Certifications are an interesting concept in the security field. We don’t have one path to be a security professional, and it’s not like we need to go to college for ten years to be a doctor or pass the bar exam to be a lawyer. As the security field has grown, so has the amount of certifications. Even though I have other content on my blog, certification reviews are still my most viewed. So, that’s why I want to dive deeper into this topic and give my thoughts about them.
After completing another certification, I wonder about the results. But does it matter? Will passing or failing affect my career? Will I make more money by passing this? The answer to this is probably not. I remember when I took my Security+ many years ago. I was a Network Technician at the time and always had an interest in security. I remember studying for it for a couple of months, taking the exam, and passing. When it was time for my yearly review, I talked about my motivation to get my Security+ and succeed. My manager was pleased that I had pushed myself, but in the end, he didn’t see any changes in my behavior or how I operated at work. Of course, he didn’t see my behavior change with the Security+ because it’s just an exam. It by no means changes a person. I proceeded to get the average pay increase I had gotten every year.
I wasn’t discouraged when my manager said that to me because I see certifications as a goal one can strive for and nothing more. Whenever you set a goal, you’ll often push your limits to something you usually wouldn’t be able to do without prior training. For example, you see this with running. Some people want to run a marathon; this goal might be challenging even if they run here and there. You have to create a plan to slowly increase the distance week after week to reach your goal until you’re capable of succeeding. This plan lowers the risk of injury and maximizes that chance for success. Can somebody just run 30 minutes every day with no goals in mind? Sure! The goal is to push you out of your comfort zone and expand your limits.
I was asked, “What are the best certifications for a blue teamer?” and my answer is more of a question back to the person asking. Are you just looking for a piece of paper? Or are you looking to level up? Because those are two different things. When I say leveling up, I mean an understanding of a topic, so much so that you can speak and even debate the topic. The reader should look at leveling up their skills rather than certifications alone. Leveling up will give you the knowledge you need to talk to it in an interview, provide a point of reference, and become more valuable to the team. But how do you go about leveling up? You train daily, use platforms like TryHackMe to expand your knowledge, watch a YouTuber take apart some malware, and proceed to do the same. Read articles about new vulnerabilities, use proof of concepts, and gather/analyze data from that proof of concept. When you create a daily habit and find a field of security you’re interested in, go after a certification to push yourself harder. If you’re interested in pen-testing, maybe study for the Offensive Security Certified Professional, Practical Network Penetration Tester, or Certified Penetration Testing Specialist.
That’s how I see certifications in the security field. You can learn something new daily if you work in the field. You can use platforms like TryHackMe to gain new skills if you are trying to break into the field. But there’s a time when you might want to dive deeper and learn more, and that’s where I see certifications benefiting those taking them. To add to their daily routine, not being their primary focus. Use certifications to push yourself deeper in one direction, but don’t let that be your only motivation to expand your skills. And a reminder to all readers that failing an exam can’t stop you from progressing and building your skills. Also, passing a certification doesn’t mean you’re somebody different. It’s simply a test of your skill at that moment, not who you are and what you’ll become.