The 10 Best Network Security Certifications for 2024

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So, you want to know what are the best network security certifications in 2024? You are in the right place. In this article, we will explore some of the best network security certifications that are suitable for your skill level, career aspirations, and interests.

Throughout this article, we will learn about the requirements, costs, and benefits of different network security certifications, including certifications for network security concepts, certifications for applying security solutions, certifications for defensive and security operations, and certifications for network hacking and penetration testing.

So, without further ado, let’s delve deep into answering the question: “What are the best network security certifications in 2024?”

 The Best Network Security Certifications

Cyber Security Certification Roadmap

Before diving into the world of cyber security certifications, it's important for you to have a basic understanding of the various stages of a cyber security career. To make your life easier, StationX has developed a straightforward and effective cyber security certification roadmap that can serve as a career path to help you achieve your goals and aspirations quickly and effortlessly.

Cyber Security Certification Roadmap
  • Stage 1: Essential IT Certifications - These certifications provide a foundation in fundamental IT skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level IT positions.
  • Stage 2: Networking Certifications - Networking certifications focus on the design, implementation, and management of computer networks, covering areas such as routing, switching, and network security.
  • Stage 3: General Cyber Security Certifications - General cyber security certifications validate knowledge and skills in safeguarding and protecting computer systems and networks from unauthorized access, attacks, and threats.
  • Stage 4: Advanced Cyber Security and Specialization Certifications - These certifications offer specialized knowledge in specific areas of cyber security, such as ethical hacking, blue teaming, red teaming, security architecture and engineering, incident response, security operations, risk management and so on.
  • Stage 5: Expert Cyber Security and Governance Certifications - Expert certifications demonstrate mastery in cyber security and governance, covering advanced concepts like security project management, business understanding leadership, strategy policy, and management in addition to expertise in specialized areas like exploit development, reverse engineering, forensics, etc.

To keep things clear, we will refer to these stages throughout this article.

Network Security Concepts

Discover essential principles of network security, setting the foundation for a resilient defense against evolving cyber threats. This section explores certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), highlighting key concepts vital for a secure digital environment.

CompTIA Security Plus

The Security+ certification is offered by CompTIA and considered a foundational certification for network security professionals. It covers various topics such as network security, threats, vulnerabilities, cryptography, and access control.

Stage

Stage 3 - General Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: CompTIA Security+
  • Exam Code: SY0-601 (until Nov 2023), SY0-701 (from Nov 2023 onward)
  • Number of Questions: Maximum of 90 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and performance-based
  • Tcpdump Cheat Sheet
  • Passing Score: 750 (on a scale of 100-900)
Security Domins

Requirements

There are no hard requirements, however it is recommended to have two years of experience working in IT/Security administration roles or having beginner-level certifications like CompTIA Network+, etc.

Cost

CompTIA Security+ certification exam costs $392 USD.

Benefits

CompTIA Security+ is a global certification that validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career. Security+ provides a fundamental understanding of network security principles, making it a valuable asset for entry-level professionals aiming to secure network infrastructure. Security+ equips professionals with essential skills in network security, enhancing employability and providing a strong foundation for advanced certifications.

certified ethical hacker

The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is provided by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). It focuses on ethical hacking and penetration testing techniques. CEH-certified individuals possess the skills necessary to identify vulnerabilities in computer networks and systems and provide recommendations to enhance their security.

Stage

Stage 3 - General Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Exam Code: 312-50 (ECC EXAM), 312-50 (Pearson VUE)
  • Number of Questions: 125 Questions
  • Test Format: Multiple-Choice
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Passing Score: Ranges from 60% to 80%.

