OSCP vs CEH: Know the Difference and Your Shortest Path to a Cyber Security Certification

Cyber security professionals have access many certification choices. This abundance of options is hardly surprising since there needs to be a wide variety of security measures and tools to counter the overwhelming range of cyber threats that exist.

IT professionals use penetration testing to ensure that their networks are safe from hackers and other unwelcome intruders. There are currently two prevalent penetration testing certifications available: CEH and OSCP.

If you’re curious about what distinguishes them and which is the best fit for you and your IT team, OSCP vs CEH, read on. We’re about to explore the world of penetration testing with CEH and OSCP, and how to get certified with the least amount of inconvenience or trouble.

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What Is Penetration Testing Anyway?

A penetration test (or pen test for short) is a simulated and authorized cyber attack against a computer system, application, or network to ascertain its security status and root out vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Ethical hackers conduct penetration testing, which is an essential tool for evaluating how secure the target is. By finding weaknesses under controlled test conditions, the IT department sees what areas need improvement before any real-life damage or losses can occur. If you’re interested in pen testing, OSCP vs CEH is a great consideration to make. 

What Is CEH Certification?

A Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a professional who understands and is an expert in finding vulnerabilities and weak spots in targeted systems. CEH certified individuals are qualified information security professionals from a vendor-neutral perspective. They are ethical (or “white hat”) hackers, and they have the training to think and act like malicious (or “black hat”) hackers.

Although it includes a good selection of penetration tools and testing and covers some of the same topics as CISSP, CEH is an entry-level certification ideal for non-penetration testers and people who lack detailed security knowledge. All that a neophyte CEH student needs is a solid, working knowledge of networking.

CEH focuses more on a theoretical approach to penetration testing, offering fewer hands-on labs.

The CEH certification exam consists of 125 multiple choice questions set in a four-hour test.

An aspiring cyber security professional should consider taking CISM certification training once they’ve gained CEH certification. For IT professionals who want to take a comprehensive set of cyber-security courses and achieve a higher level of mastery, there’s the Cyber Security Expert Master’s program offered by Simplilearn. The program includes six courses, including CEH, CISM, and CISSP. That way, the would-be cyber security master will learn all of the necessary skills for a Cyber security expert, including becoming a white-hat hacker.

What Is OSCP Certification?

Offensive Security Certified Professional certification, or OSCP, also focuses on white-hat hacking and penetration testing, though it focuses more on the latter. It’s the lowest-level certification offered by Offensive Security. The IT community recommends OSCP certification for “information security professionals who want to take a serious and meaningful step into the world of professional penetration testing.” OSCP is geared more towards current cyber security professionals, not people who want to start a career in the field.

Eschewing the theoretical approach, OSCP offers a more hands-on teaching method, in tandem with a greater emphasis on self-study. OSCP is enormously popular and has become the gold standard in penetration testing.

The OSCP certification exam consists of two parts. First, an almost 24-hour pen-testing exam on five challenge machines. The applicant must then turn in a documentation report within 24 hours after the first exam is complete. 

To sum up OSCP vs CEH, the latter is ideal for IT professionals who aren’t making a career out of penetration testing and ethical hacking but want to expand their skills in the cyber security field. OSCP is more geared towards professionals who wish to pursue or bolster a career in penetration testing.

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What’s This Talk About CISSP?

Yes, we mentioned CISSP back when we were discussing CEH certification. Certified Information Security Systems Professionals, or CISSP for short, often comes up when IT professionals discuss OSCP vs CEH. CISSP is an extensive, high-level certification that is often more recognized than OSCP vs CEH. It is considered one of the most popular and respected cyber security certifications in today’s IT world.

It has many advantages over OSCP vs CEH, but penetration testing and ethical hacking is not the certification’s primary emphasis. The course covers access management, asset security, incident analysis, identity, incident handling, penetration testing, business continuity, risk management, security in software development, and security operations.

