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Taking a closer look at a Homeland Security certification

Ed Tittel sheds some light on the Certified in Homeland Security cert from the American College of Forensic Examiners International.

As I hope I indicated somewhere in my latest survey revision, I can't always find everything germane to that database...

without help from readers. Thus, I'm not surprised to learn that I missed the "Certification in Homeland Security" in my searches across the Web (they don't call it "world wide" for nothing, you know!), and I'm grateful that you shared this item with me so that it can be included in future coverage.

That said, let me respond to your questions directly:

Is this a worthwhile certification?
The CHS (Certified in Homeland Security) program is from an organization that claims to be "the world's largest forensic membership association with an 11-year track record." For grins, I just went and filled out their application form, and surprise, I too qualified for Level III certification based primarily on contributing to three security books, teaching six two-day classes on Windows Security for Interop plus three one-day classes on same for "The Internet Security Conference" (TISC), writing tons of security articles and possessing skills in Windows Security and Perimeter Security tools and technologies. But please note that this certification is also available to those with military, law enforcement or medical forensics training, experience, knowledge and so forth. It's not a pure IT certification play, by any means.

My assessment is that $350 isn't a lot to pay for a certification that you otherwise qualify for, but that it's not immediately clear to me that the CHS is a well-recognized credential in the marketplace. I can find no direct or explicit mention of CHS at job placement sites like Robert Half, Dice, and so forth. Also, after checking the job listings for "computer forensics" on the ACFEI site, I see no jobs listed for my home state of Texas or for Virgina, DC and the Maryland area where most of the federal and "beltway bandit" positions are likely to be situated. This does not fill me with warm and fuzzy feelings about the value of the CHS.

Is the American College of Forensic Examiners a reputable organization that grants useful certifications?
As far as I can tell, it is indeed a reputable organization. I'm still pondering the "useful certifications" part of this question and am inclined to say that the objective online evidence available to me about value falls somewhere between "maybe" and "probably not" based on the lack of hits for the CHS, CMI, Cr.FA and CCI that my search of job posting and placement sites turns up. But I'm obviously not infallible nor totally informed, so this is a guess based on cursory examination, not a definitive opinion.

How can this certification benefit my career?
Like all technical certifications that do not enjoy instant name recognition (in the infosec field, that's pretty much CISSP, SANS GIAC and Security+ with all others trailing distantly behind), you have to be able to explain and sell the value of your credentials to prospective employers if you want to make them pay off. This means that you will get back the value that you can imbue upon the credential, even if it doesn't have a lot of intrinsic value in and of itself. This is a technique sometimes known as "selling oneself" and with your ability to qualify at level 3, you probably do have some skills of this kind already. If you want to get this credential, you'll need to use those skills heavily to make your $350-plus investment pay off. (You're on the hook for at least an additional $130 for one year's membership in the ACFE as well as the Homeland Security fee and must also shoulder continuing education requirements and annual membership fees thereafter to stay current).

I hope I've answered these questions and explained how I arrived at my potentially dubious conclusions. I plan to investigate further and will follow up with you again should I learn anything more that causes me to doubt them. I also hope you find this reply both informative and helpful.

This was last published in November 2003

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