to security engineering and architecture positions.

By and large, these credentials cater to different audiences.

Comparison of roles and responsibilities

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is tailored to those who want to become information systems auditors. CISA holders ensure that IT and business systems align with compliance frameworks and regulations. They dig into how technology resources are utilized and protected within an organization.

On the flip side, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification covers a broader scope of cybersecurity practices. CISSPs are involved in designing, engineering, implementing, and managing the overall security posture of organizations. They touch on subject areas like risk management, asset security, security architecture, communications security, and software development security. CISSPs take a big-picture view to create holistic security solutions.

While CISA and CISSP overlap in some domains, like risk management and access controls, they diverge sharply in other areas. CISA zeroes in on auditing systems for risks, gaps, and compliance issues. CISSP expands outward to actually build secure systems and frameworks.

CISA is known as a specialty certification, while CISSP covers the full spectrum of security. However, CISA also goes substantially deeper into auditing tools, standards, methods, and techniques. CISSP aims to make candidates proficient in security principles that apply across industries and domains.

CISA Vs CISSP: Comparison Table

Professionals looking to boost their cybersecurity careers often weigh up the pros and cons of these certifications to figure out which one will better set them up for success.

In the table below, we have broken down some of the key differences between CISA and CISSP across important criteria. This will allow cybersecurity professionals to size up how each certification stacks up in areas like exam content, work experience requirements, and career impact.

Focus AreaAuditing, controlling, monitoring, assessing IT and business systemsDesigning, engineering, implementing, managing overall security posture
ScopeNarrow, specializedBroad, generalist
Knowledge AreasIT governance, IT asset management, audit process, risk management, regulatory compliance, IS audit standards, tools, techniquesSecurity and risk management, asset security, security architecture, software development security, communications security
Ideal Candidate BackgroundAuditing, control, and monitoring experienceSecurity engineering, architecture, management experience
Education/Experience Requirements5 years experience auditing, controlling, monitoring, assessing IT systems5 years cumulative paid work experience in 2 or more CISSP exam domains
Continuing Education Requirements120 CPEs every 3 years120 CPEs every 3 years
Certifying BodyISACA(ISC)2
RecognitionANSI accredited, globally recognizedANSI accredited, globally recognized
Career OpportunitiesIT auditor, compliance officer, risk analystSecurity engineer, consultant, manager, director

Purpose and Scope of Each Certification

When looking into IT certifications, it is important to dig into the purpose and scope of each to figure out if it lines up with your career aspirations and skills. Below, we have delved into two premier certifications – CISA and CISSP – to call out how they differ.

CISA: Focused on information systems audit

The CISA zeros in on the details of information systems auditing. CISA holders roll up their sleeves to monitor, assess, and probe how well technology and business systems align with policies, regulations, and best practices. They take a magnifying glass to how IT resources are governed, managed, and protected.

CISSP: Focused on information security management

CISSP casts a wider net over the broad landscape of information security management. CISSPs take a big-picture view to architect, engineer, and steer the overall security posture of organizations. They touch on a diverse mix of subject areas to build holistic defenses.

Technical vs. Managerial Focus

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications speak to differing expertise that information security professionals may wish to highlight. Both certifications have their place, but they partition off into more granular vs more overarching security skill sets. Here is a comparison of the technical vs managerial focus of CISA and CISSP:

CISA: Technical knowledge and skills

The CISA certification hones in on developing hands-on technical knowledge and skills for information systems auditing. CISA holders gain expertise in using specific tools, methods, and processes to dissect IT infrastructure and controls. They sharpen their ability to dig into systems, identify gaps, and gauge compliance.

CISSP: Managerial and risk management expertise

The CISSP trains professionals in higher-level information security management and risk planning. CISSPs cultivate expertise in designing enterprise-wide security frameworks, not niche technical abilities. They take a broad approach to devising solutions that align security with business objectives.

Advancement Opportunities

Obtaining CISA and CISSP certifications open up avenues for career advancement and growth. With focused preparation and dedication, these premier certifications provide professionals the chance to level up and take their careers to new heights. Here is a comparison of advancement opportunities with CISA vs CISSP:

CISA: Opportunities for advancement within the audit field

The CISA opens doors to move up within information systems auditing and control roles. It equips professionals to take on higher-level auditing and compliance responsibilities. CISA holders can advance to lead auditor positions and management of audit teams.

