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Which network security certification is best to pursue?

With a number of new network security certifications available, knowing which one will best help your career can be confusing. Expert Kevin Beaver discusses the options.

I've been hearing about a number of new network security certifications. Which would be best to achieve to boost...

a career in network security?

There's a lot of discussion around what it takes to succeed in IT and security roles involving emerging technologies such as software-defined networking, the Internet of Things and, of course, the cloud. We're also seeing more and more about how IT and security professionals need to fine-tune both their business and soft skills in order to move ahead.

Cisco has recently jumped on board with its new Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist and Cisco Enterprise IT Business Specialist certification programs, and I have no doubt that other vendors will follow. The thing is, I'm not convinced that there's really anything new in IT and security -- at least to the point where we need to change direction with education and certifications. Many -- or arguably most -- of the very security principles people either struggle with or are not aware of today have been around for at least four decades.

As for networking certifications, core knowledge of the TCP/IP suite of protocols, software development and the OSI model is not only essential but effectively all that's required to implement, secure and manage the new technologies of today; examples of vendor-neutral certifications for basic networking skills include CompTIA's Network+ and Brainbench's Network Administrator. Furthermore, the core business, communication, goal-setting and time-management skills necessary to succeed in IT and security have been around for centuries. There are always exceptions, but by and large these old boring concepts are the very things necessary for success in IT and security today.

So, what's best for your IT and security career? Only you will know. However, a great piece of wisdom from a man named Earl Schoff is this: "Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you'll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune."

Personally, I'm not convinced that pursuing anything other than the fundamentals -- such as the CISSP, Certified Ethical Hacker and SANS certifications -- will buy you the necessary ingredients to succeed.

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This was last published in January 2015

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