In this guide, we will do a deep dive into the Security+ certification. We’ll look at what kind of knowledge is needed to take the exam and what candidates can expect from the Security+ test.
You will discover what career options are open to Security+ holders, and we cite a few examples of the types of jobs that require applicants to hold this certification and how much those jobs pay.
In this guide
- What is Security+
- Certification requirements
- Exam overview
- Exam costs
- Cert course overview
- Career outlook
Professional associations leverage certifications to validate proficiency in knowledge domains relevant to work in the career fields they serve. For nearly every conceivable industry, there are credentials that can be earned by passing certification exams.
These certifications fill an important role for job seekers and employers alike. Job seekers use the certifications they have earned as a way to signify the achievement of a certain level of knowledge easily and that they adhere to a set of prescribed professional ethics. Employers use certifications as a minimum requirement to qualify for certain jobs.
It is not uncommon for employers to hire individuals without a certain certification, with their employment being contingent upon the new hire earning the certification within a specific time frame.
What is a CompTIA Security+ certification?
The Security+ certification is one of several offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)—a vendor-neutral, objective source of knowledge on a wide range of technology topics, including cybersecurity. The four areas for which industry professionals can earn CompTIA certifications are CompTIA IT Fundamentals, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and the CompTIA Security+ series.
Security+ confirms the baseline skills required to perform core security functions. It provides a global benchmark for best practices in IT network and operational security. CompTIA Secuirty+ emphasizes hands-on practical skills covering core technical abilities in risk assessment and management, incident response, forensics, enterprise networks, hybrid/cloud operations, and security controls.
CompTIA Security+ is often considered the first security certification a security professional should earn. It is foundational and establishes the core knowledge required of many other cybersecurity roles.
Other security-related certifications from CompTIA are:
- Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+). Earning a CySA+ signifies that a person can apply behavioral analytics to the security field to improve the overall state of IT security.
- CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+). This credential validates critical thinking and judgment across a spectrum of security disciplines in complex environments.
- CompTIA PenTest+. This certification is for intermediate-level cybersecurity professionals tasked with penetration testing to manage vulnerabilities on a network.
In addition to being a valuable certification for individuals in private commercial enterprises, the CompTIA Security+ certification is helpful for individuals seeking employment with the Federal Government. Most Department of Defense (DoD) organizations must be in 8140 compliance. To be compliant means that DoD information assurance and cybersecurity personnel must obtain one of the IT certifications listed in DoD 8570.01-m for their job category and level. The DoD has approved seven CompTIA certifications for Directive 8140 compliance, including Security+.
What are the CompTIA Security+ requirements?
Unlike some professional certifications that require a certain number of years of verifiable work experience within the industry or other requirements, there are no prerequisites for CompTIA Security+. CompTIA does, however, recommend at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus. They also suggest that earning the CompTIA Network+ certification or gaining equivalent practical network experience would be a good idea before taking the Security+ exam.
Jobs that commonly provide the practical network experience needed to do well on the Security+ exam include:
- Junior Network Administrator
- Datacenter Support Technician
- Network Engineer
- System Administrator
- NOC Technician
- Telecommunications Technician
- Cable Technician
Understanding what information is covered by the exam will help a candidate prepare adequately. CompTIA provides sample practice questions to help candidates assess which knowledge domains need more study.
If candidates assess their current knowledge and determine that additional training would benefit them, specialized training specifically developed to teach the Security+ exam is commercially available. CompTIA offers a variety of training options for preparing to take the Security+ exam as well. These options include instruction-led training, online training, and self-study guides.
CompTIA Security+ certification exam
The CompTIA Security+ test that a candidate takes can differ slightly from other exams given at that testing location on that day. There are a number of exams that the testing centers rotate.
There is a maximum of 90 questions on the exam, and candidates are allowed up to 90 minutes to complete the test. In addition to traditional multiple-choice questions, some CompTIA certification exams include performance-based questions (PBQs). PBQs are designed to test a candidate’s ability to solve problems in a simulated environment.
Exams are scored on a scale of 100 to 900 points, and a passing grade is 750 points. The tests are offered at Pearson VUE testing centers, and there are online testing options as well.
Candidates need not wait between the first and second attempts to pass if they fail their first exam. However, before their third attempt or any subsequent attempt to pass, they will be required to wait at least fourteen calendar days.
The exam will assess a candidate’s ability to evaluate the security posture of an enterprise IT environment and if they can make appropriate recommendations to mitigate security deficiencies and implement security solutions.
Candidates are expected to know how to monitor and secure cloud and hybrid environments. Questions about mobile and IoT infrastructures and security best practices could also be on the test. Practitioners sitting for the CompTIA test should be able to identify, analyze and respond to all types of digital security events and incidents.
