Adoption and usage of the cloud is evolving to combine with technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G and more, according to Sid Nag, Research Vice President at Gartner. "In other words," he says, "cloud will serve as the glue between many other technologies that CIOs want to use more of, allowing them to leapfrog into the next century as they address more complex and emerging use cases."

With cloud roles expanding and so many certifications out there, which option offers cybersecurity experts the flexibility to grow with the coming waves of opportunity? Let's compare two popular options, ISC2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) vs. Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate.

CCSP is a vendor-neutral certification that demonstrates the broad knowledge to successfully secure any cloud environment, regardless of vendor affiliation. It proves expert skills and experience in cloud security design, implementation, architecture, operations, controls and compliance with the full range of regulatory frameworks. The globally recognized certification is available from ISC2, the creators of the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Common Body of Knowledge.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate is a vendor-specific certification that shows expertise specifically in Microsoft's Azure cloud environment. It proves proficiency in implementing, managing and monitoring identity, governance, storage, compute and virtual networks exclusively in Microsoft Azure.

Why is vendor-neutral cloud certification favored by many organizations?

For higher levels of security, the standard for many organizations today is multi-cloud, which uses multiple providers for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS environments. Multi-cloud strategy allows organizations to work with cloud providers and environment types best-suited to their workload or application.

Fifty-five percent of companies use at least two public clouds in addition to their own data centers, according to IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Study. IT managers make choices based on the performance and services a platform offers, which vary according to application type. And because the public cloud is a dynamic environment, a multi-cloud strategy allows organizations to avoid the limitations and potential expense of vendor lock-in and take advantage of innovations as they are introduced.

What is each cert's emphasis on cloud security?

CCSP turns the focus on cloud security, testing candidates' skills and knowledge across six cloud security domains. It validates your ability to design, manage and secure data, applications and infrastructure in any cloud environment, while also following the best practices established by ISC2.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate validates a candidate's ability to effectively demonstrate knowledge about security specifically in the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

Domains and Skills Measured

ISC2 CCSP Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate

Cloud Concepts, Architecture and Design

Manage Identity and Access

Cloud Data Security

Implement Platform Protection

Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Security

Manage Security Operations

Cloud Application Security

Secure Data and Applications

Cloud Security Operations


Legal, Risk and Compliance


My employer uses Microsoft Azure. Why should I consider CCSP certification?

Certification in both Microsoft Azure and CCSP complement each other by elevating your expertise in the cloud. CCSP expands upon vendor-specific cloud certifications with comprehensive knowledge and skills in security frameworks. CCSP’s vendor-neutral certification deepens your proficiency with a broader mastery of cloud security.

What level of professional experience is required?

CCSP candidates are expert-level professionals. They are required to have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in information technology, of which three years must be in information security and one year in one or more of the six domains of the (ISC)2 CCSP Common Body of Knowledge. A candidate who doesn’t yet have the required experience to become a CCSP may become an Associate of (ISC)2 after successfully passing the CCSP exam. The Associate of ISC2 will then have six years to earn the experience needed for the CCSP certification.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate candidates are recommended but not required to have subject matter expertise in implementing Azure security controls that protect identity, access, data, applications and networks in cloud and hybrid environments as part of an end-to-end infrastructure.

What’s the earning potential?

Certification Magazine’s 2021 salary survey ranks CCSP at No. 8 on its list of most lucrative certifications with an average annual salary of $150,400 USD in the U.S. and $96,820 USD in all non-U.S. countries. Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate ranks No. 19 in the same ranking with an average annual salary of $141,410 USD in the U.S. and $74,140 USD in all non-U.S. countries.

What is required to maintain certification?

CCSP-credentialed professionals must participate in continuing professional education (CPE) to stay current on emerging threats, technologies, regulations, standards and practices. They are required to earn and submit a minimum of 30 CPEs each year; 90 CPEs by the end of the 3-year recertification cycle.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate certification is valid for one year from the exam pass date. Certifications are renewed by passing an assessment on Microsoft Learn within six months before the certification expires.

Certification and Maintenance Details

ISC2 CCSP Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate

Length of Exam

3 hours/125 multiple-choice questions

150 minutes/60 multiple-choice questions

Passing Score

700 out of 1,000

700 out of 1,000

Exam Fee

$599 USD

$165 USD

Annual Maintenance

$135 USD

No cost – must pass renewal assessment at Microsoft Learn within six months of certification expiration


90 credits over 3 years


How CCSP Certification Can Help You Succeed

Earning the globally recognized CCSP cloud security certification is a proven way to build your career and better secure critical assets in the cloud. CCSP shows you have the advanced technical skills and knowledge to design, manage and secure data, applications and infrastructure in the cloud using best practices, policies and procedures established by the cybersecurity member experts at ISC2.

Achieving CCSP certification provides the added benefit of membership in ISC2, the world's largest nonprofit association of cybersecurity professionals, more than 150,000 members strong. ISC2 provides members with professional development courses through the Professional Development Institute (PDI); technical webinars covering evolving cybersecurity trends; and benefits, such as the ISC2 Community.

Learn more about how CCSP can help you migrate to the cloud securely in our eBook, 20 Tips for Secure Cloud Migration.

Download your copy of The Ultimate Guide to the CCSP and get started toward certification today.