Professional development

SSCP versus CCSP: Cloud security or systems security?

September 17, 2019 by Fakhar Imam


The SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) and CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional) certifications focus on systems security and cloud security, respectively. Both certifications are vendor-neutral and are offered by the same vendor — the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)².

No matter how small or large an organization is, it needs to have a viable information security plan to protect its information assets stored on-premises and/or on cloud-based infrastructure. Today, organizations are facing innumerable security threats, such as data loss that may occur due to human error, hardware failures or physical damage to the storage medium like water or fire disasters. In addition, massive security threats can come from unauthorized access that can happen due to loopholes in the company’s overall security posture. Today, businesses use system security to prevent data disclosure, modification, damage or destruction.

According to the security analysts, companies are moving their system and data to the cloud by leaps and bounds. Therefore, the security of the cloud is as important as it is for on-premises systems. For example, a cloud environment needs to be reconfigured with secure settings. To this end, the Center for Information Security (CIS) provides virtual images hardened in accordance with the CIS Benchmarks to offer internationally recognized configuration guidelines, also known as CIS Hardened Images®.

In this article, we will explore the SSCP and CCSP certifications and figure out which of them (or maybe both) are needed to build a career in systems or/and cloud security. The selection will be based on the job role you are going to perform in your organization.

SSCP and CCSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®)

The Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) is a comprehensive framework of all relevant subjects you should be familiar with, including best security practices, skills and techniques. The following tables will demonstrate the CBKs for both SSCP and CCSP.

SSCP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®)

Domains Exam Percentage
1. Access Controls 16%
2. Security Operations and Administration 15%
3. Risk Identification, Monitoring and Analysis 15%
4. Incident Response and Recovery 13%
5. Cryptography 10%
6. Network and Communications Security 16%
7. Systems and Application Security 15%
Total 100%

CCSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®)

Domains Exam Percentage
Total 100%

What are the similarities between SSCP and CCSP?

The SSCP and CCSP certifications are hardly similar in the way that they discuss different security aspects — systems security and cloud security. Nevertheless, a few similarities still exist between them.

As mentioned before, both certifications are vendor-neutral and offered by the same vendor, (ISC)². Some of the details of the exam are also similar, including the number of questions (125), available amount of time to take a test (3 hours) and passing score (700 out of 1,000).

Moreover, two job roles are common in SSCP and CCSP. They are a security administrator and systems engineer.

How do SSCP and CCSP differ?

The SSCP and CCSP certifications differ at a large extent. The following sections delve into the details in this regard.

The difference in job roles

SSCP Job Roles CCSP Job Roles
Network Security Engineer Enterprise Architect
Systems Administrator Security Administrator
Security Analyst Systems Engineer
Systems Engineer Security Architect
Security Consultant/Specialist Security Consultant
Security Administrator Security Engineer
Systems/Network Analyst Security Manager
Database Administrator Systems Architect

The difference in exam details

Number of questions 125 125
Time 3 hours 3 hours
Passing score 700 out of 1,000 700 out of 1,000
Exam availability English English, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese
Testing center Pearson VUE Pearson VUE
Exam fee USD 249 USD 599

The difference in CPE requirements and the average salary

CPE requirements 60 CPEs 90 CPEs
Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) USD 125 USD 125
Average salary US $93,240 US $138,610

The difference in eligibility requirements

Before applying for the SSCP exam, a candidate must have at least one year of cumulative and paid work experience in one or more of the 7 domains of SSCP CBK. If a student doesn’t have the required experience, then he or she may become the Associate of (ISC)2 after successfully passing the SSCP exam. After that, the candidate will need two years to obtain the experience required for SSCP certification.

Unlike the SSCP exam that requires at least one year of experience, the CCSP exam needs at least five years of cumulative and paid work experience in information technology, of which three years must be related to information security and one year or more in one of the six domains of the CCSP CBK. If a candidate doesn’t hold the required experience, then he or she can become the associate of (ISC)2, and then spend six years to obtain the experience required to earn the CCSP certification.

Benefits of being SSCP-certified

  • Career advancement: The SSCP credential boosts your career in the realm of IT infrastructure security
  • Versatile skills: Due to its vendor-neutral nature, SSCP skills can be applied to disparate methodologies and technologies
  • Expand knowledge: A SSCP-certified employee is fully equipped with best practices, policies and procedures to implement, monitor and administer IT infrastructure
  • The community of professionals: Once you successfully pass and obtain your SSCP credential, you will be able to gain access to a global community of like-minded cybersecurity leaders

Benefits of being CCSP-certified

  • Career advancement: The CCSP certification opens the floodgates on new job opportunities and clearly demonstrates that the CCSP-certified employee has cloud knowledge and commitment to the cloud security profession
  • Versatility: Like SSCP, the CCSP’s vendor-neutral capability allows a candidate to apply his or her skills across different cloud platforms
  • Expand knowledge: The CCSP credential certifies that the certification holder attains the appropriate knowledge for applying the best practices to cloud security architecture, design, operations and service orchestration
  • The community of professionals: Like the SSCP credential, CCSP also allows cloud security professionals to gain access to a global community of like-minded cybersecurity professionals

SSCP versus CCSP: Which certification is right for me?

The SSCP certification focuses on systems security, whereas the CCSP certification concentrates on the cloud infrastructure security. Obtaining one of these or both certifications depends on the job role(s) you are going to perform in your organization. 

Each enterprise may have a varying risk tolerance that will contribute to what type of solution it chooses. On-premises systems security or cloud security. For instance, risk-averse organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will always keep their data internal and thus require an on-premise solution. The military will also prefer data on-premises and needs systems security to secure national security data and prevent it from being intercepted and modified through a cloud-based solution. Other risk-sensitive organizations include banks and credit card companies. On the other hand, organizations with less data sensitivity may like a cloud-based solution.

In some cases, companies prefer on-premises solutions for their core business activities while leveraging cloud technology for several other aspects of protection, such as email security or social media security.

If your job role is to ensure on-premises systems security, then SSCP certification is right for you. However, if you take the responsibility to ensure the security of cloud platforms, then CCSP certification is right for you.

Conclusion: The bottom line

Today, on-premises systems and cloud are both critical in terms of security. However, it is important to make sure that which of them you like and going to choose as your cybersecurity career. 

The SSCP certification shows that the candidate has advanced technical knowledge and skills to implement, monitor and administer IT infrastructure employing best security practices, policies and procedures. Conversely, the CCSP credential demonstrates that the candidate holds advanced technical knowledge and skills to design, manage and secure data, applications and infrastructure in the cloud, rather than on on-premises systems.



  1. Systems Security: Firewalls, Encryption, Passwords & Biometrics,
  2. 6 Reasons Every Organization Needs Cloud Security, CSO
  3. The Ultimate Guide to the SSCP, (ISC)²
  4. The Ultimate Guide to the CCSP, (ISC)²
  5. Security: On-premise or in the cloud? NETWORKWORLD FROM IDG 
Posted: September 17, 2019


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Articles Author
Fakhar Imam
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Fakhar Imam is a professional writer with a master’s program in Masters of Sciences in Information Technology (MIT). To date, he has produced articles on a variety of topics including on Computer Forensics, CISSP, and on various other IT related tasks.