We all know that security is an extremely important area of IT these days—one that affects every organization and every administrator, no matter what the business. There's no doubt about it: Security expertise is becoming increasingly valued in the IT world.
That's why many people looking to earn industry certifications are focusing more and more on security-related certs. If you're considering pursuing such a certification, I recommend looking into the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) certification. Let's take a closer look at the CCSP.
Know your options
In general, Cisco offers three certification paths:
- Associate: This is the most entry-level line of Cisco certifications, which includes Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
- Professional: This is the mid-level line of Cisco certifications, which includes Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP), Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP), and Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP).
- Expert: This is the highest level of Cisco certifications, which includes five variations of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification: Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, Storage Networking, and Voice.
Choose your path
Of course, there's a long-time debate over the value of certifications. While proponents claim certs help "prove" your experience, others argue that a piece of paper doesn't prove anything. But I don't want to start debating whether certifications are "worth it" in this article.
However, if you do decide to pursue certification, you should be clear on the benefits you expect to gain. In my opinion, the CCSP certification offers the chance to prove to yourself and others that you know what you're talking about when it comes to Cisco security issues. In many cases, this "proof" could mean the difference in a job offer, a raise, or added responsibility.
These days, most companies have built out and stabilized their networks, and the largest network changes typically involve the areas of security and voice over IP (VoIP). Because of this, CCSP and CCVP certifications are growing in hype and popularity. In fact, security-specific certifications hold three of the spots on CertCities.com's list of the 10 Hottest Certifications for 2006, and the CCSP certification is fourth on the list.
Earn your cert
The CCSP certification is one of the five mid-level certifications. The prerequisite for the CCSP is valid CCNA certification. The CCSP is equivalent to the better-known CCNP certification under the Routing and Switching track; they're both mid-level certifications.
To obtain CCSP certification, you must pass five tests:
- 642-551 SND: Securing Cisco Network Devices Exam (SND)
- 642-502 SNRS: Securing Networks with Cisco Routers and Switches Exam (SNRS)
- 642-522 SNPA: Securing Networks with PIX and ASA Exam (SNPA)
- 642-532 IPS: Securing Networks Using Intrusion Prevention Systems Exam (IPS)
HIPS: Securing Hosts Using Cisco Security Agent Exam (HIPS) or
642-511 CSVPN: Cisco Secure Virtual Private Networks Exam (CSVPN)
Passing these certification exams exhibits that you're knowledgeable in the following areas:
- Securing a network
- Configuring common security features, such as logging, IDS/IPS, access control lists, and AAA
- Configuring security on Cisco routers and switches
- Configuring a Cisco PIX firewall and Cisco ASA security appliance
- Configuring a Cisco intrusion prevention system
- Configuring either Cisco Security Agent or Cisco VPN concentrators
After earning CCSP certification, you can choose to pursue the CCIE Security certification. However, it's important to note that the CCSP is not a prerequisite for the CCIE Security certification.
Do you have any Cisco certifications? What do you think about the CCSP certification? Which certifications would you look for when hiring someone? Post your comments in this article's discussion.
Miss a column?
Check out the Cisco Routers and Switches Archive, and catch up on David Davis' most recent columns.
Want to learn more about router and switch management? Automatically sign up for our free Cisco Routers and Switches newsletter, delivered each Friday!
David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.