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OK, so let’s assume you’ve read over the preceding materials with care and attention, and you’d like to weigh your interest in this exam in light of the cold, hard facts of employment opportunities that passing such an exam might provide. To be more specific, you’d probably like to see some answers to the following questions that are no doubt percolating somewhere near the top of your list of job-related concerns:

  • What kind of work can a CIW Security Professional do?
  • What are the employment prospects like?
  • How well recognized is this prospective credential?
  • What is such a credential worth?

Because the CIW Security Professional exam is a single-exam certification, and because you must pass the CIW Foundations exam to take this exam, passing those two exams makes you a CIW Professional. This has to be regarded as an entry-level certification in general terms, and as a much more junior certification than a CISSP, SSCP, SANS-GIAC, or CPP (the other certifications covered in depth as part of this series of articles). Thus, you shouldn’t set your expectations too high in terms of what passing the CIW Security Professional exam will do for your career.

That said, here are specific answers to the questions raised above:

  • What kind of work can a CIW Security Professional do?
    As with most CIW certified individuals, people with CIW Security Professional under their belts are bound to find themselves involved with security concerns related to the maintenance and operation of commercial or organizational Web sites. Because a certain amount of size is required to justify hiring full-time Web administrators, CIW credentials are most likely to lead to employment in medium- to large-sized companies and organizations, defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as those business entities that employ more than 100 employees.

    This doesn’t mean that individuals who work for small companies or organizations (those that employ 5-99 employees) can’t use CIW certification, but it is more likely to be of interest to those who manage a Web site part time rather than full-time in such circumstances.

    From another prospective, those with CIW Security Professional certification in particular (and CIW certification in general) are likely to work as Web administrators, managers, developers, or content creators. Thus, in addition to handling security matters, they are also likely to be involved in creating and updating some form of Web content, or overseeing the work of others who do such jobs.
  • What are the employment prospects like?
    Given that the majority of companies and organizations in North America now have Web sites, employment prospects for Web professionals in general (and certified Web professionals in particular) are generally quite good. One notable exception to this trend is in metropolitan areas, such as the Bay Area in northern California, New York City, Chicago, and so forth, recently affected by the sharp downturn in the technology sector and the failure or downsizing of many dotcom organizations. In such areas, there may indeed be more Web professionals than jobs for them to fill; think carefully before jumping into this job niche if you live someplace where the dotcom bust has had a noticeable effect!
  • How well recognized is this prospective credential?
    There are at least half-a-dozen different Web certifications available in today’s marketplace. A recent survey of advertisements for Web professionals on dice.com, monster.com, and similar job-posting sites show less than 5% of all ads mentioning Web certification. Thus, it’s a “nice to have” credential, rather than a “must-have” credential. But before this causes you to drop the idea of the CIW Security Professional exam entirely, consider this: taking and passing this exam will give you a good taste of what the subject matter for higher-level security certifications is like (such as CISSP, SSCP, TICSA, and SANS-GIAC). Thus, we think it makes a great “security starter certification” for those who want to test the waters with a $125 exam, instead of an exam that costs $275 or more.
  • What is such a credential worth?
    To an employer who values the CIW program, the certification can make the difference between landing and missing a job opportunity. Though such employers are still in the minority, Prosoft itself estimates that a Master CIW certification is worth at least $5-10,000 more than going rates for Web positions. Thus, a CIW Professional based on Foundations and CIW Security Professional is probably worth from $2-5,000 more per year, given the right employer requirements.

If you take advantage of the materials covered in this article and other well-known books and resources on security certification, you should be well prepared to tackle this exam. Good luck!

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