OSCP vs. CEH: Which Exam Should You Take?- We’ve talked about the PenTest+ and CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) certifications before, as well as the Offensive Security OSCP certification, but many of you have asked for a comparison between the OSCP and other penetration testing certifications, particularly the CEH. In this essay, I’ll explain the distinctions between these two certifications and recommend which one you should add to your credentials list first.
While the OSCP is more harder to obtain than the CEH, penetration testers who are serious about their professions will discover that the OSCP is well worth the extra effort and will benefit them the most in their future career prospects. Instead, non-penetration testers should look at the CEH.
Some of you may be startled by my response, so in the following paragraphs, I’ll compare these two certification tests, explain the differences, and illustrate why the OSCP is the best choice for serious penetration testers who wish to focus on one of these two credentials. Let’s get this party started.
What is the difference between the OSCP and CEH certification exams?
The OSCP stands for Offensive Security Certified Professional, and it is the organization’s lowest level (albeit not entry-level) certification exam. It’s aimed at cybersecurity professionals who want to take a “serious and significant step into the field of professional penetration testing,” according to Offensive Security.
The CEH stands for Certified Ethical Hacker, and it is a certification exam administered by the EC-Council organisation. It’s not an entry-level certification, like the OSCP, and it’s meant to validate people’s ability in the “particular network security discipline of Ethical Hacking from a vendor-neutral perspective.” Furthermore, according to EC-Council, the CEH accreditation is intended to:
- Establish and enforce basic standards for professional information security specialists to be credentialed in ethical hacking techniques.
- Notify the public that credentialed people meet or surpass the basic requirements.
- Enhance ethical hacking’s status as a distinct and self-regulatory profession.
Both certifications concentrate on penetration testing and ethical hacking as a subset of the cybersecurity sector. These two examinations are not entry-level in the same way that penetration testing is not regarded an entry-level field, and they are unlikely to be the first certification that a cybersecurity professional pursues.
Who should take the OSCP and CEH certification exams?
Both the OSCP and CEH certifications are aimed at current IT and cybersecurity professionals who want to pursue penetration testing as a career or at the very least add it to their skill set. Both credentials are meant by their respective organisations to be the first ethical hacking/penetration testing certification achieved by a professional interested in specialising in penetration testing. In addition, both organisations offer higher-level penetration testing certification tests that follow these qualifications.
Do you think you should take the OSCP or CEH certification exams?
Most IT or cyber professionals, in our opinion, should only consider getting the OSCP or CEH certifications if they possess all of the following:
- Have at least two years of experience in the field of cybersecurity
- You’ve already passed another certification exam.
- Have you used Linux before?
- Would you like to add penetration testing to your skill set?
Because these credentials aren’t for beginners, and penetration testing isn’t a beginner’s talent, you’ll need some IT or cybersecurity expertise, preferably in networking, because you’ll be tested on your ability to hack into a network environment . The OSCP, according to Offensive Security, is designed for experienced professionals rather than aspiring ones. Before taking these tests, you should have some real-world technical experience, preferably in networking or security.
It’s also an excellent idea if you’ve already earned another certification, such as the CompTIA Network+ or Security+. We recommend that you have completed another certification before attempting the OSCP or CEH, so that you have some experience sitting for a certification exam before attempting one of these. Any IT or cybersecurity professional would benefit from knowing how well they test and how they test. As a result, it’s best to start with lower-level qualifications that will assist you do just that.
Linux is also a skill you’ll need to know before taking these examinations, as Linux is the chosen operating system of penetration testers, and OSCP is based on the Kali Linux version in particular. If you’re just familiar with Windows (or none at all), it’ll be well worth your time to dig into the world of Linux and study how the operating system works, what commands to use, and how penetration testers utilise it before enrolling in one of these certifications.
Finally, we believe it’s critical to want to learn more about penetration testing and to add it to your skill set. Penetration testing is appealing to almost everyone, but given the significant amount of time and work required for either of these certifications, you should make sure that penetration testing is truly a goal of yours before committing to either exam.
Which is better, the OSCP or the CEH?
