Networking vs. network security: How to choose the right certification

Network professionals have several career paths. Our site Cisco certification expert explains the appropriate certifications for networking and network security pros in this expert response.

I have passed the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and I have one year of experience in networking. I aim...

to get my Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) certification, but I don't know if I'm ready for it now or if you would recommend I take the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) first. Any suggestions?

To answer this question accurately, I would have to consider your job responsibilities or your career goals. Namely, if you find yourself working with (or towards) Cisco security appliances such as ASAs, IPSs, NACs, and routers with firewall IOSs, then you should definitely pursue the CCSP. However, if you think you will deal more with routing and switching in large enterprise environments, then perhaps CCNP is a better fit. Finally, if your networking experience will be limited to Microsoft clients and server administration, then the MCSE certification will help certify your knowledge specific to that technology.

This was last published in April 2009

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