A quality CISSP certification course gives students the expertise needed to define IT architecture, and design, build, and oversee a secure IT business environment, employing globally approved information security standards. The CISSP course covers industry best practices and prepares you for the CISSP certification exam held by (ISC)².

Anyone who wants a well-rounded career in cyber security should take this course eventually. Start with either CEH or OSCP and work your way up to CISSP.

Are There Any Recommended Prerequisites?

IT and cyber security professionals who are considering OSCP vs CEH certification should have:

  • At least two years’ experience in the cyber security field
  • A working knowledge of networking
  • Working experience with Linux
  • The desire to understand and learn penetration testing

OSCP vs CEH: A Visual Comparison

Here’s a table that illustrates the different attributes of CEH certification classes compared to OSCP certification classes:

OSCP vs CEH: Considerations

CEH

OSCP

Who Needs This Certificate?

Anyone who wants to gain a basic grasp on the various aspects of cyber security from an ethical hacker’s perspective. Useful for expanding your skillset while remaining in your current job.

Anyone who wants to make a career devoted exclusively to penetration testing.

Which Course Is Better?

This course is better for the average IT professional who wants to know more about hacking and cyber security in general.

Advanced penetration testers won’t get much out of it.

Better for the cyber security expert who wants to get extremely good at pen testing. Otherwise, it’s not especially useful in the cyber security field.

It is considered the standard in cyber security circles.

What’s the Learning Curve?

Teaches a well-rounded curriculum of skills related to different aspects of cyber security such as cloud security, cryptography, mobile testing, penetration testing, and IoT testing. You have access to an instructor.

Limited to only penetration testing. The knowledge is narrowly focused, but it’s thorough and of excellent quality. You learn on your own, however, with no real guidance.

What Are the Career Opportunities?

Business continuity, cloud security, compliance auditing, disaster recovery, Security Management, penetration testing, IoT testing, risk management, incident handling, and more.

Limited to penetration tester, although the course prepares the professional for more advanced pen testing. This helps advancement within the field itself.

Required Experience

No experience required; great for beginners and dabblers

At least five years’ worth of experience in cyber security, or prior training via CEH.

So, What’s the Shortest Path to Cyber Security Certification?

The answer depends on your ultimate career goals and how cyber security fits into them in general. The fastest way to get cyber security certification is to gain some working knowledge of computer networking, then take the CEH certification course. There are no set prerequisites needed before taking the CEH certification course, so the only thing you need to worry about is having that network experience nailed down.

Depending on how easily you grasp the fundamentals of networking, you could be certified in cyber security in just a few weeks. You can then build off your CEH knowledge and go to either OSCP or CISSP. Perhaps even both. But if you decide on both, take the OSCP certification first, then move on to CISSP.

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Are You Interested in a Career as a Certified Ethical Hacker?

If you enjoy the prospect of being a hotshot hacker who uses their skills for good, you should think about becoming a certified ethical hacker. It’s a career uniquely suited for people who like to push the limits and pit their skills against a supposedly secure network or system. Moreover, if you are reading about OSCP vs CEH, you are already interested!

Simplilearn can help you achieve this dream thanks to its CEH (v10) - Certified Ethical Hacking course. The ethical hacking course provides you with the hands-on training you need to master the tricks and techniques that hackers use to crack into network systems, and then use that knowledge to defend your system against intrusion. The course is aligned with the latest CEH v10 by EC-Council and will help you boost your blue team skills.

Whether you select the Blended Learning option or choose corporate training, you will receive 40 hours of learning in 20 current security domains, study materials from EC-Council, six months of free access to CEHv10 labs, and your certificate upon passing the exam.

According to Payscale, a certified ethical hacker can earn an annual average of USD 92,196. So long as criminals and troublemakers keep trying to break into networks and systems, there will be a need for white-hat hackers to foil them. Consider this well-paying and exciting career and let Simplilearn help you on your way!

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