CompTIA Security+ is a certification for basic security practices and functions. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) advertises this security certification as one of the first security-based certifications information technology professionals should earn.
This certification exam can be taken online or in person at a designated test center. The test takes 90 minutes to complete and requires a passing score of 750 out of 900.
The CompTIA Security+ certification is good for three years and covers subject areas such as:
- Threats and vulnerabilities
- Risk management and mitigation
- Threat detection and management
- Network security
- Application and host security
- Operational security
- Access control
- Identity management
CompTIA does not set prerequisites for the Security+ certification. There are no age or educational requirements, but CompTIA does recommend that a candidate has at least two years of IT administration experience with a focus on security.
It is important to note that CompTIA Security+ gets updated every three years to meet any changes to industry needs. Certification renewals help ensure that IT pros have the skills needed for modern cybersecurity jobs.
Skills covered on the CompTIA Security+ exam
The CompTIA Security+ exam focuses on best practices for risk management and mitigation. Exam questions span subject matters such as threats and vulnerabilities, incident response, architecture design and implementation, compliance and governance. The exam focuses on these subjects because they relate to the typical responsibilities of a security or systems administrator. Certified individuals should be able to troubleshoot security issues, understand wired and wireless network architecture concepts and be able to install and deploy network components and configure identity and access services.
As an example, test takers should be familiar with:
- packet capture;
- network reconnaissance and discovery;
- exploitation frameworks;
- password crackers;
- shell and script environments;
- penetration testing;
- file manipulation; and
- forensics for both Windows and Linux systems.
Upon certification, successful candidates will be able to demonstrate working knowledge of security concepts, tools and procedures; respond to security threats, participate in risk mitigation activities, respond to threat analysis and work within the constraints of applicable policies and regulations.
How to prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam
Candidates can expect a mix of 90 multiple choice, drag-and-drop and performance-based questions. Performance-based questions focus on practical ability questions to identify and address security threats, attacks and vulnerabilities.
CompTIA offers a range of prep tools that includes study guides, eLearning and online courses. For example, they offer an Official CompTIA Security+ Study Guide, a CertMaster eLearning and test prep, live online training and CompTIA Labs -- a virtual lab environment.
Test takers should study for:
- Threats, attacks and vulnerabilities. Be able to identify and analyze any indicators of compromise.
- Identity and Access Management (IAM). Be able to implement IAM controls and account management controls.
- Cryptography. Be able to identify and implement basic concepts of cryptography.
- Risk management. Be able to identify the importance of policies, plans and procedures in security.
- Technologies and tools. Be able to troubleshoot common security issues with software tools.
- Architecture and design. Be able to summarize the concepts behind secure application development and deployment, as well as concepts behind securing clouds and virtualization.
How much does the CompTIA Security+ exam cost?
The CompTIA Security+ exam voucher is priced at $349, with three other options available. These options include:
- Basic Bundle. $499 -- includes the exam voucher, one test retake and The Official CompTIA Security+ Study Guide e-book.
- Exam Prep Bundle. $649 -- includes everything in the previous bundle, plus a 12-month individual license for CertMaster Practice for Security+, a knowledge assessment and certification training companion tool.
- eLearning Bundle. $999 -- includes exam voucher, one test retake, a 12-month individual license for CertMaster Learn for Security+, which is a collection of interactive and self-paced instructional lessons with assessments, and a 12-month individual license for CertMaster Labs for Security+.
Who should take CompTIA Security+?
Anyone looking to start their path in the security field should consider beginning their journey with the CompTIA Security+ certification. CompTIA Security+ demonstrates a person's competency with core knowledge required of any infosec role, including IAM. IT support technicians, and admins or other positions such as security practitioners, should consider this certification. Security practitioners, for example, can pursue this certification prior to Certified Information Systems and Security Professional (CISSP). The CompTIA Security+ credential also counts as one year toward the four years' experience prerequisite of CISSP.
What job roles need the CompTIA Security+ certification?
CompTIA advertises the certification by calling it a "springboard into intermediate-level cybersecurity jobs." Positions that CompTIA Security+ holders hold may include IT and security professional job titles such as:
- security administrator
- systems administrator
- help desk manager/analyst
- network/cloud engineer
- security engineer/analyst
- DevOps/software developer
- IT auditor
- IT project manager
- information security manager
- security architect