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GSEC: SANS GIAC Security Essentials

Best Information Security Certifications For 2017

Another fine entry-level credential is the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC), designed for professionals seeking to demonstrate that they not only understand information security terminology and concepts, but also possess the skills and technical expertise necessary for "hands-on" security roles. GSEC credential holders demonstrate knowledge and technical skills in areas such as identifying and preventing common and wireless attacks, access controls, authentication, password management, DNS, cryptography fundamentals, ICMP, IPv6, public key infrastructure, Linux, network mapping, and network protocols.

Currently priced at $1,249, the GIAC Security Essentials exam is quite a bit more expensive than the Security+ exam. While a training program is not required, credential seekers may take a SANS course that includes the cost of the exam.

GSEC certifications must be renewed every four years. To renew, candidates must accumulate 36 continuing professional experience credits (CPEs). GIAC offers several ways to meet the CPE requirement. Some options are passing the current certification exam (worth 36 CPEs), attending or teaching approved courses, and publishing books, articles or research papers. In addition, credential holders must pay a certification maintenance fee of $399 every four years.

GSEC Facts & Figures

Certification Name
GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
Prerequisites & Required CoursesNone, but training is recommended.
Number of Exams
One proctored exam (180 questions, five hours)
Exam administered by Pearson VUE. Registration with GIAC required to schedule an exam.

Cost of Exam
$689, if part of training/bootcamp

$1,249 (no training – referred to as a "certification challenge" or "certification attempt")
Self-Study Materials
Training available from numerous sources, including SANS.
Ric Messier's GSEC GIAC Security Essentials Certification All-in-One Exam Guide is also available from Amazon.

The SANS GIAC Program

In addition to the GSEC credential, SANS GIAC currently offers a full range of certifications (30 individual credentials, in fact) from entry to advanced levels for IT professionals seeking careers in the fields of security administration, forensics, legal, audit, management and software security. GIAC certifications are designed to stand alone; however, GIAC recommends that credential seekers obtain entry-level certifications and use them as skill builders for more advanced credentials.

MORE: SANS GIAC Certs & Career Paths