Requirements

You will be eligible to attempt CEH certification exam if:

1. If you have two years of IT/security experience (or)

2. If you attend the official partnered training.

Cost

The CEH exam cost is $950 USD if you purchase the exam voucher directly from EC-Council and $1,199 USD through Pearson VUE. If you have to pursue the EC-Council training, the cost of CEH training courses including the exam voucher is:

  • On-Demand Training: $2,199 USD
  • Unlimited On-Demand: $2,999 USD
  • Live: $3,499 USD

Benefits

Understanding hacking techniques is vital for network security professionals to devise robust defense mechanisms and safeguard networks from malicious actors. CEH provides in-depth knowledge of hacking methodologies, aiding professionals in identifying vulnerabilities and strengthening network defenses. In addition, CEH is highly sought after by companies and validates essential ethical hacking skills.

certified information systems secutiry professional

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is offered by (ISC)² and is considered one of the most prestigious certifications in the field of network security.

It covers various domains such as security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security.

Stage

Stage 4 - Advance Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Exam Code: CISSP (ISC)²
  • Number of Questions: 100-150 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and advanced innovative questions
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Passing Score: A scaled score of 700 out of 1000 points
cissp exam domains

Requirements

Minimum of five years of cumulative paid work experience in two or more domains of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).

Earning cissp

Cost

CISSP exam costs $749 USD

Benefits

CISSP is considered as the elite certification in cyber security. CISSP imparts advanced knowledge about network security principles and practices, empowering professionals to design and maintain secure network infrastructures. CISSP validates expertise and mastery in designing, implementing, and managing a secure business environment, making it highly prestigious in the field of network security.

Courses

Applying Security Solutions

Implementing robust security solutions is crucial to mitigating cyber risks effectively. This section focuses on certifications like CCNP Security and PCNSA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Administrator), providing the expertise needed to design, deploy, and manage security solutions within complex network infrastructures.

cisco certified network professional security

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security is an advanced Cisco certification that validates the skills required to design, implement, and manage security solutions in complex network environments. It covers topics like secure access, VPNs, and intrusion prevention systems.

Stage

Stage 4 - Advance Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security
  • Exam Code: 350-701 SCOR + Security Concentration exam of your choice
  • Number of Questions: 100-110 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice
  • Duration: 120 minutes
  • Passing Score: Varies (on a scale of 300-1000)
SCOR 350-701 CCNP Secutiry Exam

Requirements

To earn CCNP Security, you pass two exams: a core exam and a concentration exam of your choice.

  • The core exam, Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies v1.0 (350-701 SCOR), focuses on your knowledge of security infrastructure.
  • The Concentration exams focus on emerging and industry-specific topics such as Cisco Firepower, identity services, email security, web security, VPNs, and automation.

Cost

CCNP Security costs $700 USD (Core exam costs $400, the Concentration exams are $300).

Benefits

The CCNP Security certification and training program provides real-world, job-focused skills in key areas. Professionals with CCNP Security certification are equipped to secure network infrastructures effectively using Cisco security solutions.

Cisco holds 32.9% of the market for networking hardware and having CCNP Security certifies professionals to work on Cisco security solutions, enhancing their ability to design and implement secure networks. Even the companies that don’t operate Cisco products always value the professionals with Cisco certifications.

Palo Alto Networks Certified Neworks Security

Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Administrator (PCNSA), managed by Palo Alto Networks, certifies knowledge in operating Palo Alto Networks' next-generation firewalls. It covers topics like firewall configurations, security policies, and threat detection.

Stage

Stage 4 - Advance Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Administrator
  • Exam Code: PCNSA
  • Number of Questions: Approximately 60-75 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and scenarios
  • Duration: 80 minutes
  • Passing Score: 70%
Palo alto networks certified network security administrator exam

Requirements

Though there are no mandatory requirements, it is recommended to have familiarity with basic networking concepts and Palo Alto Networks technologies.

Cost

The exam cost is approximately $155 USD.

Benefits

PCNSA equips professionals to configure and manage Palo Alto Networks' firewalls effectively, bolstering network security. Palo Alto Networks is one of the top five vendors in the security appliance market with a market share of 15.9% and those who earn the PCNSA certification demonstrate their ability to operate the Palo Alto Networks firewall to protect networks from cutting-edge cyberthreats.

