When asked how CISOs could better address the impact of the cybersecurity skills shortage, the most popular suggestion was to increase the overall commitment to training, according to The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals report from Enterprise Strategy Group and the Information Systems Security Association. In fact, security professionals must continue developing their professional skills or put their organizations at a competitive disadvantage, according to 91 percent of respondents.

But with so many training and certification options out there, which most effectively demonstrates the broad knowledge and skills required to secure cloud environments? Let’s compare three leading cybersecurity certifications: ISC2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) vs. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Data Center.

CCSP is a vendor-neutral certification that demonstrates the broad knowledge to successfully secure any cloud environment, regardless of vendor affiliation. It proves expert skills and experience in cloud security design, implementation, architecture, operations, controls, and compliance with the full range of regulatory frameworks. The globally recognized certification is available from ISC2, the creators of the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Common Body of Knowledge.

CCNA and CCNP Data Center are vendor-specific network certifications that show expertise specifically and exclusively in Cisco platforms.

Why is vendor-neutral certification favored by many organizations?

For higher levels of security, the standard for many organizations today is multi-cloud, which uses multiple providers for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS environments. Multi-cloud strategy allows organizations to work with cloud providers and environment types best suited to their workload or application.

Fifty-five percent of companies use at least two public clouds in addition to their own data centers, according to IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Study. IT managers make choices based on the performance and services a platform offers, which vary according to application type. And because the public cloud is a dynamic environment, a multi-cloud strategy allows organizations to avoid the limitations and potential expense of vendor lock-in and take advantage of innovations as they are introduced.

What is each cert’s emphasis on cloud security?

CCSP turns the focus on cloud security, testing candidates’ skills and knowledge across six cloud security domains. It validates your ability to design, manage and secure data, applications, and infrastructure in any cloud environment, while also following the best practices established by ISC2.

CCNA and CCNP Data Center address network security but do not turn a focus on cloud security. As of February 23, 2020, the certifications replaced CCNA Cloud and CCNP Cloud.



Cisco CCNA

Cisco CCNP Data Center Core Exam
(Note: additional exam in concentration of choice required)

Cloud Concepts, Architecture and Design

Network Fundamentals


Cloud Data Security

Network Access


Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Security

IP Connectivity

Storage Network

Cloud Application Security

IP Services


Cloud Security Operations

Security Fundamentals


Legal, Risk and Compliance

Automation and Programmability


What level of professional experience is required?

CCSP candidates are expert-level professionals. They are required to have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in information technology, of which three years must be in information security and one year in one or more of the six domains of the ISC2 CCSP Common Body of Knowledge. A candidate who doesn’t yet have the required experience to become a CCSP may become an Associate of ISC2 after successfully passing the CCSP exam. The Associate of ISC2 will then have six years to earn the experience needed for the CCSP certification.

CCNA candidates are recommended but not required to have at least one year of experience with computer networking and Cisco equipment.

CCNP Data Center candidates are recommended but not required to have at least three years of experience implementing data center solutions.

What’s the earning potential?

Certification Magazine’s 2021 salary survey ranks CCSP highest of the three credentials at No. 8 on its list of most lucrative certifications with an average annual salary of $150,400 USD in the U.S. and $96,820 USD in all non-U.S. countries. CCNA ranks No. 43 in the same ranking with an average annual salary of $118,050 USD in the U.S. and $64,450 USD in all non-U.S. countries. CCNP Data Center did not make the list.

What is required to maintain certification?

CCSP-credentialed professionals must participate in continuing professional education (CPE) to stay current on emerging threats, technologies, regulations, standards, and practices. They are required to earn and submit a minimum of 30 CPEs each year; 90 CPEs by the end of the 3-year recertification cycle.

CCNA and CCNP Data Center certifications are valid for three years. Certified individuals can recertify by completing continuing education activities, taking exams or a combination of both.

Certification and Maintenance Details



Cisco CCNA

Cisco CCNP Data Center (Core Exam)

Length of Exam

3 hours/125 multiple-choice questions

120 minutes/About 120 multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, simulation, simlet and testlet questions

120 minutes/About 100 multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, simulation, simlet and testlet questions

Passing Score

700 out of 1,000

Undisclosed but estimated about 800-850 out of 1000

Undisclosed but estimated about 750-850 out of 1000

Exam Fee

$599 USD

$300 USD

$400 USD

Annual Maintenance

$135 USD




90 credits over 3 years



How CCSP Certification Can Help You Succeed

Earning the globally recognized CCSP cloud security certification is a proven way to build your career and better secure critical assets in the cloud. CCSP shows you have the advanced technical skills and knowledge to design, manage and secure data, applications and infrastructure in the cloud using best practices, policies and procedures established by the cybersecurity member experts at ISC2.

Achieving CCSP certification provides the added benefit of membership in ISC2, the world’s largest nonprofit association of cybersecurity professionals, more than 150,000 members strong. ISC2 provides members with professional development courses through the Professional Development Institute (PDI); technical webinars covering evolving cybersecurity trends; and benefits, such as the ISC2 Community.

Download your copy of The Ultimate Guide to the CCSP and get started toward certification today.