CISSP: Opportunities for leadership roles in security

The CISSP enables ascension into prestigious leadership positions in the information security domain. It signals competence to steer strategy and oversee broad security initiatives. CISSPs are primed to advance into influential roles like Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Director of Security.

Job Opportunities

This section explores the diverse career paths CISA and CISSP open up. The certifications cater to different disciplines – auditing versus security – but both promise bright job prospects. Read on to get the lowdown on how these certifications can serve as springboards to take your career to the next level.

CISA: Career paths in audit, compliance, and governance

The CISA certification opens doors to careers in information systems audit, compliance, and IT governance. Typical roles for CISA holders include IT Auditor, Compliance Officer, and Risk Analyst. They are suited to roles that involve closely inspecting systems and controls for risks and regulatory alignment.

CISSP: Career paths in security management and consulting

CISSPs are primed for security management, consulting, and architecture positions. Common roles for CISSPs include Security Engineer, Consultant, Manager, and Director. CISSPs take a broad view to shape security strategies, oversee programs, and steer architectures.

Exam Structure and Requirements

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications have differing structures and prerequisites that those looking to obtain either credential should be aware of.

Those pursuing either credential will need to drill down into the specifics to ensure they meet all requirements laid out. Here is a comparison of the exam structure and requirements for CISA vs CISSP:

CISA: Single exam covering 5 domains

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The CISA certification involves passing a single 4-hour exam consisting of 150 multiple-choice questions spanning 5 job practice domains. The exam covers 5 domains relating to information systems auditing, governance, management, acquisition, development, implementation, operation, resilience, and protection of assets.

CISSP: 8 domains and 2 years of relevant work experience

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The CISSP requires first attaining 5 years of paid work experience in 2 or more CISSP domains, although one year of that experience can be substituted with a college degree. Then, candidates must pass a 3-hour exam of 100-150 questions covering 8 security domains.

Choosing the Right Certification

Before jumping in head first, it’s important to carry out some due diligence to make sure you pick the certification that will best align with your background and support your professional goals moving forward.

Below, we have discussed key considerations, such as assessing your existing skills and experience and clearly identifying your career aspirations in order to help point you in the direction of the ideal certification program to meet your needs. Here are some key points to consider when choosing between CISA or CISSP certifications:

Assessing your skills and experience

  • Take stock of your work history and domain knowledge
    • CISA if experienced in auditing, control, compliance
    • CISSP if background in security architecture, engineering
  • Consider which topics you want to drill down into
    • CISA for deep expertise in systems auditing
    • CISSP for broad security management perspective
  • Reflect on what roles you feel prepared for now
    • CISA to validate technical auditing capabilities
    • CISSP if ready for strategic leadership duties
  • Review exam content to see which aligns closer
    • CISA focuses narrowly on auditing processes
    • CISSP covers a wide range of security domains
  • Think about which credentials fit your comfort zone
    • CISA to build on audit experience
    • CISSP to stretch into security strategy roles
  • Weigh if you meet experience requirements
    • CISA needs 5 years of professional experience
    • CISSP needs 5 years of security experience

Identifying your career goals

  • Consider your target job roles
    • CISA for IT audit, compliance, risk analysis
    • CISSP for security engineering, architecture
  • Decide if you want to specialize or generalize
    • CISA for specialized auditing expertise
    • CISSP for broad security management
  • Determine if you want to focus on technical skills or leadership
    • CISA to build detailed technical auditing capabilities
    • CISSP for strategy and planning
  • Assess if you want to cement yourself as an expert or leader
    • CISA to become a trusted auditing authority
    • CISSP to take on executive security roles
  • Envision your long-term career trajectory
    • CISA to move up in audit management
    • CISSP for CISO or Director of Security goals
  • Research which certificate fits local job requirements
    • CISA if audit roles demand it
    • CISSP for prestige and management jobs

Considering Industry Demand and Salary Potential

For cybersecurity professionals looking to boost their credentials, the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications represent two prestigious options. But which one is the better fit for your career goals and interests? This section will compare and contrast the CISA vs CISSP jobs and CISA vs CISSP salary potential to help you determine the ideal choice.