Courses

Defensive and Security Operations

Defending against cyber threats and ensuring smooth security operations are paramount in cyber security. This section introduces certifications such as CySA+ (CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst), GCIA (GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst), and Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate, validating the skills required to proactively analyze, detect, and respond to security incidents.

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) is an intermediate-level certification from CompTIA, focusing on behavioral analytics, vulnerability management, and threat detection. It aims to validate skills in defending against cyber threats.

Stage

Stage 3 - General Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
  • Exam Code: CS0-002 (from Apr 2021), CS0-003 (from June 2023 onward)
  • Number of Questions: Maximum of 85 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and performance-based questions
  • Duration: 165 minutes
  • Passing Score: 750 (on a scale of 100-900)
CySA+ Domains

Requirements

Though there are no mandatory requirements, it is recommended to have Network+, Security+ or equivalent knowledge. In addition, it is also recommended to have a minimum of 4 years of hands-on experience as an incident response analyst or security operations center (SOC) analyst, or equivalent experience.

Cost

  • The CompTIA CySA+ certification exam costs $392 USD.

Benefits

CySA+ enables professionals to proactively defend against cyber threats and enhance overall network security. CySA+ certifies professionals to analyze data and identify vulnerabilities to secure network environments effectively.

GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst

GCIA is an advanced certification from GIAC, focusing on intrusion detection, incident response, and advanced networking protocols.The GIAC Intrusion Analyst (GCIA) certification validates a practitioner's knowledge of network and host monitoring, traffic analysis, and intrusion detection. GCIA certification holders have the skills needed to configure and monitor intrusion detection systems, and to read, interpret, and analyze network traffic and related log files.

Stage

Stage 4 - Cyber Security Specialization

Details

  • Exam Title: GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)
  • Exam Code: GCIA
  • Number of Questions: 106 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and performance-based questions
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Passing Score: 67%

Requirements

No Specific requirements however, familiarity with TCP/IP and networking concepts is recommended.

Cost

GIAC’s GCIA costs $949 USD.

Benefits

GCIA validates expertise in detecting, responding to, and mitigating network intrusions. Professionals with GCIA certification possess advanced skills in intrusion detection, critical for maintaining robust network security.

CISCO Certified CyberOps Associate

The Understanding Cisco Cyber security Operations Fundamentals (CBROPS) v1.0 training offered by Cisco teaches you security concepts, common network and application operations and attacks, and the types of data needed to investigate security incidents.

This training teaches you how to monitor alerts and breaches, and how to understand and follow established procedures for response to alerts converted to incidents.

Stage

Stage 3 - General Cyber Security

Details

  • Exam Title: Cisco Cyber security Operations Associate (200-201 CBROPS)
  • Exam Code: 200-201 CBROPS
  • Number of Questions: 95-105 questions
  • Test Format: Multiple choice and performance-based questions
  • Duration: 120 minutes
  • Passing Score: Varies (on a scale of 300-1000)
CISCO CyberOps Exam Breakdown

Requirements

There are no requirements to write this exam.

Cost

The Cisco CyberOps Associate certification costs $300 USD.

Benefits

Professionals can apply the knowledge gained from this certification to enhance security operations and respond to cyber security incidents within a networked environment. This certification equips professionals with skills to monitor and respond to security threats effectively.

Courses

Network Hacking and Penetration Testing

Understanding offensive strategies is vital to crafting an effective defense against cyber threats. The Network Hacking and Penetration Testing section focuses on certifications like OSCP (OffSec Certified Professional) and OSEP (OffSec Experienced Pentester), providing a deep dive into ethical hacking and penetration testing techniques to fortify networks against potential intrusions.

offsec certified professional

OffSec Certified Professional (OSCP), provided by OffSec, is a highly regarded penetration testing certification. It assesses the ability to exploit various systems and networks. Learners who complete the course PEN-200: Penetration Testing with Kali Linux and pass the exam will earn the OffSec Certified Professional (OSCP) certification.

