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(ISC)² Career and Certification Guide

International Information Security Certification Consortium (ISC)²

The worldwide integration and use of the internet in the late ’80s and early ’90s led to a meaningful discussion about the need to secure information shared in cyberspace. The many contributing voices to this discussion meant developing a standardized set of rules for studying and applying security measures.

Recognizing these needs, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium was formed as a non-profit organization, and it specialized in educating and certifying professionals working on information security. Today, (ISC)² has become the world’s largest IT security organization, and its certifications are respected globally.


An Introduction to (ISC)²

The world-renowned (ISC)² —pronounced eye-ess-cee squared—is a non-profit organization that was developed in 1989 for the sole purpose of educating and certifying individuals in the IT security industry. Since then, its’ phenomenal growth has seen the organization establish offices in the United States, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

(ISC)² also boasts of thousands of members in over 160 countries and a reputation second to none. The certification program is known for its Common Body of Knowledge framework, which serves as one of the guiding standards and principles for the IT security industry. Therefore, network security experts, IT security professionals, and engineers can validate their abilities by attaining an (ISC)² certificate.


Is the (ISC)² Certification Program for You?

Although your professional development is a personal matter, it is still essential for one to seek a more informed opinion from mentors and other sources of knowledge when pursuing a career.

Here, the benefits of becoming (ISC)² certified for both professionals and businesses will be discussed to help you make an educated decision when considering a certification program.


The Benefits of an (ISC)² certification

Anyone who is active in the cybersecurity industry has a lot to benefit from by partaking in the (ISC)² certification program. Aside from the knowledge to be gained, many other benefits will be explored in the coming paragraphs.

Benefits to IT Professionals

  • Validates your Abilities—mitigating risks and keeping track of security issues is one of the biggest challenges every organization that operates any IT infrastructure faces. Therefore, having a certificate that proves your understanding of security issues proves your pedigree to the world.
  • It puts you on a Pedestal—it is common knowledge that for every job position in the IT community, there are a thousand and one people qualified for it. So how can one stand out? In IT security, and (ISC) ² gives you the desired platform that puts you head and shoulder above your peers.
  • Boosts your Earning Potential—a fulfilling career where you do what you love while earning a respectable income. Everyone has responsibilities, and an (ISC) ² certified professional can make much more to meet their obligations.


The Benefits to Corporate Organizations
  • Increases an Organization’s Understanding and Implementation of Best Practices—businesses that employ certified professionals directly enhance their ability to integrate information security code of ethics and standards in the organization.
  • Projects Confidence to Your Clients—a corporation that ensures its staff is certified in security matters is viewed as a favorable organization to do business with. This builds trust and client confidence when working with or on your platform.
  • Improves Internal Security—certified IT security professionals have the knowledge needed to create a coherent security culture across all departments of an organization. This drastically increases a business’s ability to deal with security threats and mitigate risks.



(ISC)² Certification: An Overview

The entire (ISC)² certification program is built on the backs of seven core disciplines in information security. These certificate programs were developed with professionals and IT security practitioners working in the cybersecurity niche. The professional certification programs include:

  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Authorization Professional (CAP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)


The first step to becoming certified is obtaining your SSCP credentials; this grants you the status of an Associate (ISC)² professional as well as one of the critical prerequisites needed to get a specialized certificate. It is also important to note that the same certification path applies to CAP, CSSLP, or CISSP. And professionals with these credentials fall under the Associate of the (ISC)² umbrella.


System Security Certified Professional (SSCP)

The SSCP certification program focuses on IT administration and the task that comes with integrating the necessary security policies to keep an IT infrastructure standardized and its data secure. The program is ideal for network security engineers, system administrators, and security analysts looking to validate their abilities.

Examinations—the SSCP program consists of an exam that tests your understanding of the IT operational roles needed to ensure security. The topics to be covered by interested candidates cover 7 CBK domains, including:

  • Access control
  • Incident response
  • Networks and communication
  • Security operations
  • Risk identification
  • Cryptography
  • Systems and applications security.

The SSCP exam runs for 3 hours, and it consists of 125 multiple choice questions prepared for participants and interested in sitting for the program? Then you are required to have a minimum of a year’s experience working full-time in one of the specified domains. Successful candidates are automatically Associates of (ISC)² and are privy to the benefits that come with the association.


Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)

As with all (ISC)² certifications, the CISSP is a vendor-neutral program dedicated to IT security. It also happens to be the most visible and popular certification program (ISC)² has to offer. The program was designed to help network security specialists, engineers, network architects, etc., interested in pursuing a professional certificate program. Therefore, if you fall into the category of people who implement, manage, and troubleshoot IT security issues, the CISSP was developed for you.

