Preparing for Cisco CyberOps Associate? Here’s How Long You’ll Need to Study

by Ross Heintzkill | Published on August 31, 2023

Cisco's Certified CyberOps Associate certification readies IT professionals for all the real-world cybersecurity responsibilities and tasks needed to work in an SOC. If you're hoping to start a career in cybersecurity, earning the Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate is one of your best opportunities. But before you get started, you'll want to know how long it takes to prepare for the CyberOps exam.

CBT Nuggets surveyed IT professionals with their CyberOps Associate to find out how long it took them to study for the exam, plus what they did to shorten it. We asked on Twitter, on LinkedIn and with a Google survey. We analyzed those survey results to get a sense of how long it takes to prepare for the CyberOps Associate and how to reduce that time. Although the 218 responses were spread out, that's to be expected for a junior certification. There are clear ways to speed up how long it takes to prepare for the exam and set yourself up for success.

How long did most people need to study for the Cisco CyberOps Associate exam?

According to our poll of 218 cybersecurity professionals, 57% needed more than 6 weeks to prepare for the Cisco CyberOps Associate certification exam, but fewer than 5 months. That may seem like a wide spread until you consider that about the same percentage of people needed fewer than 6 weeks (20%) as needed more than 5 months (23%). 

This sort of clustering toward the middle, with outliers in the very short and very long time ranges, is fairly common with lower-level certifications like the CyberOps Associate. It usually happens because some people had extensive cybersecurity experience beforehand while others were completely new to the career field and didn't know how to go about preparing for the exam.

The fact that the majority of IT professionals prepared for the Cisco CyberOps Associate in-between 6 weeks and 5 months clearly suggests that the time it takes to prepare for the exam is not set in stone. With the right study plan and materials, you can accelerate your preparation time significantly.

How should you prepare ahead of taking CyberOps Associate?

The Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate certification isn't a general cybersecurity cert – it's specifically related to the skills and expertise that Cisco knows a junior technician working in a Security Operations Center needs. The material of the course and the content of the exam are specifically tied to Cisco technologies. That means that general familiarity with cybersecurity and IT principles won't be enough to pass: you'll need to learn about Cisco cybersecurity technologies and how to use them.

Preparing for the CyberOps Associate exam starts with general security concepts but quickly moves on to familiarity with monitoring computer systems and networks while performing host-based analysis. Network intrusion analysis is a fundamental part of the CyberOps exam as is understanding how to follow security procedures in the event of an incident. That's a lot of knowledge and skills you need to learn, which is why the Certified CyberOps Associate Online Training from CBT Nuggets covers the information and skills a CyberOps Associate needs.

Tips to make sure you’re test-ready before CyberOps Associate exam day:

Since there are other certifications that could help start your cybersecurity career, you should start by comparing the CyberOps Associate to other certs like it, for instance the CCNP Security, and make sure you're committing to the right certification.

Once you're sure the CyberOps Associate is right for you, you'll want to find courses and training materials that teach you the information on the test while also getting you real-world experience in the cybersecurity skills the exam tests for. It's not enough to memorize facts – if you want to prepare for the CyberOps Associate in less than 5 months, you'll need practice and tools.

Use virtual labs

A virtual lab is a digital sandbox where you can practice configuring and tweaking network and device settings without worrying about making mistakes. Every CBT Nuggets course comes with access to virtual labs that help you master specific skills that will be tested by the certification. The CyberOps Associate certification asks you to prove your ability to configure security settings in a SOC environment, and with virtual labs you can practice as though you're actually in one.

Test yourself using practice exams

Tests can be nerve-wracking because you don't always know exactly what's going to be on them. You might feel ready, but how do you know if you really are or not? Practice exams provided with every CBT Nuggets cert help make sure you know what's coming and whether or not you're ready. The time it takes you to prepare for the CyberOps Associate will go way down when you're able to skip over material you're confident in and can focus on just the cybersecurity elements you need more time on.

Learn from the experts

Take a minute to watch the first video in the Certified CyberOps Associate Online Training from CBT Nuggets. CBT Nuggets trainers are more than just charismatic, energetic trainers – they're experts in the field. They know the material as well as the exams thoroughly. The shortest way to prepare for the CyberOps Associate is with personal help from experts in the field, and that's what you get with a CBT Nuggets membership.

Try a free week of unlimited access to the CBT Nuggets course catalog and find out if the video courses are the right way for you to prepare for the CyberOps Associate. While you're working toward your goal, you'll have the help of dedicated coaches who point you to the next step in your learning plan as well as a private Discord channel full of people who've followed the exact steps you're taking and can walk you through the whole way.

The Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate isn't an especially difficult certification – it's a great way for people to start their career in cybersecurity. But without proper preparation, many people take 5 months or more. That's not necessary – you can prepare for the CyberOps Associate in much less time if you follow a good learning plan and equip yourself with the right tools. CBT Nuggets has those tools, and we think if you try a free week you'll see for yourself why it's the right way to prepare.

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