Ask the Expert

Cutting the cost of certification

I recently read your article about the present security certifications offered. I must admit that the prices for these seminars and classes are incredible! Are there other avenues to pursue in achieving these certifications that would allow me to study at my own pace and have a little bit of control over the prices? I know that exam fees are a set price, but what about study materials? Could you recommend any books, materials or links for study areas regarding all or any of the security certifications? Also, which would be a good cert to begin with, according to industry need and necessity?

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If you're starting without benefit of much training or knowledge in this area, here's how I'd recommend that you proceed:

1. CIW Security Professional Exam (Exam costs $125)
I helped design a book available for this subject (you'll see my name as the series editor on this title): "CIW Security Professional Certification Bible," Hungry Minds, 2001, Indianapolis, IN, ISBN: 0-7645-4822-0. List Price: $59.99. Discounts available: Amazon $41.99, Bookpool: $42.95.

If you download and work through the exam objectives as you read through the book, you should be able to complete this cert for under $200.

2. ICSA ICSA Certification (Exam costs $125)
While no books are available for this topic yet, by combining what you learned with the information available in the next book below, you should be able to take and pass this exam pretty easily. This will be an excellent "second tier" security certification for you. The exam went live on Dec. 28, 2001, so if you do the CIW exam first, you should be able to find lots more information to help you prepare by the time you tackle this topic in February or March.

Total budget: $125, but buy for the next exam to study for this one.

Note: My team and I plan to write a book on this topic for publication by late Q2 to some time in Q3 this year.

3. ISC-squared CISSP Certification (Exam costs $450)
An excellent book by Ronald L. Krutz and Russell Dean Vines, entitled "The CISSP Prep Guide: Mastering the 10 Domains of Computer Security" is available. John Wiley & Sons, 2001, New York, NY, ISBN: 0-471-41356-9. List Price: $69.99. Discounts available: Amazon: $62.19; Bookpool: $60.50.

This book will help you get ready for the exam, but you'll also want to read widely in the general bibliography recommended for this exam. Plan on spending another $300-400 on additional books and buy a good practice exam for $100.

Total budget: $950, max.

Note: We are also pitching a CISSP book to two other publishers right now; it'll be interesting to see who bites. FYI, I plan to get all three of these certs myself, and will be following the advice I've given you myself. Let's talk again in six months and see how each of us is doing!

This will probably take you 6-12 months, with at least a month for the CIW exam, two months for the ICSA and three months for the CISSP, though you may need to as much as double one or more of those numbers (all depends on how much time to study you're willing to make). Total overall budget should be under $1,300 and will get you entry-, intermediate- and senior-level security certification. Not bad, eh?


For more information on this topic, visit these other searchSecurity resources:
Best Web Links: Training and Education
Executive Security Briefing: Revisiting the security certification landscape


This was first published in January 2002

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