If you’ve read everything above and are still interested in pursuing one of these two penetration testing-focused certifications, continue reading for a comparison of the OSCP and CEH examinations.
Factor #1: OSCP and CEH Exam Requirements
EC-Council offers two choices for preparing for and taking the Certified Ethical Hacker exam. To begin, you can enrol in the EC-Council approved CEH curriculum, which costs $850. However, prices may vary depending on your location, whether you take the course through an authorised training provider rather than directly through EC-Council, and whether you purchase a bundle that includes lab time and/or an exam voucher. It appears that EC-Council does not specify a minimum level of experience required to take the programme.
The second alternative for the CEH is to take the exam without first completing the training; however, you must apply with at least two years of experience. They also recommend that you complete the CND (Certified Network Defender) exam before taking the CEH, however this is not a requirement and is unlikely to be essential if you have adequate background.
The OSCP does not define the amount of years of experience you should have before taking the exam. Instead, Offensive Security requires that you first finish their Penetration Testing with Kali Linux course, and their phrasing suggests that successful completion of that course indicates that a candidate is ready to take the OSCP exam.
Offensive Security also claims that its Penetration Testing with Kali Linux course is designed for existing information security professionals, with a preference for those with a networking or security experience. Furthermore, every applicant for Offensive Security must possess the following three abilities:
- TCP/IP networking knowledge is essential.
- Linux knowledge that is reasonable
- Knowledge of Bash scripting, as well as basic Python or Perl, is a plus.
- To get the most out of the training and have the best chance of passing the exam, it’s preferable to err on the high side of these prerequisites.
Note that both organisations provide candidates the opportunity to train before taking the exam, however Offensive Security demands particular abilities prior to that training, whilst EC-Council does not. Regardless, having that similar experience prior to taking the CEH programme or passing the exam would be extremely beneficial.
Factor #2: Cost
The Certified Ethical Hacker and the OSCP credentials aren’t cheap, although CEH is a little more expensive than OSCP. If you take the CEH through Pearson Vue, the current normal fee for the exam voucher is a hefty $1,199. You can also take it online through EC-Council (the body that issues the CEH), which reduces the cost to $950. This does not include any type of training, coursework, or study materials. If you’re skipping the training, you’ll also have to pay a $100 non-refundable application fee. Of course, EC-Council offers a CEH training programme, and the cost is now $850, as noted above, but this price can change. It doesn’t take long for the CEH to become prohibitively expensive.
One thing to keep in mind is that the CEH exam and training might have a wide range of prices. We were able to identify some pricing alternatives, but we also discovered that there are a variety of different pricing options depending on whether you purchased the training separately or as part of a bundle, where you live, and whether your business was purchasing for a bigger group. The most important thing to remember about the CEH is that it may be worth your time to weigh your options, even if you plan to skip the training session. We did our best to present the most accurate pricing we could, but we recommend that you conduct your own research.
Now it’s time for the OSCP. The cost of the OSCP appears to us to be considerably more affordable. You can acquire a voucher for the exam for as little as $850 right now, but this also includes the necessary training and a 30-day licence to use their hacking lab. The value of the course alone may easily be deemed close to that amount, therefore in certain ways, the exam can be considered almost free. If you fail the OSCP by chance, you can buy a retake voucher for $150, as well as extended lab time if you need it.
The end result: The OSCP appears to provide more cost-effective options and more transparent pricing, but cybersecurity certifications aren’t cheap, and you’ll need to invest several hundred dollars or more to obtain one. It’s critical to ensure that you’re prepared to absorb as much information as possible from the training and that you’re in the best possible position to pass the exam.
Factor #3: Exam Difficulty
This one isn’t even close to being a tie. The OSCP is a notoriously difficult exam, one that is almost unjustifiably so. With the OSCP, you’ll participate in a 24-hour live network hands-on penetration testing exercise (yep, one full rotation of the earth on its axis), during which you won’t be asked any questions and will instead be forced to exploit various devices within the network you’ve been provided. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll have to write up your findings and documentation in the next 24 hours, which will be submitted in order to receive the certification. That implies the OSCP can take up to 48 hours to complete, and their documentation and submission process is very tight and precise. If you want to pass this certification, you must pay close attention to detail and manage your time effectively.