Stage

Stage 4 - Cyber Security Specialization

Details

  • Exam Title: OffSec Certified Professional (OSCP)
  • Exam Code: PEN-200
  • Number of Questions: Practical exam, no fixed questions
  • Test Format: Practical penetration testing in a controlled environment
  • Duration: 24 hours for the exam
  • Passing Score: 70 Points

Requirements

It is recommended to have solid understanding of TCP/IP networking, reasonable Windows and Linux administration experience, and familiarity with basic Bash and/or Python scripting.

Cost

  • OffSec offers OSCP as a bundle for $1,599 USD that includes OSCP exam, PEN-200 course, and 90 days lab access.
  • In addition, you can also choose the $2,499 USD annual subscription where you will receive two OSCP exam attempts and 1 year access to course labs.

Benefits

Professionals with OSCP certification possess advanced skills in identifying vulnerabilities and securing networks through penetration testing. The OSCP exam requires students to breach and control a three-machine Active Directory network - Active Directory is the most common network infrastructure used by companies today. In addition, OSCP certification holders are highly preferred by companies globally with high paying jobs.

offsec experienced pentester

OffSec Experienced Pentester (OSEP) is an elite-level certification from OffSec, focusing on advanced penetration testing techniques. Learners who complete the course PEN-300: Evasion Techniques and Breaching Defenses and pass the exam will earn the OffSec Experienced Pentester (OSEP) certification.

Stage

Stage 4 - Cyber Security Specialization

Details

  • Exam Title: OffSec Experienced Pentester (OSEP)
  • Exam Code: PEN-300
  • Number of Questions: Practical exam, no fixed questions
  • Test Format: Practical penetration testing and exploit development
  • Duration: 48 hours for the exam
  • Passing Score: at least 100 Points

Requirements

Though there are no hard requirements for OSEP, it is recommended to have OSCP. It is also  recommended to have solid ability in enumerating targets to identify vulnerabilities. In addition, the ability to identify and exploit vulnerabilities like SQL injection, file inclusion, and local privilege escalation is an added advantage.

Cost

  • OffSec offers OSEP as a bundle for $1,599 USD that includes OSEP exam, PEN-300 course, and 90 days lab access.
  • In addition, you can also choose the $2,499 USD annual subscription where you will receive two OSEP exam attempts and 1 year access to course labs.

Benefits

The OSEP exam is designed to mimic a real corporate network with common security features. Those who pass this certification have demonstrated their ability to perform real network penetration tests and bypass real-world defences.

Courses

Conclusion

Understand that network security is a critical aspect of modern technology, and obtaining relevant certifications is vital for professionals aiming to excel in this field. In navigating the myriad options of network security certifications, the key lies in aligning your choice with your aspirations.

If you're just starting, CompTIA Security+ offers a solid foundation. For those intrigued by ethical hacking, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) route awaits. Aspiring to climb the career ladder? Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a valuable step.

If you lean towards Cisco technologies, CCNP Security holds expertise in that domain, while PCNSA is ideal for those inclined towards Palo Alto solutions. For enthusiasts of threat detection, CompTIA CySA+ and GCIA provide a solid pathway.

If your ambition lies in cyber security operations, explore Cisco CyberOps. For the adventurous aiming to master penetration testing, the challenging OSCP or OSEP certifications await.

Match your certification choice with your ambitions, for your journey towards becoming a network security expert begins with the right step—choose wisely and define your cyber security destiny.

Whether you're starting your career or looking to advance to the highest levels of expertise, these certifications can significantly impact your professional growth and contribute to a more secure digital world.

For access to certification training courses, custom certification and career roadmaps, mentorship, study groups, and more, check out the StationX Accelerator Program!

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