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March 11, 2024

The cybersecurity industry is fiercely competitive, requiring professionals to continually find ways to stand out among their peers. Among the most respected certifications that can help achieve this distinction are the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+).

Choosing between these two certifications is a significant decision for anyone looking to advance their career. But which one is the right choice for your career goals?

In this article, we will delve into the comparison of CISSP vs. CASP, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed choice about your career direction. We'll cover critical aspects such as eligibility, exam details, potential salaries, and job opportunities, ensuring you have the insights needed to select the certification that aligns with your professional goals in cybersecurity.

What is the CISSP?

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a globally recognized certification in information security offered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, commonly known as ISC2. This certification is designed for security practitioners, managers, and executives interested in proving their knowledge and expertise across a wide array of security practices and principles.

Earning the CISSP certification demonstrates a deep understanding of cybersecurity strategies, including risk management, cloud computing, mobile security, and more. It covers eight broad domains of information security, ensuring that certified professionals are well-versed in the critical aspects of information security management and best practices.

What Is CASP+?

The CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) is a certification tailored for advanced-level cybersecurity professionals, endorsed by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Unlike other certifications focusing on managerial or entry-level knowledge, CASP+ is designed for practitioners who wish to remain deeply involved in hands-on security technology roles.

Achieving CASP+ certification signifies a high level of mastery in enterprise security, risk management, research and analysis, and integration of computing, communications, and business disciplines. It covers the technical skills and knowledge required to conceptualize, design, and engineer secure solutions across complex enterprise environments.

CISSP vs. CASP+: Pros and Cons

Feature

CISSP

CASP+

Focus

Technical and managerial aspects of cybersecurity.

Advanced technical skills in security architecture and engineering.

Pros

  • Recognized globally across industries.
  • Opens doors to technical and high-level security roles.
  • Comprehensive coverage of cybersecurity topics.
  • Deep technical focus suitable for hands-on roles.
  • Highly regarded in the U.S., especially by the Department of Defense.
  • Focuses on security solutions in complex enterprise environments.

Cons

  • Requires broad knowledge, making it challenging to prepare for.
  • May be too technical for professionals interested in management roles.
  • More niche than CISSP, potentially limiting global recognition.
  • Emphasizes technical depth, which might be challenging for those without a strong technical background

CISSP vs. CASP+: Which Is Best for You?

The CISSP and CASP+ certifications are prestigious milestones for senior cybersecurity professionals, each paving the way to distinct career trajectories. Determining which aligns more closely with your professional aspirations requires a deeper understanding of what each path entails.

Let's break them down.

Eligibility Requirements

The simplest way to start narrowing down your choice between these two certifications is by examining the exam eligibility requirements. Understanding these prerequisites can offer valuable insight into which certification aligns best with your current experience and career stage.

CISSP Eligibility Requirements

The CISSP certification requires candidates to have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains of the CISSP CBK (Common Body of Knowledge). This includes full-time, part-time, and internship experience. However, these three experiences are calculated differently.

However, it's worth noting that certain conditions can reduce this requirement. For instance, having a four-year college degree or an additional certification from the ISC2-approved list can substitute for one year of the required experience.

For those who don't meet these experience requirements, there's an option to become an Associate of (ISC)² by passing the CISSP examination. As an Associate of (ISC)², individuals will have up to six years to gain the necessary experience to earn the CISSP designation.

CASP+ Eligibility Requirements

CASP+, on the other hand, recommends that candidates have a minimum of ten years of experience in IT administration, with at least five of those years in hands-on technical security roles. While CompTIA does not strictly enforce these recommendations as prerequisites, they strongly advise that candidates meet them to ensure they are prepared for the advanced level of the exam.

Unlike CISSP, there isn't an associate-level pathway for those who lack the recommended experience, making it essential for CASP+ candidates to evaluate their readiness based on their technical background and hands-on experience in security.

Exam Details

Although there are many differences between the CISSP and CASP+ certifications, both exams are available at Pearson VUE Testing Centers. An added flexibility with CASP+ is that it can also be taken online.

Despite this shared aspect, each certification has its own set of distinctive features regarding exam structure, domain coverage, and other critical details. Let's explore these differences to help you understand what to expect from each.

