Certifications in the Security Profession

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Certifications in the Security Profession

Contributed by Jerry J. Brennan, Managing Director & Founder of Security Management Resources (http://www.smrgroup.org) ([email protected]). Contributed articles do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of ÆGIS.

Frequently, we are asked if a particular certification would improve an individual’s career and marketability. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. As an industry we have not done a very good job of defining the various security job functions in a realistic fashion. Further complicating this is the arbitrary and capricious nature of the position descriptions published by security professionals when they are looking for staff. We continually see requirements in position listings that have no relevance to the role they are recruiting for. This makes it more difficult for the certifying agency to identify which body of knowledge they will measure.

Recently, Security Jobs Network, Inc. reviewed 40,300 professional level openings that were collected and listed on their website from Jan 1999 to mid July 2008. The CPP designation was chosen because it is one of the older and most recognized designations in the industry. It also and represents that its holders are “Board Certified in Security Management.” So how did the marketplace respond?

Year                   Total # Year Listings         CPP                   %

2008                                2187                                             110                   5.02%

2007                                 3431                                             147                   4.28%

2006                                 3741                                             139                   3.72%

2005                                 3709                                            151                    4.07%

2004                                 4316                                             146                   3.38%

2003                                 4073                                            109                   2.68%

2002                                 4349                                             120                   2.76%

2001                                 4288                                            110                    2.57%

2000                                 5625                                            166                    2,95%

1999                                  3453                                             84                     2.43%


There is no silver bullet when it comes to advancing your career. Most organizations seek to fill positions with qualified individuals who have a record of accomplishments in the security management focus area of the position being filled. In addition, organizations like to hire people whom they believe will fit into the organization’s culture and who can best engage effectively with the managers and individuals with whom they will need to interact. The higher up the career ladder you progress, the more true this becomes. Do you see the world’s leading organizations require their “C” level executive to be “certified” in a particular field? How often have we seen organizations recruit senior level government executives to head security organizations? Are they any less capable leaders because they don’t have a particular certification? The point we wish to make is that in general, certifications were designed to measure someone’s knowledge in a specific practice area. These tended to be in relatively narrow areas of expertise and also required a specified level of continued education to maintain the certification. This is true across many careers fields from medicine to automotive repair.

These can be valuable programs to advance the sector they represent. The common threads that we have observed for those certification programs that become standards within their professional field, are: They are integrated into the our recognized degree and/or certificate educational programs; have specifically defined the body of knowledge they seek to measure; stay focused and up-to-date in that specialty field; are generally used to measure knowledge in practicing or operational level positions within a field or career path and are widely accepted by the hiring organizations because their materials are relevant to position specific job requirements.

Our recommendation is to choose your educational and certification programs carefully. Ensure that the program has clearly defined course material and test objectives that realistically measure relevant knowledge in a given practice area. For those candidates in the beginning or mid-point of their career, certifications can help set you apart from other candidates, however, no certification is an indication of your ability to lead a program at a senior level of management and any such claim is misleading. Having a lot of initials following your name will not advance your career if you cannot demonstrate a record of accomplishments, maturity, competence, and a wide range of interpersonal, non technical skills to a hiring authority.

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