Compare that to the Certified Ethical Hacker exam, which consists of 125 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within a four-hour time limit. The exam is taken at a testing facility. While a four-hour exam isn’t easy, it does sound simple when compared to the OSCP, and it is shorter than many other certification exams, including the OSCP and CISSP.
However, while the CEH is a less difficult exam, it’s vital to remember that easier doesn’t always mean better. Every cybersecurity expert should consider the merits of these certificates as well as their potential influence on their CV and career. We must assess what we are getting in exchange for all of that hardship, which we will discuss in the next paragraphs.
Factor #4: Employability
Earning the CEH or OSCP will help you get your foot in the door at many businesses, as we had little issue finding job listings that sought or required either of these certification examinations. Although the CEH designation appears to be more familiar to non-technical HR managers (the name Certified Ethical Hacker stands out), these professionals are likely unaware of the differences between the two certificates.
True cybersecurity or IT hiring managers who are penetration testers or supervise them, on the other hand, are familiar with both credentials, so you won’t have to explain what each of them means.
Having said that, it appears that the OSCP is more well-liked by IT hiring managers and penetration testers in general. Penetration testers, in particular, are aware of how difficult it is to pass the OSCP’s 24-hour + 24-hour exam, and the majority of those we spoke with appear to admire it for its difficulty and hands-on nature.
Factor #5: DoD Approval
The CEH is a DoD 8570 baseline qualification, which is good news for workers contemplating a career in the public sector Department of Defense. This qualifies you for four different cybersecurity service provider employment as well as a variety of government professions, many of which will require a clearance.
The OSCP is not approved by the Department of Defense, which may or may not be relevant to you and your career path. This does not imply that the Department of Defense disapproves of the certification; rather, it indicates that it has not been assessed and approved.
Factor #6: Recertification
The Certified Ethical Hacker credential is valid for three years after you pass the exam. The CEH requires 120 ECE (electrical and computer engineering) credits earned over a three-year period, according to EC-Council. You must also pay a yearly membership fee that is the same regardless of how many certificates you have with them. The current yearly membership price is $80.
You are not need to renew your OSCP certification. “Our certificates do not expire and they do not need to be updated,” according to Offensive Security, which is definitely appropriate for a professional that long into their cybersecurity career.
What about online exam question dumps?
Both the CEH and the OSCP are said to have had issues with actual exam materials getting up on the internet. It is totally banned to use this type of material to study for an exam. Actual exam questions being available online diminishes any certification exam, which is the opposite of what anyone who possesses the certification desires.
Is there a CEH Practical exam?
The CEH practical is an EC-Council certification exam that follows the normal CEH in order. This 6-hour exam, similar to the OSCP, focuses on being able to show the application of ethical hacking techniques and is delivered in a hands-on approach (but shorter). You connect to the virtual testing environment from home (or wherever else you wish to work) and complete the hands-on hacking challenges on the CEH Practical exam.
The CEH Practical is a nice move forward by EC-Council in strengthening the CEH, however it is not as well known as the normal CEH. We even believe that EC-Council will eventually replace the existing multiple choice exam with this new style. For the majority of cybersecurity professionals and aspiring penetration testers, the normal CEH will suffice.
The Final Word
Both credentials are worth the time and work it takes to obtain them, however the OSCP certification shines out when compared to the CEH for those individuals who are truly serious about becoming a top-tier penetration tester. We know a lot of cybersecurity and IT professionals who aren’t penetration testers but have achieved the CEH, which means it’s a more conceptual penetration testing certification exam. Nobody with the OSCP who isn’t a penetration tester has been found. So…
If you’re an IT or cybersecurity expert who doesn’t work directly in penetration testing but wants to add a penetration testing certification to your CV, the Certified Ethical Hacker is probably your best option. Furthermore, the CEH is arguably a better option for professionals who wish to gradually add penetration testing to their skill set.
If you’re a professional who wants to get into penetration testing or already works in that business, the OSCP is definitely your best bet. Take into account your history, skill set, and, most significantly, your five-year career ambitions before making the best selection for you.