CISSP Exam Details

The CISSP exam covers eight domains from the (ISC)² Common Body of Knowledge (CBK), ensuring a comprehensive understanding of information security. These domains and their respective weights in the exam are:

  1. Security and Risk Management (15%)
  2. Asset Security (10%)
  3. Security Architecture and Design (13%)
  4. Communication and Network Security (13%)
  5. Identity and Access Management (IAM) (13%)
  6. Security Assessment and Testing (12%)
  7. Security Operations (13%)
  8. Software Development Security (11%)

The CISSP exam is available in English and several other languages, including French, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish, accommodating a global audience.

The exam format is Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) for the English version, adjusting the difficulty of questions based on the test taker's ability, with a maximum of 125 to 175 questions over three to four hours, depending on when you take it. For languages other than English, the exam format includes 225 to 250 questions to be completed within six hours.

CASP+ Exam Details

CASP+ focuses on advanced skills in security solutions and enterprise environments, with the exam structured around the following domains:

  1. Enterprise Security (30%)
  2. Risk Management, Policy/Procedure, and Legal (20%)
  3. Research and Analysis (18%)
  4. Integration of Computing, Communications, and Business Disciplines (19%)
  5. Technical Integration of Enterprise Components (13%)

CASP+ exams are only available in English at the moment and can be taken either in person at Pearson VUE Testing Centers or online. The exam format includes a mix of multiple-choice and performance-based questions designed to test the candidate's ability to solve problems in a real-world scenario.

The CASP+ exam does not utilize CAT and typically consists of up to 90 questions with a maximum duration of 165 minutes.

Exam Difficulty

We won't sugarcoat it: both exams pose a significant challenge. However, with the right preparation and mindset, passing them is entirely achievable. The real question is, how demanding are these exams, and what specific challenges do they present?

CISSP Exam Difficulty

Often described as "a mile wide and an inch deep," the CISSP exam tests a broad spectrum of information security knowledge. This means candidates must have a wide-ranging understanding across all eight domains of the ISC2 CBK. While no single area dives into extreme technical depth, the sheer coverage of topics requires a substantial amount of study and understanding of both technical and managerial aspects of information security.

The CISSP is not just about knowing facts but understanding how different security concepts apply in various situations. This balance between technical knowledge and management skills can make the CISSP particularly challenging for individuals more comfortable on one side of the spectrum than the other.

CASP+ Exam Difficulty

CASP+, on the other hand, focuses on the technical side of cybersecurity. It's designed for professionals who are deeply involved in IT security and prefer to remain hands-on rather than move into managerial roles. The exam's emphasis on advanced security solutions and enterprise-level security makes it particularly challenging.

Candidates are tested not only on their knowledge but also on their ability to apply it in complex scenarios, often requiring a deep understanding of security architecture, operations, and engineering. The technical depth and the practical, performance-based questions aim to simulate real-world problems, demanding a level of expertise and problem-solving skills that can be daunting for those not well-prepared.

Salary and Job Opportunities

When it comes to elevating your salary and expanding career opportunities, holding either of these certifications can significantly enhance your prospects compared to non-certified professionals.
But what specific advantages do they offer, and how do they impact your career trajectory?

CISSP Salary and Job Opportunities

CISSP certification is often associated with some of the highest-paying jobs in the information security field. On average, CISSP holders can expect to earn about US $120,552, which can vary significantly depending on location, experience, and the specific role. Common career paths for CISSP-certified professionals include but are not limited to:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Systems Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Network Architect
  • Security Manage

These roles benefit from the CISSP's comprehensive coverage of information security topics, which proves the holder's ability to manage and implement security programs effectively. The certification is highly respected in the industry and frequently serves as a key differentiator in hiring decisions for senior-level security positions.

CASP+ Salary and Job Opportunities

CASP+ certification also leads to lucrative job opportunities, particularly in hands-on technical roles within cybersecurity. On average, CASP+ certified professionals earn about US $98,000, slightly lower than CISSP holders. Even so, it still represents a significant increase over non-certified counterparts.

