The Ultimate Guide to CompTIA’s Security+ Certification
One of the quickest ways to develop cybersecurity skills and gain experience is by earning one of the many available certifications. That leads to an important question: What is the ideal certification for an entry-level professional?
To answer that, it is good to point out a few characteristics of a good credential. For starters, it should come from a respected and highly recognizable institution, preferably with a global reach. In most cases, it is also a good idea to look for vendor-independent certifications, which focus on information security itself and not on a specific technology. As we are talking about entry-level certifications, it is also important to pay attention to the experience requirements and to keep in mind that the exam difficulty level should be sufficient to prove that candidates had to make a significant effort in dedication and commitment, but not so hard that it will be unfeasible for someone how has just started in the field.
Based on these aspects, it’s no surprise that the CompTIA Security+ is the most popular cybersecurity certification in the world, with more than half a million certified individuals as of August 2019. Here are a few important points that you should know about this certification:
What is the Security+ certification?
CompTIA Security+ is a vendor-neutral, entry-level, global information security certification. It validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career.
This is a great option for professionals who are just starting their careers, as the Security+ focuses on hands-on practical skills, ensuring that certification holders are better prepared to solve problems from a wider variety of issues.
The topics covered by this certification are based on the latest trends and techniques in risk management, risk mitigation, threat management and intrusion detection. In its latest update, the Security+ certification covers the junior IT auditor/penetration tester job role, in addition to previous job roles, such as systems administrator, network administrator and security administrator.
How does one earn the Security+ certification?
The CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 exam has been available since October 4, 2017 (the next update will be in 2021). To successfully pass, candidates must prove they have the knowledge and skills necessary to:
- Install and configure systems to secure applications, networks and devices
- Perform threat analysis and respond with appropriate mitigation techniques
- Participate in risk mitigation activities
- Operate with an awareness of applicable policies, laws, and regulations
The topics covered during the exam include:
- Threats, attacks and vulnerabilities (21%)
- Technologies and tools (22%)
- Architecture and design (15%)
- Identity and access management (16%)
- Risk management (14%)
- Cryptography and PKI (12%)
In practical terms, the Security+ exam costs $330 and has 90 multiple-choice questions that must be answered in 90 minutes. Candidates must obtain a minimum score of 750 (on a scale of 100-900).
Are there prerequisites for this certification?
As mentioned before, the Security+ is an entry-level certification, so here is some good news: There are no prerequisites for the SY0-501 exam! But keep in mind that this does not mean the certification exam is easy.
The CompTIA Security+ certification was designed for an IT security professional who has:
- A minimum of two years’ experience in IT administration with a focus on security
- Day-to-day technical information security experience
- Broad knowledge of security concerns and implementation, including the topics in the domain list
Again, those are not prerequisites, but CompTIA’s recommendation is that candidates should have at least two years of experience in IT administration with a focus on security. If you do not meet this profile, do not panic! With sufficient dedication and good training center, such as the Infosec’s Security Boot Camp, it is perfectly possible to prepare for the SY0-501 exam.
Why should you choose Security+?
Even for entry positions, information security professionals must be qualified and demonstrate a good level of experience. After all, protecting a company from cybersecurity threats is a big responsibility, as a single failure by any part of the security team could mean a huge loss of in terms of profit or even reputation for the company.
Choosing your first information security certification is a significant step in advancing your career. There are many paths to becoming a cybersecurity expert, but it will not happen overnight. Every step in this journey must be carefully planned and based on short-, medium- and long-term goals. A certification should be way more than an alphabet soup that appears after your name on social networks. Well-chosen certifications should create a set of stepping stones for meaningful skill and knowledge development, especially for professionals who are just starting their cybersecurity carriers.
There is no doubt that the Security+ certification offers significant benefits. One of the key points is how this exam focuses on practical knowledge. For instance, it provides candidates the necessary skills for positions like network administrator, systems administrator, security administrator, junior IT auditor and penetration tester.
Another important fact is that, even though it’s an entry-level exam, the Security+ stands out as one of the certifications most in demand, constantly mentioned in job descriptions on websites such as Simply Hired or Linkedin Jobs.
To summarize, the Security+ is great for developing the necessary skills for cybersecurity positions, it is highly recognizable globally and, while it may pose a challenge, with proper preparation any dedicated candidate can be successful. This covers every base for making the Security+ your first certification.
The information security market is hot. So hot that, with an average salary for an information security analyst being around $72,000 per year, there are more open positions than qualified professionals available. To put it simply, if you ever thought of starting a career in cybersecurity, this is probably the best time to do so.
PAYSCALE – Information Security Analyst Salary