...
Image of a hand typing on a digital laptop - Destination Certification

March 20, 2024

The demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to rise, and one way to stay competitive in this field is to obtain the right certification to affirm your skills and knowledge.

Two of the most sought-after certifications are the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP). But which is the right choice for your career?

This guide will discuss the critical aspects of the CISSP and SSCP certifications, including their prerequisites, exam details, salary potential, and recertification requirements. Whether you're starting your cybersecurity career or looking to advance further, understanding the nuances between these two will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your professional goals.

Let's begin!

What Is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP is a globally recognized credential that serves as a gold standard for cybersecurity expertise. Designed for experienced security practitioners and executives interested in proving their knowledge across a wide array of security practices and principles, the CISSP certification is ideal for those looking to showcase their proficiency in designing, implementing, and managing a best-in-class cybersecurity program.

With its comprehensive coverage of the ISC2 CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK), this certification not only validates an individual's competency in critical security areas but also enhances their credibility and marketability in the field. It is tailored for those ready to take a significant step in their cybersecurity career, aiming for leadership or specialized roles that demand a thorough understanding of cybersecurity policies, standards, and practices.

What Is a Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)?

The SSCP is a prestigious certification designed for cybersecurity professionals with technical roles focused on hands-on operational security tasks. Those seeking the SSCP are typically focused on the technical aspects of information and cyber security and tasked with designing, implementation and management of information systems and associated security requirements. Recognized globally, the SSCP certification is ideal for individuals seeking to demonstrate their proficiency in implementing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure in accordance with established information security policies and procedures.

The SSCP certification covers the operational aspects of cybersecurity and underscores a practitioner's ability to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of information. By focusing on seven critical domains of the ISC2 SSCP CBK, this credential ensures that certified individuals possess a well-rounded understanding and practical skills in addressing security challenges.

CISSP vs. SSCP: Pros and Cons

Feature

CISSP

SSCP

Focus

Comprehensive security principles and practices.

Operational aspects of cybersecurity.

Pros

  • Globally recognized across various industries.
  • Opens doors to both technical and high-level security roles.
  • Comprehensive coverage of information security topics.
  • Ideal for those in technical roles.
  • Demonstrates hands-on operational skills.
  • Focused on practical implementation of security policies and procedures.

Cons

  • Requires a broad range of knowledge, which can be challenging to master.
  • Might be too advanced for beginners or those not interested in management aspects.
  • More focused on technical skills, which may not align with individuals aiming for strategic or leadership positions.
  • Might be perceived as less prestigious than CISSP for advanced career stages

CISSP vs. SSCP: Similarities and Differences

When it comes to cybersecurity certifications, the decision isn't solely about choosing one certification over another; it's about identifying what aligns with your current goals and career trajectory. Within this dynamic field, acquiring multiple certifications is not just beneficial—it's encouraged to showcase your expertise and commitment.

So, which of the CISSP and SSCP credentials perfectly matches your current professional status and aspirations? Let's find out!

Prerequisites

Just like any significant certification, you need to meet specific prerequisites to qualify for these credentials, ensuring you have the foundational skills and knowledge to start this professional journey.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to have under your belt to qualify for the CISSP and SSCP certifications:

CISSP Prerequisites

For the CISSP, the bar is set with a requirement for substantial experience. You're expected to have at least five years of cumulative, paid, full-time work in two or more of the eight domains of the CISSP CBK. If your background includes part-time or internship roles, remember that 1040 hours of such experience equates to one full year of work.

A four-year college degree, a master's degree in Information Security, or an approved credential from the ISC2-approved list can also waive one year off the necessary work experience.

For those new to the field and lacking the full experience criteria, you can still pursue the CISSP exam. However, you won't be awarded the CISSP status. Instead, you'll become an Associate of ISC2 and have up to six years to gain the requisite experience for full certification.

SSCP Prerequisites

The SSCP certification is more accessible for those earlier in their cybersecurity career, requiring at least one year of cumulative, paid work experience in one or more of the seven domains of the SSCP CBK. Your part-time work and internships contribute towards this requirement, with the same 1040 hours-to-one-year conversion.

For those with a cybersecurity-focused academic background, a bachelor's degree or higher can replace the professional experience requirement. Similarly, if you're stepping into the field without the required experience, taking the SSCP exam to achieve Associate of ISC2 status provides a pathway to accumulate the needed experience over time.

Exam Details

Navigating the path to cybersecurity certifications involves meeting the prerequisites and understanding the scope and structure of the exam itself. Knowing the coverage of the CISSP and SSCP exams can significantly influence your decision-making process, offering insights into the skills and knowledge areas emphasized.

This understanding provides a clear view of what lies ahead on your certification journey, helping you align your preparation efforts with the exam's demands.

CISSP Exam Details

The CISSP exam thoroughly assesses your expertise across eight domains outlined by the ISC2 CBK. The domains, along with their weightings in the exam, are as follows:

  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%)

For the English version of the exam, the CISSP employs Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), adjusting the question difficulty based on your answers. The exam includes 125 to 175 questions with a three to four-hour time limit, depending on when you take it. Candidates need to score at least 700 out of 1000 points to pass.

The CISSP exam is also available in several other languages, including French, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish, catering to a global audience. For these versions, the format involves 225 to 250 questions to be completed within six hours, allowing non-English speakers ample time to understand and respond thoroughly.

