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The Cisco Certified Security Professional


  1. The Cisco Certified Security Professional
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Greg Bastien covers four factors that you should consider before you select a career path and pursue a certification program.

The Cisco Certified Security Professional

The job market has always been relatively strong for skilled people seeking positions in the technology field. The problem for employers has normally been to find personnel with the necessary skills to fill open positions. One item that many employers consider when screening applicants is career certifications. Career certifications indicate that an applicant has invested the time and effort required to master specific skills and understand specific concepts. The different types of certifications available today are limitless due to the tremendous growth of today's technology and the many different ways that technology is applied.

I like to refer to certifications as the "foot in the door" that applicants use to get a technology job. It is very important that you not only have the certification, but also maintain the skills required for that certification. Professional certifications denote a level of skill. The last thing you would want to do is get a job interview based on your certification and not have the skills that are associated with that particular certification.

As vendor-specific certifications go, Cisco® definitely leads the pack. There are few organizations that connect to the Internet, or perform any sort of computer networking that are not in some way familiar with Cisco Systems® and its many products. Cisco Career Certifications range from the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA®) to the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE®). Over the last few years Cisco has created certification tracks that are specific to certain skill sets and products. One of these certifications is the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP™). I recommend that any certification path begin with the CCNA because the basis for many of these skills requires a strong foundation in networking, which is qualified by that certification.

Security has always been a concern to organizations that perform business. As organizations expand their networks and interconnect, the emphasis on network security has moved to the forefront. The market for skilled network security professionals has never been better. Remembering that network security is simply security applied to networking, it only makes sense to hone your skills on products that are the most recognized in the industry when working toward a network security certification.

The Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) certification requires five exams:

  1. 642-501 SECUR
  2. 642-521 CSPFA
  3. 643-531 CSIDS Beta
  4. 642-511 CSVPN
  5. 642-541 CSI

The exams are based on the following Cisco courses: Securing Cisco IOS Networks (SECUR), Cisco Secure PIX® Firewall Advanced (CSPFA), Cisco Secure Intrusion Detection System (CSIDS), Cisco Secure Virtual Private Networks (CSVPN), and Cisco SAFE Implementation (CSI).

Each of these exams tests your skill in a specific area relating to network security. Of course you must have an in-depth understanding of networking before you attempt to learn network security. Further information on the Cisco security certifications can be found at http://www.cisco.com/go/training. In April of 2003 Cisco received recognition from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Community for National Systems Security (CNSS) for the requirements of the CCSP certification. The CNSS now awards the "Information Systems Security Professional" (INFOSEC) certification for the completion of the first four Cisco certification exams listed above. For further information about the INFOSEC certification go to http://www.cisco.com/go/certsupport.

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