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Take Control of Your Career: How to Become an IT Security Expert in 2012

Brought to you by The Cisco Innovators Program

How special are you? It certainly pays to be a specialist in IT security.

If you've resolved to find a new job in 2012, gaining IT security expertise can be the passport to more opportunities. Worldwide demand for information security professionals will grow by 13.2 percent in 2012 -- and reach nearly 4.2 million jobs by 2015 -- forecasts Frost & Sullivan.

If you already like working at your company, this may be the year to make yourself invaluable -- and ask for a salary raise. Salaries for data security analysts will rise 6 percent in 2012, while IT salaries overall will increase 4.5 percent, predicts Robert Half Technology

Following are ways that you can start advancing your security expertise right now.

Earn Your Badge: A Security Certificate

A sure way to escape techie obscurity is to be certified in IT security. You can network with other IT professionals when in the classroom (e-learning is an option), doing the labs, and taking the exams.

Once certified, your name can be listed in the certification databases, and you can market your expertise -- as a consultant or employee.

To get started on certification:

  • Satisfy the prerequisites.
  • Schedule your time. Expect to spend at least several days fully dedicated, and at most a few years of ongoing effort to earn certification. Then keep your knowledge and skills up to date, periodically get training, and recertify as required.
  • Pay to play. Costs can be just a few hundred dollars for written exams but can add up to a few thousand dollars with the training, lab exams, and travel.

Vendor-neutral security certificates, available worldwide, emphasize knowledge and application of general security concepts, tools, and procedures. They include:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Security Essentials (GSEC)

Cisco® security certificates, available worldwide, feature role-based certifications comprised of network security theory and hands-on practical applications in a Cisco network environment. The certificates are offered at the Cisco CCNA®, CCNP®, and CCIE® levels; see a comparison chart

The Real Life of an Expert: Introducing the New CCIE Security

CCIE Security 4.0 is unusual among security certificates for its up-to-date, real-world content. It emphasizes security competency and efficient problem solving in networks that use cloud services, carry voice and multimedia traffic, and are accessed by a variety of wireless devices.

The content, currently in development, may include real-world applications that involve:

  • Securing both wireless and wired networks, including managing security policy by device and service
  • Extending application awareness to security devices, moving security up to Layer 7 from the stateless packets of Layers 3 and 4, and applying policy on a per-identity basis
  • Applying security policy in a network that has voice and video traffic
  • Securing networks that use managed services, dual ISPs, IPv6, or IP multicast

Cisco will soon announce the blueprints for the CCIE Security 4.0 written and lab exams; the first exam will take place approximately six months later.

Although there are no prerequisites for registration, Cisco offers a preparation path through its CCNA and/or CCNP Security levels, and recommends that candidates have at least three years of hands-on network security experience.

Tap Other IT Security Resources

If a security certificate is not in your plans for 2012, incremental ways to build your security knowledge and skills include:

  • Security sessions at events such as the RSA Conference (February 27 through March 2 in San Francisco, and in October in Europe), InfoSec (March in Asia, and April in North America and Europe), SANS 2012 (March in North America), and Cisco Live!™ now in London, March in Melbourne, and June in San Diego, Calif, as well as CiscoLive Virtual
  • Websites such as SANs Security Resources, Cisco Intelligence Operations, and US-CERT
  • Academic programs, such as a master of science degree from the SANS Technology Institute (estimated tuition $34,000)

Until you gain the specialized IT security skills or certification that your business needs to protect itself, you can rely on Cisco Certified Partners that specialize in security to help you.

Partners that have an Advanced Security or Master Security Specialization can provide whatever security services your business needs -- ranging from device configuration to comprehensive managed security services.

Next Steps

  1. Find a local Cisco Certified Partner that can help you improve your company's security
  2. Visit Facebook pages on Cisco security and Cisco learning
  3. Discover the full range of Cisco security solutions
  4. Join the Cisco Innovators Program to continue receiving small business-related articles, videos, and offers. Already a member? Refer a friend.

Contact Cisco

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