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The Challenge of GIAC Certification: How Tough Is It?

  • Is GIAC certification difficult?
  • Published by: André Hammer on Jan 29, 2024

Thinking of pursuing a GIAC certification? It's a tough journey that needs dedication and hard work. But how challenging is it?

In this article, we'll look at the demands of GIAC certification and what it takes to succeed. Whether you're on the path or thinking about it for the future, knowing the level of difficulty involved can help you prepare. Let's explore what GIAC certification truly entails.

Understanding GIAC Certifications

Origins and Purpose of GIAC

GIAC website

Originally established in the early 21st century, the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) was created to provide IT security professionals with a comprehensive and standardized certification program.

Over time, the purpose of GIAC has evolved to not only validate the skills and knowledge of individuals in the industry but also to adapt to the constantly changing cyber threats and security measures.

GIAC certifications focus on practical, real-world skills, making them highly valued by employers in the IT security sector. This practical approach sets GIAC apart from other IT security certifications and has a significant impact on the industry.

The rigorous and challenging nature of GIAC exams ensures that certified individuals have the necessary expertise to address the complex and ever-changing nature of cyber threats, further solidifying GIAC's position as a leader in IT security certifications.

Scope of GIAC Certifications

GIAC offers various certifications in security, forensics, management, and software security. These certifications help professionals gain expertise in areas like intrusion detection, incident handling, and cyber defense. Candidates need relevant professional experience and understanding of exam topics to obtain GIAC certifications, ensuring they have a solid foundation in information security.

GIAC Certifications and Systems Security

GIAC certifications in systems security cover a wide range of topics. These include intrusion detection, incident handling, and network forensic analysis.

These certifications are recognized globally and highly respected within the IT security industry. Compared to other IT security certifications, such as CISSP, SSCP, CCNA Security, CCIE Security, and OSCP, GIAC certifications are known for their rigor and challenge.

Professionals seeking GIAC certifications must have hands-on experience in the field and a solid understanding of security concepts. This ensures they have a deep understanding of systems security and can effectively address real-world security challenges.

Is GIAC Certification Difficult?

Comparative Difficulty of IT Security Certifications

GIAC certifications are well-known for their difficulty and are often considered on par with other prestigious IT security certifications. These include CISSP, SSCP, CCNA Security, CCIE Security, and OSCP.

Each certification has its own criteria and areas of focus, affecting its level of difficulty. For GIAC certifications, candidates typically need a certain level of professional experience in IT security. This ensures they have the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the rigorous exams. Other certifications may have different prerequisites, such as a specific number of years working in IT security or having other relevant certifications.

These varied prerequisites and professional experience expectations can impact the difficulty of each certification. Professionals looking to advance their IT security careers should carefully consider these factors before deciding which certification to pursue.


CISSP website

The CISSP certification is well-known worldwide. It shows that an individual knows a lot about information security.

To get the CISSP certification, you need to have at least five years of experience in information security and a good education. These requirements make it very challenging to achieve.

The CISSP is often compared to GIAC certifications. They both focus on IT security and are seen as very prestigious.

Compared to other IT security certifications in the GIAC pathway, the CISSP is considered to be just as difficult, or maybe a bit more. It requires a wide understanding of different information security areas.


SSCP website

The SSCP certification is valuable for IT security professionals. It's designed for those with at least one year of full-time work experience, making it a good option for newcomers. Unlike other certifications like CISSP and OSCP, it focuses on practical security application, making it less challenging to obtain. Professionals can showcase their technical skills and ability to implement best practices with the SSCP.

It's a great starting point for a career in IT security, requiring less experience and preparation compared to other specialised certifications.

CCNA Security

CCNA Security certification gives a strong foundation in network security. It's important for securing Cisco networks and requires a good understanding of networking concepts and experience. Knowledge of TCP/IP, basic routing and switching, and security concepts is essential. Practical experience with routers and switches is also needed, as well as the ability to implement, troubleshoot, and monitor network devices to maintain data and device integrity, confidentiality, and availability.

CCIE Security

CCIE Security certifications are highly valued in IT security. They demonstrate expertise in planning, implementing, operating, and troubleshooting complex security technologies.

Compared to other IT security certifications, CCIE Security is considered challenging. It requires practical knowledge and skills due to its comprehensive and hands-on nature. Candidates need a solid understanding of networking principles, practical experience in deploying security solutions, and deep knowledge of industry best practices.

Professional experience in the industry is also a prerequisite. Most successful candidates have extensive experience in IT security. Achieving this certification requires rigorous preparation and dedication.

