Is the CGEIT Worth It?
The very best IT networks don't happen on their own. The biggest, most complex networks deliver unthinkable speed and power to users and devices, but they also balance those deliverables against costs, needs, and risk. And someone has to do that balancing act. That someone usually has a CGEIT certification.
Someone creates the framework that executives, management, and leadership use to understand the trade-offs and benefits of different choices. And the same someone usually turns that theoretical framework into actionable assignments for IT teams.
If you hope to eventually be that someone, leading enterprise IT networks and making multi-million-dollar choices, you might want to check out the CGEIT.
What is the CGEIT?
The CGEIT is an IT governance certification from ISACA meant for individuals already in management and leadership positions—or trying to work their way there. CGEIT stands for Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT, and as you might imagine, a lot of IT knowledge fits under that umbrella. The CGEIT is a framework-agnostic certification, which means once you earn it you can step into IT leadership positions for different network types and sizes.
ISACA is an international professional organization with members all over the world, all focused on IT governance. ISACA offers several different certifications for individuals at different levels of their careers. The CGEIT is mainly intended for managers, executives, and senior IT professionals who are looking to solidify their approaches to upper management, C-Suite positions, or leadership of IT teams. The CGEIT covers planning and establishing frameworks for the governance of enterprise IT, managing strategic initiatives, identifying the right objectives for different networks, how to identify and balance risk, and how to optimize the use of resources in pursuit of network objectives.
Earning the CGEIT certification requires passing only one exam, which is referred to as the CGEIT exam.
What Does the CGEIT Test?
The CGEIT exam is a 4-hour, 150 multiple-choice test that has four primary sections or, as ISACA calls them, "domains". The CGEIT tests you on the following:
Domain 1: Governance of Enterprise IT
Domain 2: IT Resources
Domain 3: Benefits Realization
Domain 4: Risk Optimization
The ISACA CGEIT exam changed in 2020. In 2017, the CGEIT exam had five domains, but in 2020, ISACA streamlined the CGEIT exam so that it only includes the above four sections. Although there is a lot of information on the exam, ultimately the CGEIT tests your ability to govern an enterprise IT network. That includes planning and executing an enterprise governance framework that accomplishes organizational objectives, stays inside budgetary restrictions, and maintains an appropriate level of risk.
How Much Does the CGEIT Exam Cost?
The cost of the CGEIT exam depends on whether or not you're an ISACA member: the CGEIT costs $760 for non-members and $575 for ISACA members. ISACA annual dues are $135, and the new member application costs $10. On top of that, maintaining the CGEIT costs $45 per year for members or $85 for non-members.
That means that you can apply to be a member and then take the CGEIT and it'll cost $710 total. After that, being a member will cost you $135 per year but save you $40 on your CGEIT renewal.
What Experience Do You Need for the CGEIT?
Because the CGEIT is framework-agnostic and meant for managers, executives, and senior IT professionals, quite a lot of experience is needed before you'll be eligible to take it. ISACA won't let you take the CGEIT exam if you don't have five years of experience managing, serving in an advisory or oversight role, or otherwise supporting IT-related governance.
Experience with establishing and managing a framework for IT governance is the most important experience you need before you can attempt the CGEIT. Of the five years of experience in governance generally, at least one of those years has to be specifically related to building or maintaining an enterprise IT governance framework.
On top of that, you should probably have experience with establishing roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for information assets and IT processes before attempting the CGEIT. You'll want to know how to evaluate, direct, and monitor IT strategic processes so that they stay aligned with enterprise goals. Also, you should feel comfortable with IT processes around legal and regulatory compliance objectives, as well as familiarity with developing risk management policies and standards. Above all, you need to have experience aligning your organization's goals and finances with enterprise IT practices.
Who Should Take the CGEIT?
The CGEIT is arguably one of the most challenging and most advanced IT governance certifications in the world. It's more or less intended to be a capstone to a career—or at least to catapult a person into senior leadership. The people who should take the CGEIT are IT professionals who are far along in their careers, managers of IT teams, and executives looking to solidify their technical expertise.
Is CGEIT Worth it for Network Engineers?
The CGEIT is an advanced certification, and many network engineers do end up earning it, but it's not universally worth it for all network engineers. The CGEIT is only worth it for network engineers who already know that they're going to be trying to leave behind technical responsibilities and attempt to get a promotion or secure a job in senior leadership and governance.
Because the CGEIT is framework-agnostic, it doesn't focus on individual hardware or software combinations. Instead, the CGEIT emphasizes knowledge in building IT governance frameworks that make every stakeholder happy, are within budget, and are actually realistically possible.
What that means for network engineers who love getting their hands dirty and working within the confines of a single network is that the CGEIT might not be worth it for you, particularly if you want to be known as a technology specialist. On the other hand, maybe you're a network engineer who hopes to leave technical specialization behind and move into executive leadership, the CGEIT could be worth it for you.
Is CGEIT Worth it for Chief Information Officers?
The CGEIT is worth it for Chief Information Officers. Obviously, a CIO's primary responsibility is to balance all the technological needs of a company with the actual computer systems that make it possible. If you're already a CIO or hoping to be one soon, and you feel like you're already a technical expert on the individual technologies that run your network, the CGEIT could be a perfect certification for you.
That's because the CGEIT is focused on the soft skills around evaluating the benefits of IT-enabled investments, IT processes, and IT services. The CGEIT is worth it for CIOs because it helps them quantify the value of their network additions and show their work to C-suite leadership and executive management.
Is CGEIT Worth it for an IT Director?
The CGEIT is definitely worth it for IT directors. In fact, IT directors are the largest audience for the CGEIT by far. It doesn't matter if you're an IT Director with years of experience, a brand new one, or hoping to get promoted to the position, the CGEIT is worth it because it covers all the essential job responsibilities that an IT Director deals with.
IT directors are the people who oversee the actual technical infrastructure for an organization, lead IT teams and make hard decisions about IT investments. The CGEIT is a certification that proves you know how to ask the right questions, assemble a robust and reliable framework, follow the steps to make that framework a reality, and keep a company profitable and successful with its IT framework.
Is the CGEIT Worth It?
The CGEIT certification from ISACA is a highly advanced certification that will only be worth it for IT professionals who are late in their careers and ready to make the final leap to executive leadership and management. The CGEIT isn't worth it for technical operators like systems administrators or network designers because it's so focused on top-level planning and oversight.
For people whose jobs are closer to actual technical implementation, the CGEIT isn't worth it. But for IT professionals who are ready to lead teams of hundreds and control investments in the hundreds of millions, the CGEIT is definitely worth it—it's a hallmark of excellence and advanced professionalism.
Using CGEIT to Learn Skills
Preparing for the CGEIT is an excellent way to learn advanced management and leadership skills. People aren't born with the skills necessary to be a truly excellent IT director, CIO, CISO or even CEO—they're learned over a long career. That's why training that prepares you for the CGEIT is so valuable—you can learn how to design a governance framework without the risky trial and error that most people have to go through.
On top of all of that, a lot has changed in the IT world in the last 20 years, and the CGEIT is a collection of the most important lessons from all over the world. Training to pass the CGEIT is one of the only ways to learn the combined wisdom of thousands of IT directors and Chief Information Officers from around the world.
Using CGEIT to Validate Skills
The CGEIT is perhaps the only C-Suite or executive-level certification in the world for enterprise IT governance. If you look through what the CGEIT tests you on and it all sounds familiar, you should take the CGEIT and earn your place at the top of an enterprise network's leadership. By earning the CGEIT, you join the ranks of the world's most knowledgeable and experienced IT executives, and qualify yourself for positions about as high up the ladder as they go.