About the CIPP/US Certification, How to Study for It, and Reference List

by John Bandler

Let's learn about the CIPP/US privacy certification, how to study for it, and provides some important resources. CIPP/US stands for Certified Information Privacy Professional, United States and focuses on US privacy law and practice. The certification is administered by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). I have recently completed an online course to help people learn about privacy and prepare for this certification exam, and it is live now. Anyone interested in privacy, cybersecurity or law can find helpful information here (even if you do not pursue the certification or attend my course).

IAPP CIPP/US Certification Study Course at Infosec

Your goal

If you have decided to study for and take the CIPP/US certification, then I suggest that your goal should be:

  • Learn the material well enough to pass the test easily and remember it long after you passed the test
  • Earn the certification by passing the test
  • After you have earned the certification, use your learning to continually demonstrate to yourself and others that this learning and certification has improved you professionally.

Alternatively, maybe you have decided to learn more about privacy in the United States without pursuing the CIPP/US certification, then these materials are a helpful guide. Review the substantive information and references below relating to privacy and the CIPP/US body of knowledge.

Privacy has growing importance in all of our professional and personal lives, and is the subject of increasing law and regulation. Privacy is not an isolated field, but overlaps with many others (including cybersecurity, compliance, information governance, organization management) and is a pressing societal issue.

About the IAPP

The IAPP is a non-profit organization based in New Hampshire and with global reach. According to their website, they are the largest and most comprehensive global information privacy community and resource. In addition to their CIPP/US certification, they offer CIPP certifications for other regions and more specific privacy certifications including Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM) and Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT).

You can join the IAPP and maintain your membership for an annual fee of $275. I recommend this if you are pursuing one of their certifications or if you are interested in a career path involving privacy. I find their materials to be of high quality and well organized, and they seem to be the leader in privacy. Student memberships are $50.

About the CIPP/US certification

A CIPP/US certification is well suited for anyone desiring to learn and demonstrate their knowledge regarding US privacy law and practice. To earn the certification, one needs to study the materials, take and pass the test (which costs money), and also pay a certification maintenance fee. That is the basics and you should also read and follow their other rules and guidance as laid out in the Candidate Handbook and elsewhere. As IAPP points out, their certification is accredited and designed to “assess professional competence and experience”.

The exam topics are laid out in IAPP documents including their “Body of Knowledge”, “Exam Blueprint”, and their list of references. Essentially, the main topics tested are:

    1. Introduction to the U.S. Privacy Environment
    2. Limits on Private-sector Collection and Use of Data
    3. Government and Court Access to Private-sector Information
    4. Workplace Privacy
    5. State Privacy Laws

The exam costs $550 (last I checked) and is taken at a Pearson VUE testing center or remotely in the comfort of your home or office (Pearson OnVUE).

CIPP/US materials from IAPP are well organized, and are listed and linked to below. Given my background in law I found the certification exam to be relatively straightforward, though for many non lawyers it could be more of a challenge (but I believe my course lays it out well).

Often, there is never a perfect time in life to take a certification test. So if you have decided to pursue this certification, you might as well get the test scheduled and give yourself a deadline and start studying.

The test is 90 multiple choice questions, each with four possible answers, and you have 2.5 hours to complete the test. Only 75 questions are scored, meaning that 15 of the questions (20%) are not scored as they are experimental or to gain insights for quality control for this and future tests. Each question you answer correctly is worth one point and there are no penalties for wrong answers. The Exam Blueprint lays out approximately how many questions you will see on the various topics. Some of the questions are scenario based, where you need to read a passage and then answer questions based on the facts presented. It is helpful to be able to spot the issues and determine what information is relevant for the questions, and what can be discounted.

My other articles have tips on how to study and learn, and how to take an exam. In sum, put in honest and continual effort to learn the materials well, relax, and pass the test (the first time). Then you will retain the knowledge to help you in your career.

Once you have earned your IAPP certification, you need to pay to maintain it. You can do this by being a member of IAPP for $275 annually, which will include the certification maintenance fee and provide many other benefits. If you are not an IAPP member, you will need to pay a certification maintenance fee of $250 for 2 years. Again, I recommend joining IAPP and maintaining your membership.

After earning your CIPP/US certification, you will also have to earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits and then remember to enter them into the IAPP portal regularly. CPEs need to be entered within three months, after which you cannot get credit for them. Stay on top of this!

My course at Infosec Skills

I created a CIPP/US study course which is available at the InfoSec Institute, a respected and leading online educational provider, and I think it came out great with a lot of helpful content. I cover all of the CIPP/US body of knowledge, plus additional information to help you understand law, improve your learning, studying, and exam taking skills, practical advice and a practical exercise (if you choose to do it) and over 200 practice questions. For more on the course see this page.

Conclusion and disclaimer

The CIPP/US is an excellent certification from an excellent organization, and studying for it will give you an excellent foundation in law and privacy (and cybersecurity).

I have simplified things greatly and left out many details, so remember that the IAPP is the main and final authority on their certification. Be sure to read the IAPP materials listed and linked to below, and consider that my list may not be complete or could become out of date. That means check the IAPP website and read their materials.

Of course I receive some compensation for the course I created, but I do not think that influences my positive view of the CIPP/US certification. Rather, I believe my willingness to develop such a course demonstrates my existing favorable view.

Reference list: Sources and additional reading

CIPP US course at infosec skills screenshot
CIPP US course at Infosec Skills (screenshot)

John Bandler’s Articles & Work

IAPP articles and references (Check IAPP to ensure you are visiting the most up to date versions)

This page is hosted at https://johnbandler.com/cipp-us-certification. Copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved. No claim to IAPP materials or legal references.

A copy of this article is also available on Medium at  https://johnbandler.medium.com/about-the-cipp-us-certification-and-how-to-study-for-it-9a64de08baa0 (though perhaps not kept as current).

Please notify us of any corrections or updates.

Page posted 7/30/2021. Updated 01/07/2022.