Currently many certifications are available to professionals from many disciplines including: engineering, network administration, software design, and quality management – to name a few. Those who have prepared for and passed a certification should be proud of their accomplishments; certification says a lot about the professional. Certification demonstrates that a professional has dedicated personal time and committed to intensive study to hone their skills on the required topics.

Contract requirements may dictate (or managers may set a goal for employees) to achieve a certification. Employees who have achieved a professional certification often experience preference in job hiring, retention, and promotion. Though a certification does not guarantee an employee such benefits, it does demonstrate a few important qualities to their management. Primarily, those certified professionals convey a commitment to their profession, investment in the enterprise, and a high level of experience and knowledge.

Did you know security cleared employees also have a certification?

In the case of the cleared employee community, there is one certification program that security-cleared military, DoD civilians, and defense contractors should consider. This certification track addresses the need for standardization and professionalism in the community that protects classified information. These options fall under the oversight of the Center for Development of Security Excellence’s (CDSE) Security Professional Education Development (SPeD). The available certifications are great ways to demonstrate professional competence, as well as bringing credit to the certified professional and the organization they support.

Security Professional Education Development (SPeD)

Did you know that many job announcements on ClearanceJobs mention SPeD certification as a job requirement or a preference? Actually, some government job positions require the certification. SPeD certification is a Department of Defense-level program that is available to cleared employees – especially those protecting classified information. This includes military members, DoD civilians, and the contractors directly performing on classified contracts.

There are several certifications available under SPeD and they are: Security Fundamentals Professional Certification (SFPC), Security Asset Protection Professional Certification (SAPPC), Security Program Integration Professional Certification (SPIPC), Special Program Security Certification (SPSC), Special Program Security Certification (SPSC), and Security Program Integration Professional Certification, Industrial Security Oversight Certification (ISOC), and Physical Security Certification (PSC). There are others available for specialized careers and you can find more information at www.cdse.edu.

Security Fundamentals Professional Certification (SFPC)

Many of the certifications mentioned above are available to those who have achieved the foundational certification, SFPC. Once the SFPC is earned, then the other certifications are available. The SFPC certification covers security topics a practitioner should understand to execute missions to protect DoD assets.

Specifically, the SFPC assesses foundational knowledge in the following areas of expertise:

  • Information Security
  • Personnel Security
  • Physical Security
  • Industrial Security
  • General Security

There are fellow certifications for those with security clearance adjudication, program integration, special programs, physical security, or industrial security focus. For example, this author has chosen to take the industrial security route and has focused on follow on certification such as the SAPPC and the ISOC. All three of these certifications are applicable for those performing in security programs under National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) guidance. The ISOC seems a perfect match for those who perform Industrial Security functions at government agencies, for Facility Security Officers (FSO), or those performing industrial security functions at contractor facilities. In fact, a knowledge of NISPOM is adequate for the ISOC certification.

Certification Preparation resources

Certification requires planning and coordination. In other words, it’s impossible to show up unannounced and take the exams. The level of test coordination involved requires time to register with the CDSE, request the test through CDSE, SPeD, and DoD sources, and of course study preparation. However, once in the CDSE and SPeD system, additional certifications take less time to request and schedule. The lead time from initial coordination to actual test execution can last for months. For procrastinators, this testing coordination process can be the trigger necessary to begin an intensive studying effort to prepare for the tests. So, coordinating a test date can motivate a candidate to begin their study prep. Additionally, re-certification and certification maintenance is all performed on the CDSE site. This makes it even easier to track training and other re-certification requirements.

The CDSE has training available on their website that can assist with studying for the SPeD certification topics. The majority of the CDSE training is online and provides a test to help assess the student’s knowledge. Additional supplemental test preparation can be found in Red Bike Publishing’s Unofficial Study Guide for ISP Certification available @ Redbikepublishing.com. Though written for another NISPOM certification, this book has four 110 question tests based on the NISPOM and can be used to prepare for the SAPPC and SFPC. However, it is especially relevant to the ISOC which assesses NISPOM knowledge.

Employers know the benefits of certification

SPeD certification is listed as both a requirement and a preference in many ClearanceJobs announcements. Additionally, organizations that hire employees with certifications or encourage employees to become certified benefit from the experience. In many cases, employers provide time and allow certification exams and preparation as part of professional development. They recognize the dedication their employees demonstrate, the experienced gained, and the marketability of certification.

And aside from bragging rights, certifications can be included in contract proposals, too. When applicable, defense contractors may list employee certifications when providing capabilities and responding to requests for bids. For example, they can mention that the cleared possess SPeD certifications. Those who solicit bids also recognize certifications to include prime contractors and federal agencies. Certifications are also good credentials for vendors who install security systems, guards, document destruction, or provide other security services.

For more information or to register for SPeD certification, visit the CDSE website www.cdse.edu

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Jeffrey W. Bennett is a security consultant with SFPC, SAPPC, ISOC, ISP certifications. He maintains a security blog and newsletter and is the author of many security books including DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook-What Cleared Contractors Need to Know About Their Need to Know, The Insider’s Guide to Security Clearances, and books on security certification. Visit his website www.redbikepublishing.com for more information.