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The value of the MCSE for a security education

I am coming back into the technical side of IT after some years in the sales and marketing end. I have a very strong...

interest in security and am wondering where to start. I have a strong background in telecommunications and IP Internetworking. I am definitely going to get the Network+ Cert and am considering the MCSE before doing the SSCP and some of the vendor specific certs. Is this the right path? Some have told me that the MCSE is not worth the money and time that I would invest.

As with so many other useful or meaningful questions in life, the answer to your question about the MCSE is "that depends." If you wish to work as a security professional in a Windows-based environment, particularly one where some knowledge and/or responsibility for managing a Windows-based network may be involved, the MCSE is probably a good idea. If your notion is to work more purely as a security professional or in an environment where Windows plays only a small role, then it probably isn't necessary. Since Windows networks are used in the majority of companies and organizations in North America, this is not as straightforward as it might seem. That said, I'm not sure that an MCSE is as worthless a credential as some of your peers or colleagues appear to have suggested.

As for your other plans to come up to speed on security topics, they appear reasonably sound to me. The only thing is that the SSCP is a new credential from an as-yet untried and relatively unknown organization. I say this not to dissuade you from considering that credential, but to encourage you to weigh the various alternatives including the SANS, TruSecure/ICSA and ISC-squared credentials (GSEC and other GIAC certs, TICSA and TICSE, and SSCP and CISSP, respectively) in addition to the credentials from the Security Certified folks. FYI, the CISSP remains the security cert most often requested by name in job posting and classified ads, and the SANS program is garnering wide recognition and accolades for the currency and breadth of its various offerings.

For more information on this topic, visit these other resources on SearchSecurity:
Careers and Certification Tip: No Microsoft security cert, now what?
Careers and Certification Tip: What security savvy Windows admins must know
Executive Security Briefing: Revisiting the vendor-neutral security certification landscape -- again!

This was last published in April 2002

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