Security certification can be your first step to a lucrative IT career.In today’s IT Security world, maintaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace is an absolute must. Real world experience speaks volumes, but having extra credentials along with experience adds even more credibility to your name. Possessing a major security certification separates you from thousands of other job applicants and can enable you to command a higher income as well.

The world of IT Security is very broad, so choosing the right certification for your career path is important. For instance, there are fields opening up every day in Cyber Security, Network Security, Physical Access Security, Logical Access Security, Computer Security, and so forth. Additionally, certain security certifications are broad in nature, whereas others are very specific.

Consider the following seven security certifications a place to start in selecting what is best for you, and what will help propel your career to new heights.

Certified Penetration Testing Consultant (CPTC):

If you are in the Network Security field, and the core of your work is in Penetration Testing, then this certification is a must. This field involves testing and scanning for security vulnerabilities in a business or organization’s network infrastructure. The CPTC, offered by mile2,  is more of a general certification, geared toward professionals involved more in the business end of penetration testing. For example, this would involve developing and formulating plans as to how an actual penetration test will operate, as well as setting up and establishing objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Certified Penetration Testing Engineer (CPTE):

A Penetration Testing Engineer is the actual person who follows the plans set forth by the CPTC as described above, and who conducts the actual test, simulating security breaches and threats against an organization’s servers, firewalls, routers, etc. CPTE is another mile2 credential.

You can take the either the CPTE exam, the CPTC exam or both. Obviously, taking both will greatly enhance your career, because it shows that you can not only plan a penetration test, but also conduct one. Both of these certification exams consist of 100 multiple choice questions to be completed within 120 minutes. You must have a score of at least 75 percent in order to pass these exams.


The Security+ certification, offered by CompTIA, has been around for a very long time, giving strong credence to its coveted market value. CompTIA has also been a bedrock of the certification community for a very long time and is a vendor-neutral testing organization. Security based topics covered in this exam include the following knowledge domains:

  • Threat Mitigation
  • Cryptography
  • Authentication Systems
  • Messaging Security
  • User/Role Based Security
  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
  • Access Security
  • Network Ports and Protocols
  • Network Security
  • Wireless Security
  • Remote Access Security
  • Auditing/Logging/Monitoring
  • Penetration/Vulnerability Testing
  • Business/Organizational Security
  • Business/Organizational Continuity

Security professionals taking this exam are required to have at least two years of real world work experience. The certification exam for Security+ is considered one of the toughest to pass, but if you do make it, the monetary rewards are phenomenal.

Certified Security Testing Associate (CSTA):

This CSTA exam is currently maintained and operated by 7Safe, a testing organization in the United Kingdom. This is a relatively new exam and it requires comprehensive and detailed knowledge on the part of the test taker. For example, the exam consists of a rigorous four-day lecture-based course designed to be practical and very much hands-on oriented.

In order to successfully pass this certification, one has to think and act very much like a cyber-attacker. Therefore, coursework is geared primarily towards the IT security personnel, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), Network System Administrators and Penetration Testers.

GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN):

Unlike the CPTC and the CPTE reviewed above, this certification, administered by GIAC, is considered to be the most comprehensive available in the IT Security industry today. For example, its focus is geared toward solving actual network penetration problems and scenarios. The coursework involved includes the following topics:

  • Detecting weak and extremely vulnerable network security systems
  • Critically examining unpatched network infrastructures
  • What to do if you, as the system administrator, inherit a terribly flawed network security system
  • How to plan and carry out meticulous network port security scanning and reconnaissance
  • Learning how to formulate and compile network security audit reports from a business and technical perspective

Probably what separates the preparation and training for the GIAC certification exam is that the test taker is given various tools to work with while conducting real world network security exploitation exercises.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH):

CEH is designed to give an IT Security professional the credibility they need in order to conduct legitimate cyber-based attacks and threats from the ‘Ethical’ standpoint. For example, the premise behind this is that in order to fully understand how to defeat a hacker, you need to think and behave like a real one. In other words, in order to do good by protecting the IT assets of a business or and organization, one needs to think first in ‘bad terms,’ like an actual hacker. Therefore, the course work that is involved in preparing the test taker includes the following topics:

  • How to successfully breach a network perimeter defense infrastructure
  • How to scan for and attack vulnerable network ports
  • Learning how to maliciously escalate and exploit end user rights and privileges
  • Learning how successfully launch social engineering and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
  • How to create and launch a major pieces of malware, spyware, and adware

The CEH certification and exam is currently operated and managed by the EC-Council. The actual exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions, which must be completed in a four-hour timespan. In order to pass the exam, you will need a minimum score of at least 70 percent.

EC Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA):

This certification is also offered by the EC-Council. The focus of this certification is learning how to effectively communicate to a client the results of any security test which may have been conducted and executed. For example, the IT security professional is tested on how to present effective and accurate security testing data and recommendations to an actual, real world client. The ESCA gives an added advantage to anyone in IT security who deals directly with clients.