Examination—the CISSP examination you have to pass to become certified is designed to test your knowledge on the eight domains of CISSP’s standard body of knowledge. This means you will have to be conversant with;

  • Security and risk management
  • Asset security
  • Security engineering
  • Communications and network security
  • Identity and access management
  • Security operations
  • Security assessment and testing
  • Software development security


The length of the exam is 6 hours, and, in that time, you will be tasked with answering 250 multiple choice questions. It is also important to note that you are expected to have a minimum of 5 years of experience working in at least 2 of the above-listed CBK niches. It is also important to note that the certificate is valid for three years and to recertify, you are expected to earn at least 40 CPE credits annually for the succeeding three years.


Certified Authorization Professional (CAP)

CAP certification program focuses on measuring your understanding of management and your skill with authorizing and maintaining information systems. The program was developed for information security experts, IT managers, and system managers looking to validate their abilities to assess, secure, and authorize interactions within an IT ecosystem.

Examinations—like other programs offered by (ISC)², it is essential to note that the CAP exam is vendor-neutral and focuses on seven domains of the CAP certification program CBK. These domains include;

  • Risk management framework (RMF)
  • Categorization of information systems
  • Selection of security controls
  • Security control implementation
  • Security control assessment
  • Information system authorization
  • Monitoring of security control


The exams covering these seven domains consist of 125 multiple choice questions, which you must answer to the best of your abilities in 3 hours. There are specific criteria you need to meet in other to be able to sit the exam. This includes; work experience of 2 years in any of the seven domains listed above and an understanding of (ISC)² code of ethics.

The CAP certificate remains valid for three years, and if you are interested in recertification, you will have to earn a minimum of 20 CPE points every year for the three years your certificate remains valid. This means a total of 60 CPE points get you recertified.


Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)

The CSSLP program was developed as a means for everyone involved in the software industry to validate their abilities. Therefore, if you are a software developer, architect, project manager, quality assurance provider, etc., the CSSLP is a great way to highlight your particular skill sets. The entire program focuses on software design, implantation, testing, and deployment.

Examinations—the CSSLP program focuses on what it takes for you to build secure software through its entire lifecycle. The program is centered on eight domains of the CSSLP’s CBK. These domains include;

  • Secure software concepts
  • Secure software requirements
  • Secure software design
  • Secure software implementation
  • Secure software testing
  • Software acceptance
  • Software deployment, operations, maintenance, and disposal
  • Supply chain and software acquisition


The examination runs for 4 hours, and it consists of 175 multiple choice questions covering the above domains. To be considered as a participant for CSSLP, you are required to have at least four years of experience working full-time in at least one of the domains outlined above. The certificate’s validity expires after three years, and to recertify, you will have to earn at least 30 CPE credits annually for three years and also pay an annual fee of $100.


Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

The CCSP is a certification program backed by both the (ISC)² and the Cloud Security Alliance—a cloud computing non-governmental organization. The certification program focuses on providing Systems Engineers, enterprise architects, security experts, and IT managers with a way to validate their abilities. It is also one of the popular certifications (ISC)² has to offer.

Examinations—if interested in attaining the CCSP certificate, it is essential for you to seek knowledge across the different domains that make up the entire program. There are 6 CBK domains that make up the CCSP, and they are:

  • Architectural concepts and design requirements
  • Cloud data security
  • Cloud platform and infrastructure security
  • Cloud application security
  • Operations
  • Legal and compliance

The CCSP exam runs for 4 hours, and in that time, you will be expected to answer 125 multiple-choice questions focused on the six domain niches above. In order to be a part of the CCSP program, it is essential to note that there are specific requirements you are required to meet.

These requirements include; a minimum of 5 years of experience working within one of the above niches, and it is essential to note that 3 of these years must be from the field of information technology.

The CCSP certificate is valid for only three years, and recertification must be considered if you want to keep your certificate. The recertification process consists of acquiring at least 30 CPE credits annually as well as the payment of an annual $100 fee. This means you require a total of 90 CPE units for the three years your certificate stays valid.


The Salary Advantages of Obtaining an (ISC)² Certificate

Everyone, including you, believes that acquiring an (ISC)² certificate is a pathway to both personal and professional development in the field of IT security, and this is indeed true. One of the significant advantages your certification will give you is the ability to earn more than your peers without one.

  • System Security Certified Professional (SSCP)—certified professionals earn $50,000 to $55,000
  • Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)—certified professionals earn $69,000 to $80,000
  • Certified Authorization Professional (CAP)—certified professionals earn $60,000 to $69,000
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)—certified professionals earn $65,000 to $70,000
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCDP)—certified professionals earn $70,000 to $80,000


Since its inception, the (ISC)² has remained one of the tech community’s most popular IT security certification bodies. Today, (ISC)² boasts of thousands of members across 160 nations. Successfully participating in its programs puts you in its select community of professionals with validated credentials.


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