Working on CCNA but I'm wondering if I should instead focus on Linux certifications.

I am currently working to get my new CCNA exam and hope to move on to CCSP. I would like to work as a Network Security Professional, and I would like to know about the job prospects in this field. I am from NYC and hope to finish my degree by spring 2005 and would like to get ready before that. Most of my friends say I am doing the wrong thing because Cisco is not the market leader anymore and should focus on Linux Red Hat Certification because that is where the job market is. I am now thinking of doing both CCSP and Linux.
Alas, but your friends may be mistaken. In numbers, Cisco now ranks as the number two certification program worldwide, with only Microsoft still ahead of it. In quality of certs and supporting materials, many people -- including me -- think that Cisco has the best program around. A CCNA will not be enough to help you find work in security--you're absolutely right to set your sights on CCSP as a follow-up, but given your current background, it may take you two years to complete all the requirements. In fact, I'd recommend that you tackle a good-entry level information security exam first (after the CCNA, before digging too deeping into the CCSP), such as the CompTIA Security+ exam, the TICSA, the SANS GSEC, or even the CheckPoint Security+ Certified Security Principles Associate (CCSPA) certification. It's a good idea to learn about general security fundamentals before digging too deeply into specific implementations (like Cisco's).

As for Linux, there is a very good reason to follow that operating system if you want to be a serious, full-time security professional, but it's not because RHCE or other Linux certification are where the market is (Red Hat's total certified population is under 30,000; Cisco's is probably over 600,000 by now, or 20 times larger). It's because so many of the good hacker and/or security tools (Snort, Nessus, Ethereal, etc., etc.) run...

on Linux, and because that's where so much of the "security action" takes place.

This was first published in April 2004

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