The top 6 Governance, Risk and Compliance certifications

CEOs are always on the lookout for dependable folks who can identify potential exposures and quantify the impacts of risk on an organization while protecting the interests of employees, shareholders, other organizations and the general public.

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In-demand governance, risk and compliance (GRC) certifications

In the wake of several well-publicized corporate scandals about 15 years ago – Enron and WorldCom, to name two – and the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, organizations that must adhere to regulations for data security, financial accountability and consumer privacy can't do without someone making sure internal processes are being carried out properly. Enter the need for competent governance, risk and compliance (GRC) professionals.

The goal of GRC, in general, is to ensure that proper policies and controls are in place to reduce risk, to set up a system of checks and balances to alert personnel when new risks materialize and to manage business processes more efficiently and proactively. Professionals with a GRC certification must juggle stakeholder expectations with business objectives, and ensure that organizational objectives are met while meeting compliance requirements. That's an incredible amount of responsibility, and is absolutely necessary in today's business climate.

All kinds of job roles require or benefit from a GRC certification, such as chief information officer, IT security analyst, security engineer architect, information assurance program manager and senior IT auditor, among others.

Read on to learn about our top six picks for GRC certifications.

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1. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

One of the most sought-after GRC certifications by candidates and employers alike is the CRISC from ISACA, which identifies IT professionals who are responsible for managing IT and enterprise risk and ensuring that risk management goals are met. A CRISC is often heavily involved with overseeing the development, implementation and maintenance of information system (IS) controls designed to secure systems and manage risk. Since 2010, ISACA has issued over 18,000 CRISC credentials, which is a relatively high number in the GRC certification field.

The CRISC exam covers four domains: Risk Identification (Domain 1), Risk Assessment (Domain 2), Risk Response and Mitigation (Domain 3) and Risk and Control Monitoring and Reporting (Domain 4).

Requirements: Pass one exam (150 questions, four hours), prove a minimum of three years of cumulative work experience in IT risk and information systems associated with at least two of the four domains, adhere to the ISACA Code of Professional Ethics and comply with the CRISC Continuing Education Policy.

Exam cost: $440 to $675, depending on whether you are an ISACA member and when you register.

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2. Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)

The CGEIT certification, by ISACA, recognizes IT professionals with deep knowledge of enterprise IT governance principles and practices, as well as the ability to enhance value to the organization through governance and risk optimization measures, and align IT with business strategies and goals. Since the program started, more than 6,000 individuals have achieved the CGEIT credential through ISACA.

The CGEIT exam covers five domains: Framework for the Governance of Enterprise IT (Domain 1), Strategic Management (Domain 2), Benefits Realization (Domain 3), Risk Optimization (Domain 4) and Resource Optimization (Domain 5).

Requirements: Pass one exam (150 questions, four hours); prove a minimum of five years of cumulative work experience in IT enterprise governance including at least one year defining, implementing and managing a governance framework; adhere to the ISACA Code of Professional Ethics and comply with the CGEIT Continuing Education Policy.

Exam cost: $440 to $675, depending on whether you are an ISACA member and when you register.

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3. Project Management Institute-Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)

Anyone who has pursued a project management certification is familiar with the Project Management Institute (PMI), either through research or by picking up the coveted Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. However, PMI also offers the Risk Management Profession (PMI-RMP) certification, as well as several others that focus on business management, processes, analysis and scheduling.

The PMI-RMP identifies IT professionals involved with large projects or working in complex environments who assess and identify project-based risks. They are also competent in designing and implementing mitigation plans that counter the risks from system vulnerabilities, natural disasters and the like.

The PMI-RMP exam covers five knowledge domains: Risk Strategy and Planning (Domain 1), Stakeholder Engagement (Domain 2), Risk Process Facilitation (Domain 3), Risk Monitoring and Reporting (Domain 4) and Perform Specialized Risk Analyses (Domain 5).

Requirements: Pass one exam (170 questions, 3.5 hours), prove achievement of a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate's degree or global equivalent), and prove at least 4,500 hours of project risk management experience and 40 hours of project risk management education. The experience and education requirement can be substituted with a four-year degree (bachelor's degree or global equivalent), at least 3,000 hours of project risk management experience and 30 hours of project risk management education.

Exam cost: $520 (member), $670 (non-member).

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4. ITIL Expert

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) certifications are tied to the ITIL framework, which describes best practices for designing, implementing and managing a wide variety of IT service projects. In ITIL-speak, certifications are referred to as "qualifications," which create a classic certification ladder beginning with the basic-level ITIL Foundation and culminating with the pinnacle ITIL Master. One rung below the Master level is the popular ITIL Expert.

A professional with the ITIL Expert qualification has a deep understanding of ITIL service best practices as they apply across an IT environment, not just to one service area. In other words, the Expert is able to support an organization by bridging service lifecycle stages, seeing the big picture as a sum of the parts.

Requirements: Achieve the ITIL Foundation certificate or a Bridge qualification equivalent, acquire at least 17 credits per the ITIL Credit System and pass the Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) exam at the end of an approved training course.

Exam cost: $799 (online) to $2,800 (classroom), which includes training and exam.

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5. Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA)

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is a global professional association that provides information, networking opportunities and education to auditors in business, government and the financial services industry. One of the IIA's certifications is the CRMA, which recognizes individuals who are involved with risk management and assurance, governance, quality assurance and control self-assessment. A CRMA is considered a trusted advisor to senior management and members of audit committees in large organizations.

Requirements: One exam in two parts: CIA Exam Part 1 – Internal Audit Basics (125 questions, 2.5 hours) and CIA Exam Part 2 – Internal Audit Practice (100 questions, 2 hours). In addition, prove achievement of a 3- or 4-year post-secondary degree (or higher), or two years of post-secondary education and five years of internal auditing experience (or equivalent) or seven years of internal auditing experience. Prove at least two years of auditing experience or control-related business experience in risk management or quality assurance. Finally, provide a character reference signed by a person holding an IIA certification or a supervisor, provide proof of identification and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics established by The IIA.

Exam costs: $350 (members), $450 (non-members).

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6. GRC Professional (GRCP)

OCEG is a member-driven, global organization dedicated to providing information, education and certification on GRC to its members and the greater community. With only a few but well-respected certifications in its program, the GRCP is a solid credential aimed at a broad range of industries and practices.

The single exam covers basic terms and concepts, GRC principles, and core components and practices, as well as the relationship of GRC to other disciplines. The GRCP is required for the higher-level GRC Audit certification.

Requirements: One exam

Costs: $349 for All Access Pass (all live and archived webinars, OCEG Standards, Guides and Resources, eLearning program, and exam).