Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Your Ultimate CISSP FAQ

 By Sarah Morgan

The CISSP is a hugely popular certification that carries a great deal of prestige and may be something you’re striving for in the future.

How much do you really know about the CISSP? This ultimate CISSP FAQ will start from the basics to ensure you know all there is to know about this gold standard security certification.

Q: What is a CISSP?

A: CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Achieving the certification proves you are accomplished at the management level of information security. Developed by globally recognised (ISC)2, it has become established and well-respected within the industry and is now a key component in the selection process of Chief Information Officers.



Q: What does the course cover?

A: The CISSP course begins by ensuring you understand the concepts and principles behind information security and why they are important. You’ll then build up to learn how to protect your business from various angles and how to apply management skills to information security through (ISC)2’s eight domains.

Everything you’ll cover will be from (ISC)2’s CISSP CBK (common body of knowledge). This ensures what you learn is approved and thorough, covering all components of information security management. The full list of the domain titles are as follows:


  • Domain 1 – Security and Risk Management 
  • Domain 2 – Asset Security
  • Domain 3 – Security Engineering
  • Domain 4 – Communication and Network Security
  • Domain 5 – Identity and Access Management
  • Domain 6 – Security Assessment and Testing
  • Domain 7 – Security Operations
  • Domain 8 – Software Development Security


Q: How will it help me on a day-to-day basis?

A: The skills you’ll learn on your CISSP course will improve the depth of your knowledge, filling in gaps, and making you more skilled at what you already know and do. You will also become more proficient and prepared for dealing with a vast range of security threats.

For example, the breadth of topics covered ranges from cryptography to implementing disaster recovery processes. Whatever your current or future job role in information security, you’re sure to gain knowledge and skills that will help you on a daily basis.

Q: Who is the CISSP aimed at?

A: The CISSP is an advanced certification. This means it is directly aimed at senior and experienced security professionals who will realistically be able to pass the exam and find it useful.

However on a more grand scale, anyone looking into senior information security roles can target the CISSP as a long term goal. Even if you’re not quite the perfect candidate to take the CISSP yet, there’s nothing stopping you in the long term.

Q: What jobs can I do with a CISSP?

A: The CISSP has the potential to lift you into security roles that are the pinnacle of the field. Below are just a small sample of the sorts of job roles that you could access after becoming CISSP certified:


  • Chief Information Security Officer
  • IT Security consultant
  • Senior Security Engineer
  • Head of Cyber strategy
  • Security Specialist
  • Chief Security Architect
  • Security Assurance Analyst
  • Technology Consultant Manager
  • Cyber Security Senior Manager
  • Information Risk Manager
  • Head of Risk & Compliance




Q: How much can I expect to earn with a CISSP?

A: Of course the salary you can earn depends on what else is in your skillset and the job roles listed above do have varying salaries. According to itjobswatch.com, the lower tier of the jobs you could be doing average salaries between £40,00-£50,000. These are roles like IT Security Consultant, Security Specialist and Security Assurance Analyst.

However, the more senior roles, like Chief Information Security Officer, Head of Cyber Strategy, Chief Security Architect and Cyber Security Senior Manager, average salaries between £70,000-£100,000. The CISSP is one of the best certifications as a gateway to such high level jobs with that kind of salary and responsibility – especially in a field with such intense competition.

Q: Can anyone take the CISSP course?

A: Because the CISSP is such an advanced certification, there are prerequisites that you must meet before you are able to sit the course.

Initially, you must have at least five years of professional information security experience, as well as a university degree. The nature of the security industry also requires you to agree and commit to the Code of Ethics and criminal history check. On top of this, after passing the certification, your application must be endorsed by another qualified information security professional.

However, do not be put off. These prerequisites are only in place to ensure that you and have the experience and ability to pass the course and put what you’ve learnt into practice in the real world afterwards.

Q: What happens if I don’t meet the prerequisites?

A: If you don’t currently meet the requirements for the CISSP – (ISC)2 offer a range of courses for varying experience and skill level. The full list here.

The SSCP is designed for those who don’t meet the CISSP prerequisites. Also developed by (ISC)2 from its CBK, it covers seven very similar domains, at a lower level. The bonus is, it only requires one year of experience in the information security field – a fantastic stepping stone to get you onto the CISSP.

There are also many other security certifications that can help boost your skills. From EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker, to CompTIA’s Security+, there is a certification out there than can help you get the skills you want in the security industry, whatever your current situation.

Q: What are the exams like?

A: The CISSP exam consists of 250 multiple–choice, four option questions. It’s a lot of questions, but you have six hours in which to do them. All exams are meant to test you and prove that you are a certain standard, otherwise the certification wouldn’t be worth anything. The CISSP is no different and is a tough exam to pass, hence the qualities stated in the prerequisites. But don’t feel daunted, obviously people do pass it, it just takes commitment and hard work. It’s also worth noting that the exam questions change every two weeks, so you’re not facing the same questions each time.

Q: What happens if I fail?

A: Obviously nobody likes to fail, but it doesn’t mean the end of your aspirations and possibility of you getting CISSP certified. (ISC)2 policy states you can retake an exam 3 times in a year. If it’s the first time you’ve failed it, you’ll be able to sit another exam just 30 days afterwards.

Q: When can I get on a CISSP course and get certified?

A: The CISSP is a hugely popular course, which is why there is usually always a course running soon that you can get yourself on. At Firebrand there is between 1 and 3 courses a month. The Firebrand course is also just seven days and also includes the official (ISC)2 exam at the end of it. That means depending on availability, you could be CISSP certified by the end of next week.

 About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.