CCSP training - A real world guide to obtaining a CCSP

Unanswered Question

Many of us have wasted time and experienced frustration studying poor and irrelevant curriculum. I recently obtained a CCNA and was lost in the large amount of training methods and vendors. I now want to obtain a CCSP and hopefully find the best path for myself and others.

So the question is; what is the best method to obtain a CCSP?

Please tell us about your experiences and recommended materials:

Books -


Instructor lead or online training-

Practice exams-

Sequence of exams-

Thanks in advance!

I have this problem too.
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jwadleigh Thu, 08/30/2007 - 11:26

First of all, congratulations on your CCNA! Welcome to the Wonderful World of Cisco!

As for the CCSP, I have a few suggestions. I did not take a formal class for any of the 5 tests, but I do work with Cisco security devices all the time at work. I also purchased the official self-study guides for the tests about which I was nervous.

There are two types of questions on the CCSP tests; those whose answers can be memorized, and those that require hands-on experience to answer. The vast majority of them fall into the second category. Obviously, if you're hoping that obtaining your CCSP will advance your career; a prospective employer will only be interested in what you can DO, not merely what you can recite.

That being said, the biggest problem with preparing for the CCSP is that it would require quite a bit of expensive hardware in order to build your own lab.

If your current job doesn't afford you the opportunity to play around with a PIX firewall, a few Cisco switches and routers, Cisco Security Agent, a Cisco VPN concentrator, etc; then instructor-led training might be the best way to go.

Many technical schools have extensive lab environments where you can play, break, fix, and learn on a wide variety of network systems. Some even allow remote access so you can log in on nights and weekends outside of class time.

In short; there's no substitute for experience. These tests are at a high enough level that having hands-on experience will serve you well come test time.

Finally, in reference to the test order, you might consider the following (this worked for me):

1.) 642-552: Securing Cisco Network Devices - This was the most general (and easiest) of the tests. It's a good place to start; and also is an introduction to the advanced questions you'll see on other 642-level tests. Passing this one makes you a Cisco Information Security Specialist. (It'll drive the chicks crazy...)

2.) 642-503: Securing Routers & Switches - Also reasonably straightforward, and since you just took the CCNA; you're familiar with all of the hardware involved.

3.) 642-522: PIX - I would try to take this one next. Firewall configs can be tricky; but they're the first line of defense for the network. Passing this makes you a Cisco Firewall Specialist (and people just start throwing money at you on the streets).

4.) 642-532: IPS - Again, you're starting to get into more advanced network security practices; but that's why you're going for your CCSP, right? Passing this one makes you a Cisco IPS Specialist (and friends start naming their children after you).

5.) 642-5xx: You get a choice for your last test. You can take any of the following tests: CSA, VPN, NAC, or MARS. I would save this for last, because you may not know which technology you're most interested in until you've gotten more involved in security. Hopefully you'll have a new high-paying job in Network Security and you'll choose your final test based on the technology you'll be working with on the job. Passing this fifth and final test will make you a Cisco Certified Security Professional (and bronze statues in your image will be erected wherever you go).

One final note about test revisions. You'll notice that I put the earlier versions of the PIX and IPS tests on my list. If you can prepare in time to take these versions, do so. The new versions invariably will be harder than the older ones. (And, since you're getting the same credit, why volunteer to take a harder test?!?!) Please also notice that I did not follow the same strategy for test #5. Since the last test gives you the choice of four completely different technologies; study the one which will benefit you most at work. It'll keep you more focused; and you'll be more marketable once you receive the credential.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!


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