CASP+ is especially valuable for those seeking positions such as:

  • Security Architect
  • Technical Lead Analyst
  • Application Security Engineer
  • Security Engineer

The certification's focus on advanced security skills and problem-solving in complex environments makes it highly sought after for roles requiring deep technical expertise. Employers recognize the CASP+ as evidence of a professional's ability to design and implement secure solutions in dynamic enterprise settings.

Cost and Recertification

Beyond the exam content, it's essential to consider other critical factors before deciding, such as the costs associated with obtaining and maintaining the certification and the recertification requirements.

Let's examine these aspects for both CISSP and CASP+ to give you a clearer picture of what to expect.

CISSP Cost and Recertification

The CISSP exam fee varies by region, but it typically falls in the range of US $699. Other fees are involved, like study materials and courses. However, the financial commitment doesn't end with passing the exam.

To maintain the CISSP certification, holders are required to earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits: 120 credits over three years, with a minimum of 40 credits each year. This ensures that professionals stay current with evolving cybersecurity practices and technologies.

Additionally, certified professionals must pay an Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) of US $125 to ISC2. The AMF supports the costs of maintaining the certification, including the development of new study materials and resources.

CASP+ Cost and Recertification

The cost to take the CASP+ exam is slightly lower, around US $466, making it more accessible for some candidates. Like the CISSP, CASP+ certification requires ongoing education to maintain the credential.

CompTIA requires CASP+ holders to retake the exam every three years or participate in their Continuing Education (CE) program, which involves accumulating at least 75 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in three years.

This process encourages professionals to engage in activities that contribute to their growth and knowledge in the field. The CE program also involves a Continuing Education Fee, which varies depending on whether the professional chooses to accumulate CEUs or retake the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is CASP as Good as CISSP?

The question of whether CASP is as "good" as CISSP depends mainly on your career goals and the context within which you're asking. Both certifications are highly respected but serve slightly different purposes.

CISSP is recognized globally and is often associated with leadership and managerial roles in cybersecurity. It offers a broad overview of information security practices. CASP+, on the other hand, is more technically focused and ideal for those who wish to remain in hands-on technical roles.

Each certification excels in its domain, making it neither inherently "better" nor more suited to different professional paths.

Is CISSP Higher Than CASP?

If by "higher," we refer to the level of seniority or the focus on leadership roles, CISSP is generally considered to be positioned more towards managerial and strategic positions in cybersecurity, whereas CASP+ is designed for those who prefer to specialize in the technical aspects of security solutions and services.

It's not a matter of hierarchy but alignment with your career objectives. CISSP may be perceived as "higher" in contexts where managerial capabilities are valued, but CASP+ holds significant prestige in technical circles.

Is CISSP the Hardest?

Determining the "hardest" certification between CISSP and CASP+ can be subjective and depends on your background and areas of expertise. CISSP is broad, covering a wide range of topics but not diving too deeply into any single domain. This coverage can be challenging for individuals who prefer or are used to specializing.

CASP+, with its focus on deep technical knowledge and practical, performance-based questions, could be considered more challenging for those without a strong technical foundation. Ultimately, the difficulty is relative to your experience and areas of strength.

CISSP vs. CASP+: Which Security Certification Should You Choose?

Choosing the right certification ultimately hinges on your career objectives: Are you drawn more to the technical intricacies of cybersecurity, or do you aspire to guide teams and strategies at the managerial level?

If the former resonates with you, then CASP+ is likely your ideal path. This certification delves deep into advanced security solutions, enterprise security architecture, and hands-on problem-solving, making it perfect for those who thrive in technical roles and wish to remain at the forefront of cybersecurity practices.

On the flip side, if you envision yourself steering cybersecurity strategies and managing teams, the CISSP certification is tailored for you. Known for its comprehensive approach to security management, governance, and risk assessment, CISSP prepares you for high-level oversight roles, equipping you with the knowledge to lead with confidence and authority.

For those ready to start their CISSP journey, Destination Certification is here to guide you every step of the way. Our CISSP MasterClass isn't a one-size-fits-all solution; it's designed to be flexible and adaptable, focusing on strengthening your areas of need. Our course adjusts to fit your schedule, enabling you to craft a study plan that's perfectly tailored to your lifestyle.

So, what are you waiting for? Take the leap towards your cybersecurity future with Destination Certification.

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