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Deciding on the certification that will pay more money -- the CCSP or CCNP?

I have a strong telecom and IT background spanning more than 22 years. I am currently contracting with the military installing and configuring Cisco network equipment and specialized IP-based crypto equipment. My certs consist of a recent Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). I enjoyed the CCNA exam and am having a rough time deciding which track to follow -- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) or Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP)? Since I have both an installation and security background, I could go either way. Which certification do you think will pay sweeter dividends?

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Having recently met with Rick Stiffler (retired U.S. Army Reserve), who heads Cisco's security training and certification efforts, I am strongly impressed with the quality, coverage and focus of their security training and certs in general, and with the CCSP in particular. Given your background and the white-hot nature of information security contracting and employment prospects versus the somewhat lukewarm analogs on the network infrastructure/administration side, it seems pretty clear --at least, to me -- that the CCSP might represent the better opportunity for "sweeter dividends." That said, it's as important to follow your interests and proclivities as it is to follow the money, so you should consider this advice in the light of that which interests you most.
For more information on this topic, visit these other resources:
  • Careers and Certification Tip: Update: Survey of vendor-specific security certs, spring 2003
  • Best Web Link: Infosec training, careers and events
  • IT Career Expert: Negotiating salary -- do you dare?

  • This was first published in May 2003

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