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Are security certifications worth it?

By Peter H. Gregory
January 24, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - IT managers need to have security certifications that will enhance their standing as generalists, who will be prudent in any situation. But the time and effort is also a worthwhile investment that can lead to better pay.
A recent survey by Certification Magazine suggests that high-level security certifications such as CISSP are paying off handsomely. The survey of nearly 1,000 respondents in late 2002 indicated that those who earned their CISSP received an average $7,140 raise in 2001, compared with a raise of $3,487 for other certifications. According to the Certification Magazine survey and a BC Management salary survey in 2001, those individuals holding CISSP certifications on average are paid more than people who have any other certification.
According to a survey by InfoSecurity magazine in August 2002, IT professionals' average salaries overall decreased by 5.5%, while those in IT security increased by 3.1%. While this statistic is independent of certification, it does show that experience in security is a valuable skill.
And it should also be evident that in most, if not all, cases, certifications should be vendor-neutral. This is because IT managers need a broad view of security that transcends the specific technical platforms that their department manages. Vendor-neutral certifications go beyond the specific technologies and deal with how the technologies are used.
Here are some of the best and most widely known certifications available to security managers.
High-level and recognizable: CISSP
The most comprehensive, prestigious and recognized security certification is the CISSP, or Certified Information Systems Security Professional. The CISSP certification encompasses 10 subject areas:

  • Access control systems and methodology

  • Applications and systems development

  • Business continuity planning

  • Cryptography

  • Law, investigation and ethics

  • Operations security

  • Physical security

  • Security architecture and models

  • Security management practices

  • Telecommunications, network and Internet security

Peter H. Gregory
The CISSP certification has been around since 1989, long before security was considered cool. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium administers the certification. In mid-2002, the 10,000th CISSP was certified.
Exams are offered frequently in most parts of the world. More information is available at .

CISA: Focusing on verifiability
The first runner-up certification is the CISA, or Certified Information Systems Auditor. Once the exclusive domain of IT auditors, the CISA is quickly becoming a sought-after certification for senior-level personnel and management. The CISA's subject areas have moderate overlap with the CISSP, but it focuses more on business procedures than technology. And as you might expect, the CISA places an emphasis on auditing, which is glossed over by the CISSP.

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