The following list shows the knowledge domains covered by the Security+ test and the extent to which each area is represented on the exam.
- 1.0 Attacks, Threats, and Vulnerabilities (24 percent)
- 2.0 Architecture and Design (21 percent)
- 3.0 Implementation (25 percent)
- 4.0 Operations and Incident Response (16 percent)
- 5.0 Governance, Risk, and Compliance (14 percent)
CompTIA Security+ exam cost
The cost for taking the CompTIA Security+ exam is $370. The test can also be purchased as part of various bundled packages that include online or instructor-led exam preparation training.
More about CompTIA Security+ courses later, but candidates should understand that there are likely to be additional costs associated with achieving this professional credential. Unless they have at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus and have worked in one of the roles listed above in the CompTIA Security+ Requirements Section, candidates should plan to spend time and money preparing for the exam.
CompTIA Security+ course
As mentioned above, unless you are exceptionally qualified to take the exam, you will likely want to take a CompTIA Security+ Course to prepare for the test.
CompTIA has a well-developed curriculum for the Security+ exam that they deliver in any of five ways; eLearning, virtual labs, exam practice tools, study guides, and instructor-led training.
CompTIA’s eLearning solution is called CertMaster Learn. It is an interactive and self-paced program and features a customizable learning plan and performance-based questions that take the student on a consistent learning path toward their certification exam. A CompTIA CertMaster Learn for Security+ Individual License is $529.
To cultivate the necessary hands-on skills, CompTIA offers CertMaster Labs for Security+. This program is designed to reinforce the practical aspects of the Security+ certification exam objectives and provide the candidate with a deeper understanding of the subject matter. A CompTIA CertMaster Labs for Security+ Individual License is $199.
Their exam practice tool, CertMaster Practice, assesses the student’s knowledge relative to the CompTIA Security+ test. This online tool confirms strong areas and fills in gaps for weak areas, helping the candidate feel more prepared and confident when taking the exam. A CompTIA CertMaster Practice for Security+ Individual License is $199.
CompTIA offers a fully illustrated study guide covering all Security+ exam objectives for candidates who prefer traditional learning. The Official CompTIA Security+ Self-Paced Study Guide eBook is $159.
Lastly, CompTIA offers instructor-led training for individuals or teams. The instructor-led classes are designed to replicate a classroom experience with an online course’s convenience and flexibility. Students attend virtually while the instructor leads the class in real-time. A CompTIA Security+ ten-day hands-on instructor-led online training course is $2,499.
You can also find training from CompTIA’s expansive network of authorized training partners.
CompTIA Security+ job role and salary information
The baseline cybersecurity skills confirmed by the Security+ certification are applicable across a broad spectrum of job roles to secure systems, software, and hardware. The following list highlights a few of the job roles that often require or prefer a Security+ certification. We have provided a brief description of the role and the wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more and half earned less, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Computer support specialist: Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. Many computer support specialists work full-time schedules; however, many do not work typical 9-to-5 jobs. Because computer support is essential for businesses, support services may need to be available 24 hours a day. As a result, many support specialists must work nights or weekends. The median pay for this role in 2020 was $55,510.
Systems administrator: Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of computer networks. The median annual wage for systems administrators was $84,810 in May 2020.
Information systems analyst: An information security analyst plans and carries out security measures to protect their organization’s computer networks and systems. Information security analysts often work for computer companies, consulting firms, or business and financial companies. The median pay for this role was $103,590 in 2020.
According to Infosec, the average salary range of professionals with CompTIA Security+ in the United States is $76,608.
The CompTIA IT Earning Index shows that beginning network engineers will earn between $45-$65,000 per year. Salaries for intermediate network engineers are expected to range from $75–$95,000, with expert network engineers between $110-$150,000 per year.
The BLS expects a 5 percent growth in jobs for computer network architects between now and 2029. This is faster than the average growth forecast for all jobs. For information security analysts, they project a 31 percent job growth in that same period. That makes information security analysts one of the bureau’s fastest-growing career areas.
Information Technology specialists who protect networks and manage secure systems are among the IT industry’s most in-demand associates. For IT professionals who want a certification to validate their competencies in network operations and cybersecurity, the Security+ certification from CompTIA offers unequaled value and industry recognition.
In a competitive labor market, holding a Security+ certification will help a job candidate stand out from the crowd and, all other things being equal, might be just what’s needed to land that first job in the security field.
In addition to helping candidates find a new job, CompTIA claims that 32 percent of its employed credential holders receive pay increases, promotions, or other rewards from their employers because they completed their certification. High school graduates who earn CompTIA certification earn 22 percent more than their non-certified peers.
The Security+ certification may not be the most impressive credential for senior IT security positions, but it is a proven winner for entry-level and early-to-mid-career professionals.