CCIE Security certification showcases high expertise in IT security and opens up numerous career opportunities in the industry.


OSCP website

OSCP is a tough but valuable certification in IT security. It stands out because it has a hands-on approach, with a practical exam. This exam assesses the candidate’s ability to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in various systems. This sets it apart from other certifications that may only require multiple-choice questions or simulations.

For prerequisites, OSCP does not have strict professional experience requirements. However, it is recommended that candidates have a good understanding of TCP/IP networking, familiarity with Linux and Windows, and experience in information security.

In terms of certification pathways, GIAC offers a range of certifications. They have entry-level ones such as GSEC and advanced ones like GXPN. This allows individuals to progress in their career and continually improve their skills in IT security. OSCP is a great starting point in this certification pathway.

Prerequisites and Professional Experience Required

Candidates aiming for GIAC certifications need specific qualifications and professional experience. These may include completing training courses, obtaining relevant certifications, and gaining practical experience. For instance, the GIAC Security Essentials certification requires specific training and passing an exam.

The GIAC Certified Incident Handler certification needs at least two years of incident handling experience, and the GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst requires one year of experience in incident handling and digital forensics. This professional experience shows the candidate's ability to apply certification knowledge. The right qualifications and practical experience are crucial for attaining GIAC certifications.

Examining the GIAC Certification Pathway

Certifications for Entry-Level Professionals

GIAC has certifications for people starting in cybersecurity. The certifications cover different IT security topics like Incident Response and Forensic Analysis. They're known for testing professionals in a rigorous and practical way.

You don't need specific experience to get these certifications. This makes it possible for people early in their careers to earn them. The assessments include a multiple-choice exam and a practical part to show how the knowledge is used in the real world.

Progression to Advanced Certifications

To advance to higher-level GIAC certifications, individuals need specific requirements and work experience. Those starting out should first get basic certifications to build a strong understanding. These foundational certifications cover security basics, network security, and incident response, preparing individuals for advanced GIAC certifications. It's also important to gain professional experience in areas like penetration testing, forensics, and security operations.

GIAC certifications are highly respected in the information security industry. While they may be as challenging as other IT security certifications like CISSP, SSCP, CCNA Security, CCIE Security, and OSCP, candidates have found that the practical aspect of GIAC exams helps them deal with real-world situations. This makes the certifications valuable and applicable in the field.

Studying for GIAC: A Practitioner's Guide

GIAC certifications cover various IT security disciplines. These include penetration testing, incident response, forensics, and security management. They are practical and relevant for real-world scenarios in professional settings.

Compared to other IT security certifications such as CISSP, SSCP, CCNA Security, CCIE Security, and OSCP, the difficulty level of GIAC certifications varies by discipline.

To pursue GIAC certifications, specific technical knowledge and professional experience are required. The prerequisites differ across certification levels. Entry-level certification may have more flexibility compared to higher-level certification, which may demand several years of field experience.


Obtaining a GIAC certification is tough. The exam is demanding and requires a strong grasp of information security principles. However, earning this certification is worth it as it's highly respected in the industry. It can greatly help those looking to advance their cybersecurity careers.

Readynez offers a comprehensive portfolio of courses helping you prepare for the GIAC exams and certifications. You have a full course list here and some examples of the specific courses are GCIH, GICSP and GRID. We also offer a 5-day CISSP Training and Exam preparation Program.


Is the GIAC certification exam difficult?

Yes, the GIAC certification exam is considered difficult because it covers advanced technical topics in cybersecurity. However, with proper study and preparation using official study materials, practice exams, and hands-on experience, many professionals have successfully passed the exam.

What are the prerequisites for taking the GIAC certification exam?

Candidates must complete the required training course for their chosen certification and pay the exam fee. For example, the GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) exam requires completion of the SEC504 training course.

How can I prepare for the GIAC certification exam?

To prepare for the GIAC certification exam, study the exam objectives, take practice tests, and enroll in training courses. Utilize official study materials and hands-on experience in relevant areas. Additionally, join study groups and discussions to solidify understanding.

What is the pass rate for the GIAC certification exam?

The pass rate for the GIAC certification exam varies depending on the specific exam. However, the average pass rate is around 70-80%.

Are there any specific areas of the GIAC certification exam that are particularly challenging?

Some candidates find the practical labs and the hands-on challenges of the GIAC certification exam particularly challenging. It's important to spend extra time practicing these skills and seeking hands-on experience in those specific areas.

Two people monitoring systems for security breaches

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