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About PCNSA Exam

The Palo Alto Networks PCNSA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Administrator) is an exam that certifies your ability to deal with the Next-Generation Firewalls surrounding the Palo Alto Networks. In particular, this is a valuable tool among network security administrators who want to step up their deployment and operational proficiency. So, if you want to give credence to your Palo Alto Networks NGFWs skills, it’s time to go over the key details of the exam and its related namesake certification.

Relevant Information about PCNSA Designation

The PCNSA certificate is an affirmation of your mastery in handling the core features of Palo Alto Networks NGFWs. Holding this validation means that you can efficiently deploy firewalls and effectively enable traffic according to different aspects. These particularly include users, applications, time-based policy, and content. Furthermore, your mastery of configuring Palo Alto Networks' next-generation firewalls correctly allows you to help administrators in preventing future cyberattacks.

Main Exam Details

First things first, the PCNSA is an 80-minute test with a total number of 50 items. Still, note that an extra 5 minutes is given to read the Palo Alto Networks Exam Security Policy and another 5 minutes to accomplish the survey. Thus, all in all, the seating time is 90 minutes. The questions come in a different format, including matching type, scenarios with graphics, and multiple-choice, and you can only take the main exam through Pearson VUE.

Topics Highlighted

In general, the certification exam in question entails the key points of Palo Alto Networks' next-generation firewalls, starting with the Next-Generation Security Platform and Architecture. Subsequently, it touches on areas such as firewall configuration, NAT policies, security best practices, URL filtering, monitoring, and reporting. Remember, it also discusses the relevant features of App-ID, Content-ID, and User-ID.

Exam Domains

According to the official PCNSA blueprint, there are 5 main domains that encompass the possible questions included in the formal test. Now, let’s discuss each area one by one to fully grasp the context of the concerned exam.

  • Palo Alto Networks Strata Core Components (17%)

    First of all, it’s a must to uncover the vital mechanisms of the Palo Alto Networks Strata Portfolio in advance. In detail, these include features such as App-ID, Content-ID, User-ID, Device-ID, Prisma Access, Authentication Policy, Panorama, CN-Series, VM-Series, and GlobalProtect. Another aspect that should be on your priority is the direction of operations involving the Single-Pass Parallel Processing architecture. So, make sure to go over the signature processing engine, security processing engine, and network processing engine. Then, take your time learning the bearing of traffic flow to the platform.

  • Device Management and Services (18%)

    Now, for the second domain, it’s about the management of devices and services. Here, you will study the uses of firewall management interfaces and firewall configurations, along with the provisioning of local administrators and assigning role-based authentication. The process of how to incorporate policy updates to Panorama-managed FWs is another crucial aspect looked into. Other primary subjects that should be added to your preparation are dynamic update types, firewall interfaces, security zone, and virtual routers.

  • Managing Objects (14%)

    The subsequent domain opens up your understanding of managing objects in the right and efficient way. That’s why the first task is for you to learn how to create address objects, which include functions such as applying address objects to policy, making address groups, tagging objects, and differentiating multiple address objects. After which, you have to find out more about creating services, applying services to policy, generation service groups, and using pre-defined Palo Alto Networks external dynamic lists. Then, pore over the pertinent features when configuring application groups and filters. As a general rule, these include adding an application filter or application group in policy, as well as identifying the objective of application characteristics in accordance with the App-ID database.

  • Policy Evaluation and Management (26%)

    Moving forward, it’s relevant that you gain a solid command in policy evaluation as well as management. So, acquire insights on the proper application-based security policy, specific security rule types, along with the security policy match actions, conditions, and logging options. You also need to practice more on how to implement the proper NAT policies and distinguish the right tools in optimizing security policies.

  • Securing Traffic (25%)

    The final section unlocks the imperative functions in securing traffic. Here, you need to comprehend the right security profile, identify security profile actions from security policy actions, and control access to particular URLs via custom URL filtering categories. You then have to understand how a firewall can utilize cloud DNS security to manage traffic based on domains or use the PAN-DB database to handle traffic based on websites. Lastly, you should have a thorough awareness of the impact of both group mapping and IP-to-user mapping within logs as well as policies.

Career Opportunities

The PCNSA certification is more than just an endorsement of your mastery in Palo Alto Networks NGFWs. It’s a testament that you have the right set of skills to ace your job role. As an industry-recognized designation, accomplishing this reveals that your knowledge is at par with the standards set by most companies and organizations. Your qualification also elaborates your professional character, making you more striking among hiring employers. And according to Palo Alto Networks, 75% of professionals who get certified enjoy a credibility and salary increase. Just to give you an overview, security administrators, who are the most suitable candidates for the exam, earn an average pay of $68,362 per year according to the information rendered by Payscale. And if you have the PCNSA certification, then there’s a higher chance for better financial perks.

Certification Path to Consider

Continue with your professional development and get support from other Palo Alto Networks certificates. Since the PCNSA is the only qualification under the Security Administrator section, you may opt for the Security Engineer program. Overall, there are three options under this category. The first one is the Prisma Certified Cloud Security Engineer, which focuses on the Prisma Cloud platform. On the other hand, there’s the Palo Alto Networks Certified Security Automation Engineer, a certificate that concentrates on the development of your skills in Cortex XSOAR. The last certification belonging to this group is the Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer, which is the most recommended choice after your PCNSA route as this certification highlights your expertise in designing, deploying, administering, and troubleshooting Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls.

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