Is the SSCP Worth It?
Earning a system security certified professional (SSCP) certification helps in several ways. First, it's more technical than the similar CISSP designation also issued by (ISC)², a self-described community of security professionals.
Secondly, the SSCP is a vendor-neutral, entry-level certification, making it a great way for IT security professionals to move up in their organizations, or for technically minded people from other IT fields to break into security.
Here's why the SCCP may be worth earning for IT professionals.
Benefits of Becoming SSCP-Certified
The SSCP exam evaluates knowledge of a wide variety of security concepts and certifies qualifications to implement and manage information security systems. Here are just some of the advantages to completing the coursework and passing the test:
- The SSCP is an advanced security administration certification that helps validate skills needed to secure businesses' critical assets.
- SSCP certification proves that IT pros possess the advanced technical skills needed to implement, manage and administer IT infrastructure. It also covers how to apply security best practices such as those espoused by the experts at (ISC)².
- Beyond improving your skills, this designation can advance your career. You also can join a community of cybersecurity leaders who can support you throughout your career.
- The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recognized and accredited the SSCP under its ISO 17024 information security standard
The coursework and test preparation for SSCP Certification helps you master business-oriented security strategy. It also paves the way to high-paying jobs in your organization or elsewhere. The SSCP certification is globally recognized, so it can help you succeed in securing jobs abroad if that's your goal.
Furthermore, the SSCP is a benchmark in your security career. Public and private employers respect accredited certifications, especially when they are entrusting you with their most sensitive data.
Who Should Take the SSCP Certification Exam?
If you're working as a security professional and have one year of experience in at least one of the seven domains of the exam, the SSCP certification can help you validate your knowledge and move up in your organization.
Pursuing SSCP certification could be a good decision if you hope to become an IT administrator, director, manager or network security specialist. The certification prepares you for hands-on management of your organization's critical assets. It teaches you technical knowledge, as well as security best practices and procedures.
If you have an IT job, you understand the basic concepts of computing and security. Taking the SSCP is great preparation for the SSCP associate degree. It's also a great stepping stone for CISSP certification, which includes a lot more in terms of depth and breadth of covered topics. One possible path to the CISSP is CompTIA Network+ and Security+ followed by (ISC)² SSCP and CISSP.
What Are the Pros and Cons of going the SSCP vs. CISSP Route?
SSCP Is a lower-level exam and much of its worth depends on the hiring manager's regard for the credential. Because you can't really control that, and both certifications are in the (ISC)² realm, a comparison of these two designations can help you make a decision on whether to pursue the SSCP. There are four main areas to consider:
- Roles Available
- Infosec Domain You Are Interested In
- Experience Require
Take a Look at the Focus and Roles
The SSCP role is targeted toward IT infrastructure security — and correlates to roles such as database manager, network security engineer, system administrator or analyst, systems engineer, security administrator, security consultant, and network systems analyst.
These are the jobs that are in the trenches every day. Although there are forward-thinking parts of these jobs, they are tactical rather than strategic in nature. If this is the ideal role for you, then the SSCP is certainly worth it.
The CISSP focuses on IT security and cybersecurity as it relates to management and oversight. Some of the related roles are CIO/CISO, network architect, security or IT director, and security manager, as well as ancillary roles such as analysts, auditors, system engineers and consultants.
These roles are strategic and forward-thinking but require the ability to zoom in and out quickly. One moment, you may be vetting vendors for new security solutions, the next you could be consulting with an analyst regarding a perceived threat.
Even if you have an eye on strategic or leadership roles, it takes time to build the needed experience and build your reputation. That's what makes the SSCP worthwhile — it bridges the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
CISSP or SSCP: Where to Start
SSCP is an entry-level exam. If you already have five years of experience in two or more of the required categories, you should consider going for the CISSP. However, if you have less than one year of experience, the SSCP can open up entry-level offers to help you build your experience for the coveted CISSP. The eight domains that make up the CISSP CBK exam are:
- Asset Security
- Communications and Network Security
- Identity and Access Management
- Security and Risk Management
- Security Architecture and Engineering
- Security Assessment and Testing
- Security Operations
- Software Development Security
One of the main difficulties of earning the CISSP designation is the hard requirement regarding years of experience. Unlike SSCP, there aren't many shortcuts. Even if you earn a four-year college degree or an approved credential from the (ISC)², you only shave off one year off the requirement. Education credit also equates to one year of experience. So, if the CISSP is your end goal and you don't have a lot of experience in infosec, the SSCP is worth the time of effort.
If you are already working in any of the eight domains above, you may want to consider a more direct route to the CISSP. If you pass the CISSP exam and don't have the experience yet, you are designated as an Associate of (ISC)². You then have six years to get the five years of cumulative experience to become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
Is the SSCP a Management Exam like CISSP?
The SSCP is much more practical than the CISSP, which is considered a pathway to management or advanced leadership positions, such as a CIO or CISO. Also, the SSCP is specifically described as a practical, hands on exam by the (ISC)².
The Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) is designed to help IT professionals acquire technical skills and hands-on security knowledge suited to IT operational roles. Passing the exam shows the practitioner's ability to monitor IT infrastructure and implement solutions. The material and coursework leading up to the exam concentrate on procedures that ensure data integrity and confidentiality.
Will the SSCP Get Me My First Cybersecurity Job?
Yes, this certification can help you get your first cybersecurity job. Some of the job titles that come up when searching for SSCP certification include senior security systems analyst, senior network security engineer and senior security administrator.
According to Payscale.com, job listings and salaries that include SSCP certification include:
- Information Security Analyst: $64,000
- Security Analyst: $65,000
- Cyber Security Analyst: $69,000
- Security Engineer: $79,000
- Information Security Specialist: $83,000
- Information Security Engineer: $89,000
- Security Architect, IT: $121,000
Some of these may be unrealistic for entry-level positions. Years of experience, location, and job title all influence what your certification is worth to a prospective employer. Infosec analyzed over 355,000 data points from Indeed job listings and determined the hourly salary range to be between $11.48 to $59.42 per hour.
The worth of the SSCP entirely depends on your current career trajectory and where you want to end up. Besides the obvious advantage of increasing your earning potential, the SCCP measures up to the Department of Defense's credentials for information security. Many private sector organizations are following the DoD's lead, so you'll need the certification to even apply for certain jobs.
If you are in IT, chances are you thrive on change — and learning new things. The SSCP designation requires continuing education courses that help you stay up to date with recent changes in the security industry. Knowledge is career currency in information technology, so this could give you an edge when competing for jobs.