Cybersecurity Certification

CISA vs. CISM Certification: Which is Best for You?

ISACA offers two certificates that are often confused – Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

CISA vs. CISM Certification: Which is Best for You?

If you’re relatively new to Cybersecurity, you’ve probably stumbled upon CISA vs. CISM Certification. That is, two very similar, and popular, cybersecurity certifications. We’ll help you uncover the differences and determine which is right for you.

Cybersecurity is absolutely critical in today’s connected world, and choosing to follow a career in cybersecurity is a great choice. There is a shortage of skilled information security professionals globally, meaning they are in high demand, and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This also means that getting a cybersecurity certificate could be financially beneficial and a very good career move. On average, individuals that are cybersecurity certified earn 22% more than their counterparts who are not certified. So the question is, CISA vs. CISM Certification: which is best for you?

There are a number of well-known organizations that offer security-related certifications, of which ISACA is one. Although ISACA was previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, nowadays it only uses the acronym to reflect the broad range of IT governance professionals it serves.

ISACA offers two certificates that are often confused – Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

CISA vs. CISM certifications

Although there are a number of certifications forums where individuals label these two certifications as being the same, this is not the case.

As the names indicate, CISM and CISA are meant for professionals on different career paths. The CISA is for IT auditors, while the CISM is for managers of information risk (IT security managers). In this article, we will look at CISA vs. CISM certification and the reasons why one would choose one over the other.

CISA vs. CISM Certification: The Similarities

Neither certification is meant for entry-level candidates, as they both require candidates to have at least five years of relevant experience. CISM candidates must have not only five years of experience but three of those five must be directly related to information security management. The CISA does, however, allow partial waivers, normally from university education.

The exams for both certificates have 200 questions that need to be finished within a specific time, and both cover known topics, with 6 topics prescribed for the CISA and 5 for the CISM.

For which type of jobs is CISM suitable?

If you are looking to become an information security manager, the CISM is the right credential for you. Jobs that require applicants to be CISM-certified typically include information risk management, management of information security, business continuity, disaster planning, and even enterprise architecture.

These jobs often also involve project or program management, standards and policy development, assuring compliance and information assurance. Certified CISM professionals are technical individuals who have experience in systems hardening or perimeter and network security.

For which type of jobs is CISA suitable?

If you are looking to become an IT auditor, the CISA is the right credential for you. Jobs that require applicants to be CISA-certified typically require skills and knowledge in information security, IT controls, and IT auditing.

These jobs often involve maintaining regulatory compliance, accounting and finance, and are often simply auditing IT infrastructure. As far as regulatory compliance is concerned, CISA-certified professionals might be expected to audit HIPAA, SOX, NIST Special Publication 800, GLBA, and FISMA for government agencies in the U.S. Experience and knowledge of these standards and regulations can therefore be very useful.

Which type of jobs require both CISM and CISA?

As discussed, CISM and CISA are required for two very different career choices. When looking at job ads, however, companies tend to often ask for both. While this may be advantageous for the company in that it will garner a wider range of applicants, this is not very useful for potential employees with either certification. This problem could, of course, be solved simply by obtaining both certifications, but this is easier said than done as they are not easy. Doing so will, however, open up a huge range of potential positions.


Professionals with either certification will have the best idea of the skills and experience they have gained. This should make it relatively easy to determine for which jobs you would qualify and for which you won’t.

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About Jonathan Boggiano

Jon is an innovator, leader, and investor who focuses on forging organizations that positively impact the greater good. His twin passions are building things (products, experiences, and companies) and mentoring professionals.