SSCP Exam Details

The SSCP exam tests your knowledge in seven critical domains defined by the CBK, emphasizing technical skills and knowledge in managing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure according to security guidelines. The covered domains include:

  1. Access Controls (16%)
  2. Security Operations and Administration (15%)
  3. Risk Identification, Monitoring, and Analysis (15%)
  4. Incident Response and Recovery (13%)
  5. Cryptography (10%)
  6. Network and Communications Security (16%)
  7. Systems and Application Security (15%)

Unlike the CISSP, this exam is presented in a linear format with 150 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within a 4-hour timeframe, regardless of the language you take it in. Like the CISSP, the SSCP exam requires a score of 700 out of 1000 for a pass.

While the exam is primarily available in English, it supports various languages, including Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish, to accommodate a broad range of candidates globally.

Salary and Job Opportunities

One of the standout similarities between the CISSP and SSCP certifications is their power to elevate your cybersecurity career. Both certifications can lead to an increase in salary and open doors to new opportunities, providing significant benefits to your professional life. Let's explore what you can expect from each in terms of salary potential and job prospects:

CISSP Salary and Job Opportunities

The CISSP certification is renowned for its ability to boost the career prospects of its holders significantly. On average, professionals with a CISSP certification can expect to earn a higher salary compared to those without any certifications, with an average annual salary of US $120,552, depending on the specific role, years of experience, and location.

The certification is frequently sought after for high-level information security positions, including but not limited to:

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

Beyond the attractive salary, the CISSP also opens up numerous career paths within cybersecurity, from consulting and auditing to management and architecture, providing a broad spectrum of opportunities for advancement. It's not just a certification; it's a career enabler that certifies your expertise and dedication to the field, making you a valuable asset to employers worldwide.

SSCP Salary and Job Opportunities

While the SSCP may be seen as a stepping stone to the CISSP for some, it holds significant value in the job market, especially for those focusing on more technical roles within cybersecurity. SSCP-certified professionals can expect an average salary of US $81,0000 annually, varying by role and geographic location.

Typical positions that often require or benefit from an SSCP certification include:

  • Network Security Engineer
  • Security Administrator
  • Systems Engineer

The SSCP certification endorses your skills in implementing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure in line with security practices, positioning you well for roles that require hands-on technical expertise.

It's an excellent way for professionals to demonstrate their technical knowledge and commitment to information security, enhancing their employability and potential for career growth in the cybersecurity domain.

Cost and Recertification

Another crucial factor to consider when deciding between the CISSP and SSCP certifications is the investment required. The path to achieving these certifications involves not only dedication and study time but also a financial commitment.

Let's delve into the costs associated with obtaining these certifications and what's involved in maintaining them over time:

CISSP Cost and Recertification

The CISSP exam fee itself is a significant portion of the investment. It typically costs around US$799 and can vary depending on the region.

After achieving the CISSP certification, maintaining it requires an ongoing commitment through Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits to stay current with the field's evolving nature. Certified professionals are required to earn 120 CPE credits every three years.

Moreover, there's an Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) of US $125, which supports the ongoing costs of certification maintenance and ensures that the (SC2 can continue to provide the necessary resources and support for its certified members.

SSCP Cost and Recertification

The cost to take the SSCP exam is slightly lower, with the exam fee set at approximately US $249. As with the CISSP, additional expenses for study materials, courses, and practice exams can add to the overall cost of obtaining the certification. These resources are vital for adequately preparing for the exam and maximizing the chances of success.

To maintain the SSCP certification, holders must also engage in continuous learning by acquiring CPE credits, with a requirement of 60 CPE credits over a three-year cycle. The AMF for the SSCP is $50, which is lower than that of the CISSP but serves the same purpose of facilitating the ongoing development and support of the certification program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is SSCP Easier Than CISSP?

Yes, the SSCP is generally considered easier than the CISSP. This perception is primarily because the SSCP covers more operational and technical aspects of cybersecurity, which is narrower in scope than the broad managerial and strategic focus of the CISSP. The CISSP demands a deeper understanding of a broader range of topics, making it more challenging.

Is SSCP Worth Getting?

The SSCP is indeed worth getting, especially for those in the early stages of their cybersecurity career or for those focusing on technical roles within IT security. It provides a solid foundation in operational security and can significantly enhance your credentials, making you more attractive to employers looking for technical security skills.

Is SSCP for Beginners?

Yes, the SSCP is suitable for beginners in the field of cybersecurity. It's designed for individuals with at least one year of experience in one or more of the domains it covers, making it an excellent starting point for those new to the field.

Which Should You Take: CISSP or SSCP?

Deciding between CISSP and SSCP isn't always a straightforward choice of one over the other; often, it's a matter of which certification to pursue first. In cybersecurity, diversifying your certifications can significantly benefit your career, offering you a broader understanding and skill set that can open doors to various roles and opportunities.

Each certification targets different aspects of cybersecurity and caters to professionals at various career stages, making them complementary rather than mutually exclusive.

If you lean towards the CISSP certification, let Destination Certification be your ally on this journey. We offer a CISSP MasterClass tailored to meet you where you are in terms of knowledge and schedule. Our approach eliminates the need to revisit familiar concepts, allowing you to concentrate on areas that require further development.

This focus ensures that you're well-prepared across all domains of the CISSP. The best part of our MasterClass is its flexibility; you dictate your study schedule, fitting it around your commitments. So, if you're ready to start your CISSP journey, we're here to guide you every step of the way.

Image of a purple ad - Destination Certification