Top-Notch Information Security Certification

It takes both experience and certification to succeed in an IT security career. With the growing importance of information security, many companies now use security certifications as a prerequisite for employment.

Of course, you can bootstrap your way into IT security, as everyone has to begin somewhere (as we wrote about recently). However, if you've decided to pursue a career in information security, there are a plethora of certifications from which to choose. Some certifications can be breezed through. Some people are notoriously challenging.

As a group, we understand that there is a spectrum of exam challenges. The amount of knowledge, study, and practical experience you bring to the exam determine your success. Net+ can be challenging for those with no prior experience in the field of information technology. We have found that some people have difficulty with the advanced security certifications on this list. However, some people sail right by them.

1. Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

The SSCP certification from (ISC)2 is the sole entry-level security certification on this list. However, it is included here because it is a component of a comprehensive introductory test.

Its seven sections are designed to test your knowledge of security fundamentals gained throughout your first year on the job. Once again, this necessitates prior experience in a security role, which is often attained after several years of working in IT. Put otherwise; if you're just starting out in the IT industry, you generally won't be working in security.

2. CCNA Security

Unlike the generic CCNA and CCNP certifications, CCNA Security is Cisco-centric. CCNA Security is a better "door opener" than either the SSCP or Security+ certs because it is accepted for both DOD Level I and Level II IAT baselines and generally carries greater weight with private businesses.

Some test takers have been taken aback by the breadth and depth of their preparation for the exam. Some have described the test as "fair but demanding." In order to pass the challenging CCNA Security exam, practical experience is preferable to simply studying the exam objectives.


The Department of Defense recognizes the Global Information Assurance Certification: Security Essentials (GSEC) as an intermediate-level infosec certification for Level II Information Assurance Technicians. The GSEC material may be recognizable if you have prior familiarity with networking. There are numerous definitions and incident handling procedures. It's a trick because it's a free for all.

You shouldn't rely on the fact that this test is an open book to pass it. Know your stuff, and not just in terms of security. Even if "security essentials" is part of the name of the certificate. For safety, complete knowledge is required. A wide variety of challenges may be presented by security certifications.

A total of 180 questions will be asked of you over the course of 5 hours during the GSEC exam. Proctored tests are passed with a 74% or higher. Candidate knowledge and ability to apply it are put to the test with scenario-based questions in the GSEC exam.

The GSEC has a four-year lifespan and can be renewed with 36 CPE hours.

It is a reminder that this certification, despite being termed "security essentials," actually implies "networking essentials." You should review IPv4 subnetting, CompTIA Network+, and the CCNA curriculum.

4. White Hat Hacking

With white hat hacking, the goal is to protect networks and computers from common threats.

Hacking techniques such as "footprinting,""recon,""network scanning,""SQL injection,""worms and viruses,""Denial of Service" (DoS) assaults, "social engineering," and "honeypots" are all essential to the success of any white hat hacker.

White hat hacking is resonating with many companies as cyber-attacks become more common and more widely known.

5. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

To many, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential offered by (ISC)2 represents the pinnacle of information security training and certification.

This certification is highly esteemed by private and public sector organizations as evidence of a candidate's proficiency in information security. In the same way that CASP is recognized as a DOD minimum requirement for Level III IAT security technicians, CISSP has achieved that same status. The parallels stop there.

Information security professionals who create policies and procedures can benefit from CISSP certification. This is the highest level of certification we've covered so far, and getting ready for the exam can take as long as a year.

6. CCIE Security

One of these people is bound to be a CCIE. The CCIE Security exam is notoriously difficult, even by CCIE standards. You need to do well on both the 2-hour exam and the 8-hour lab to pass this test. It typically takes a CCIE candidate two-and-a-half attempts to pass the lab examination. However, if you make it through, you'll be one of only four thousand persons in the world to have achieved such a feat.

7. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

Offensive Security Certified Professional is the second most challenging IT security certification (OSCP). This certification is aimed at security professionals engaged in penetration testing at any stage of the testing lifecycle, as the name would imply.

Why is it so hard to get this certification? Candidates must have completed the "Penetration Testing with Kali Linux" training course offered by OSCP before taking the exam. This topic is partially covered in Keith Barker's CBT Nuggets course Penetration Testing using Linux Tools, which you may check out if you're interested.

8. GIAC Security Expert (GSE)

As of June 2017, there were just 228 GSEs left in the world. Since then there isn't much progress in the numbers; hence the survey is still valid. You can become a GSE if you pass the GSEC, GCIH, and GCIA with gold in two of them. However, most GSEs have eight GIAC certifications. The certification process consists of a multiple-choice exam, a research paper, and a hands-on lab lasting two days.

As a side note, John Jenkinson, GSE #1, and Lenny Zeltser, GSE #2, competed against each other in a five-day red team, blue team exercise during the first practical GSE exam. Following four and a half days, they decided to end the game.


Certifications in information security can help you get ahead in your career. IT professionals can move up in their fields of risk management and cybersecurity by taking these certification courses.

Updated on: 24-May-2023


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