CISA: High demand and competitive salary

  • CISA continues to see sky-high demand as a specialized auditing certification.
  • Salaries rose 5% to hit $149K on average in 2022.
  • Location and seniority widen pay gaps, with top roles at big firms earning up to $175K.
  • Specialists like auditors make less at $77K than security managers at $126K.
  • Projected to gain competitiveness and expanded job openings through 2024.

CISSP: Growing demand and high earning potential

  • CISSP is increasingly sought-after as a broad security management certification.
  • Professionals earn over $120K per year on average in North America.
  • Considered lucrative given the intense CISSP certification requirements.
  • Validates wide-ranging security knowledge on a global scale.
  • Catapults holders into the top pay scales via leadership positions.
  • Salaries climb with experience and role seniority, nearing $200K.


The distinctions between the two certifications boil down to their unique focuses. Professionals looking to boost their cybersecurity careers often weigh up the pros and cons of these certifications to figure out which one will better set them up for success.

While CISA zeros in on auditing, CISSP branches out into broader security management. Considering your interests and strengths can help determine which certification tracks best with your path.

Ultimately, professionals should choose the certification that best aligns with their work experience and long-term goals.

Ready to take the next step? CCS Learning Academy offers leading online training to help you prepare for and pass the CISA or CISSP exam on your first attempt. Our Best CISSP and CISA Training and Certification to validate your real-world security expertise. Expert instructors help reinforce knowledge across all CISSP and CISA domains so you can earn these premier certifications confidently.

Whether CISA or CISSP is the right path for you, CCS Learning Academy has the skilled instruction and proven exam prep to help you succeed. Learn more and get started today!


Q1: What are CISA and CISSP certifications?

CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) are two prestigious certifications in the cybersecurity domain. CISA focuses on information system auditing, control, and assurance, while CISSP is more centered on information security practices and principles.

Q2: Who is CISA certification best suited for?

CISA is primarily designed for professionals involved in IT audit, control, assurance, and risk management. This includes IT auditors, audit managers, IT compliance managers, and IT consultants.

Q3: Who should pursue the CISSP certification?

CISSP is ideal for experienced security practitioners, managers, and executives interested in proving their knowledge in security practices and principles. Typical roles include security consultants, IT directors, security auditors, and security architects.

Q4: How do the exam structures for CISA and CISSP compare?

The CISA exam is a 4-hour test with 150 multiple-choice questions. CISSP, on the other hand, utilizes a Computer Adaptive Testing format with up to 150 questions and lasts 3 hours. Both exams cover extensive content and require thorough preparation.

Q5: What are the prerequisites for taking these exams?

For CISA, you need a minimum of 5 years of work experience in information systems auditing, control, or security. CISSP requires 5 years of cumulative, paid, full-time work experience in at least two of the eight domains of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).

Q6: Can I pursue both CISA and CISSP certifications?

Absolutely! Many professionals acquire both certifications to diversify their skill set, enhance their marketability, and signify expertise in both IT auditing and information security domains.

Q7: How do the job prospects differ between CISA and CISSP certified professionals?

Both certifications open doors to high-demand roles. CISA-certified professionals often land roles in IT auditing, compliance, and governance, while CISSP-certified professionals are sought after for roles in information security management, risk analysis, and system architecture.

Q8: How frequently do I need to renew these certifications?

Both CISA and CISSP certifications require renewal. CISA holders must renew every 3 years and accumulate a specific number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours. CISSP holders must earn 120 CPE credits every 3 years for renewal.

Q9: Which certification is harder: CISA or CISSP?

Difficulty is subjective, as it depends on an individual’s background, experience, and areas of expertise. While some find CISSP more challenging due to its broad coverage of security topics, others might find CISA’s focus on auditing and control to be more intricate.

Q10: Which certification is more recognized globally?

Both CISA and CISSP are globally recognized and respected. While CISSP is often cited as a gold standard for information security professionals, CISA holds significant weight, especially in IT auditing circles.