SSCP versus CCSP: Cloud security or systems security? [updated 2021]
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
|1. Security Operations and Administration||16%|
|2. Access Controls||15%|
|3. Risk Identification, Monitoring and Analysis||15%|
|4. Incident Response and Recovery||14%|
|6. Network and Communications Security||16%|
|7. Systems and Application Security||15%|
CCSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK®) – as of August 1, 2019
|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%|
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
|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 (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.
- SSCP, (ISC)²
- CCSP, (ISC)²
- CBK Suggested References, (ISC)²
- SSCP Domain Change FAQ, (ISC)²
- SSCP: Certification Exam Outline, (ISC)²
- CCSP: Certification Exam Outline, (ISC)²
- CCSP Domain Refresh FAQ, (ISC)²
- The Ultimate Guide to the SSCP, (ISC)²
- The Ultimate Guide to the CCSP, (ISC)²
- How much does a CCSP make?, (ISC)²
- SSCP Work Experience Requirements, (ISC)²
- CCSP Experience Requirements, (ISC)²
- Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Handbook, (ISC)²
- Cybersecurity Professionals to Newcomers: Focus on Vendor-Neutral Certifications, (ISC)²
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