Professional development

SSCP versus CCSP: Cloud security or systems security? [updated 2021]

October 7, 2021 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 are vendor-neutral certifications offered by the same vendor, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)². This is a nonprofit membership association founded in 1989 and committed to developing future-ready cybersecurity professionals to help build safer, more resilient workplaces by protecting the information assets stored on-premises or on cloud-based infrastructures by following best practices and devising proper policies.

But which certificate or certificates are needed to build a career in systems or cloud security. Employers are looking for highly skilled employees with the talents necessary to respond to the fast-paced changes of a modern digital business with endpoints on-premises or off-premises, a dispersed workforce and a multitude of apps and connected devices.

As you start down your certification path, moving from general IT work to a more security-focused role, becoming SSCP- or CCSP-certified could open doors and benefit you professionally.

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. Therefore, the (ISC)² CBK is the basis for the domains listed in each credential and the source of all topics that are used to assess a candidate’s level of mastery of the most critical aspects of information security. According to (ISC)²: “The broad spectrum of topics included [in the SSCP and CCSP] Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) ensures its relevance across all disciplines in the field of information security.” 

The tables below demonstrate the CBKs for both SSCP and CCSP.

SSCP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®) – as of August 1, 2021

Domains Exam Percentage
1. Security Operations and Administration 16%
2. Access Controls 15%
3. Risk Identification, Monitoring and Analysis 15%
4. Incident Response and Recovery 14%
5. Cryptography 9%
6. Network and Communications Security 16%
7. Systems and Application Security 15%
Total 100%

CCSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®) – as of August 1, 2019 

Domains Exam Percentage
1. Cloud Concepts, Architecture, and Design 17%
2. Cloud Data Security 19%
3. Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Security 17%
4. Cloud Application Security 17%
5. Cloud Security Operations 17%
6. Legal, Risk, and Compliance 13%
Total 100%

What are the similarities between SSCP and CCSP?

The SSCP and CCSP certifications are hardly similar in how 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), the available amount of time to take a test (three hours) and a passing score (700 out of 1,000). Both certification exams are scheduled through the Pearson VUE Testing Center.

Two job roles are common in SSCP and CCSP: security administrator and systems engineer.

How do SSCP and CCSP differ?

The SSCP and CCSP certifications differ to 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

SSCP CCSP
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

SSCP CCSP
CPE requirements 60 CPEs 90 CPEs
Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) USD 125 USD 125
Average salary (as of May 2021) US $76k – Per PayScale US $119k – Per PayScale

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 seven domains of SSCP CBK. After that, the candidate will need two years to obtain the experience required for SSCP certification. If a student doesn’t have the required experience, they may become an Associate of (ISC)² after successfully passing the SSCP exam.

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 have the required experience, they can become an associate of (ISC)², and spend up to six years obtaining the experience required for CCSP certification.

Benefits of being SSCP-certified

  • Career advancement: the SSCP credential boosts your career in the realm of IT infrastructure security.
  • Versatile skills: SSCP skills can be applied to disparate methodologies and technologies due to their vendor-neutral nature.
  • Expand knowledge: a SSCP-certified employee is fully equipped with best practices, policies and procedures to implement, monitor and administer an 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 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 their 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 cloud infrastructure security. Obtaining one of these or both certifications depends on the job role(s) you will perform in your organization. 

Each enterprise may have a varying risk tolerance that will contribute to its choice of solution: on-premises systems security or cloud security. For instance, risk-averse organizations will prefer keeping their data internally and thus require an on-premise solution. Risk-sensitive organizations include banks and credit card companies as well as those related to national security. On the other hand, establishments 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 protections, such as email security or social media security.

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

Cloud and systems security

Today, on-premises systems and the cloud are both critical in terms of security. Depending on your career needs and preference, it is important to choose the right certification to acquire to maximize its influence on career progression and, of course, salary (see salary range for SSCP professionals and salary for CCSP certification holders).  

The SSCP certification shows a candidate has advanced technical knowledge and skills to implement, monitor and administer an IT infrastructure employing best security practices, policies and procedures. Conversely, the CCSP credential demonstrates that the qualified person holds advanced technical knowledge and skills to design, manage and secure data, applications and infrastructures in the cloud, rather than on on-premises systems. Of course, it might also be beneficial for many cybersecurity professionals to go on to earn multiple certifications (see “Should you take the CCSP/SSCP before the CISSP? if you wonder whether there are any specific benefits in earning these in a certain order) to take their career to the next level. 

 

Sources

Posted: October 7, 2021
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.

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