Cybersecurity has become increasingly important in recent years. With cybercrime at an all-time high, even Warren Buffett called it the number one problem for humanity. Just in January 2020, over 1.76 billion records were stolen as a direct result of cybercrime. In addition, cybercrime is executed to exceed $2 trillion, a four-fold increase since 2015.

To further complicate matters, around 3.5 million jobs in cybersecurity are expected to go vacant by the end of 2021. The security talent gap is so large that only about one in four cybersecurity professionals are qualified. Becoming certified as a security professional in this period of high demand can be the best decision that someone can make, be it if they want to advance their career or even start a brand new one. MyComputerCareer is here to help everyone learn more about the benefits and best practices of becoming IT certified

One of the fastest ways of developing security skills and gaining more experience is by earning a reputable certification in the cybersecurity field. An ideal certification for an entry-level professional is the CompTIA Security+. According to CompTIA, this is the first security-oriented certification IT professionals should earn if they wish to work in this field. “CompTIA Security+ is the first security certification a candidate should earn. It establishes the core knowledge required of any cybersecurity role and provides a springboard to intermediate-level cybersecurity jobs. Security+ incorporates best practices in hands-on troubleshooting, ensuring candidates have practical security problem-solving skills.”

What is the CompTIA Security+ Certification?

CompTIA Security+ is a vendor-neutral, entry-level, global information security certification. It will validate the baseline skills needed in the industry and comply with the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 8570 in terms of performing core security functions. This certificate is an excellent option for professionals looking to start their careers since it focuses on hands-on practical skills that ensure that certification holders are better positioned to solve the problem that arises from a wider variety of security issues.

The topics covered by this certificate are based on the latest trends and techniques implemented in risk assessment, risk management, incident response, enterprise networks, hybrid and cloud environments, and security controls, among others. The latest version also covers the Junior IT Auditor/Penetration Tester job role and the other job roles, including security administrator, systems administrator, or network administrator, among others. The Security+ certification also helps establish the core knowledge needed for intermediate-level cybersecurity jobs.

By earning this certificate, candidates will be able to verify and validate their skills based on the certification exam objectives:

  • Attacks, threats, and vulnerabilities – Detecting various kinds of security threats and having the skills needed for penetration testing and vulnerability scanning.
  • Tools and technologies – It validates the skills regarding the deployments of various network components, assessing and troubleshooting any of the issues that support operational and information security technology. 
  • Architecture and design – Implementing cloud computing, systems design, secure network, and virtualization technology.
  • Identity and access management – Implementing access control, access services, identity management, and management control.
  • Concepts of cryptography and PKI – Crypto concepts in the form of installing and configuring settings for wireless security and implementing public key infrastructure (PKI).
  • Risk management – Understanding risk management and data security best practices.

Why Choose Security+?

When dealing with an entry-level position, information security professionals will often need to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. Protecting an organization from various threats is a big responsibility. A single failure on the security team’s part can lead to considerable losses in both profits and reputation. 

Those looking to build a cybersecurity career should choose their certifications wisely. As this will not be a path that will be accomplished overnight, every step of the journey needs to be carefully considered based on one’s short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Certifications should act as stepping stones in terms of meaningful skill and knowledge, especially for professionals in the cybersecurity sector.

The Security+ certificate is an ideal choice, as it’s well regarded in the field, and it can help candidates stand out from the crowd when it comes to proving their proficiency. One of the main benefits is how this exam focuses on practical knowledge. For example, it provides candidates with the necessary skills to fill one of the many roles such as security administrator, IT auditor, DevOps, help desk manager, security engineer, network engineer, security analyst, and more.

In addition, Security+ stands out as one of the most in-demand certificates on the market, being constantly mentioned in job descriptions.

The Benefits of CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification is ideal for candidates who are relatively new to information technology, have never taken another security certification before, or are looking to switch from a related field in the IT industry.

Security+ is also a foundational certification in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway that includes seven different security certifications, all aimed at helping every security expert develop their skills to advance their career in cybersecurity. Among the benefits provided by the CompTIA Security+ certification, we can also include the following:

  • Very high demand – Corporations and defense organizations are looking for this certification on the market to validate the baseline security skills of their future employees as well as fulfill the aforementioned DoD 8570 compliance.
  • Continued validation – The certificate validates the hands-on practical skills of candidates, which ensures that professionals are prepared to solve a wide variety of security issues.
  • Complement other skills and job roles – With the number of cyberattacks increasing daily, basic concepts and baseline cybersecurity skills that this certificate validates often transcend the job roles that are strictly in cybersecurity. People in other positions will stand to benefit immensely from having this knowledge.

This certification will also help ensure performance while on the job since it covers most technical skills for risk assessment, forensics, threat analysis, risk management, enterprise network security, cloud operations, incident response, security controls, and more. In addition, candidates are not required to renew it for the following three years after completing their certification training.

To summarize, the CompTIA Security+ certification is excellent for developing and validating the necessary skills in certain cybersecurity positions that are also highly recognizable in North America and worldwide.

CompTIA Security+ Jobs and Salaries

Several job titles benefit a great deal from the CompTIA Security+ certificate. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics clumps several job roles under the network and computer systems administrators term. These positions will include the following:

  • Systems administrator
  • Security administrator
  • Security specialist
  • Security engineer
  • Network administrator
  • Junior IT auditor/penetration tester
  • Security consultant

The demand for these employees is expected to grow for the foreseeable future at a steady 4% yearly increase. More and more organizations are looking to invest in mobile networks and more versatile technologies. However, several factors can create a wide range of wages for the same job role when it comes to compensation. That said, organizations that pay more will also tend to demand more for their employees. This applies to both the prior experience that candidates need to have and the responsibilities each employee will have while on the job. 

Compared to the average annual wage of all occupations across the United States, those that fail within the positions mentioned above will earn more than double. The median annual salary in May 2020 for these positions was $84,810, whereas the yearly wage of all other occupations was $41,950. In terms of the highest and lowest 10% of earners in this category, we can look at $134,970 and $52,830, respectively.

What Factors Influence Wages?

Several key factors determine the average wage an employee will earn for the same job post. Among these, we can include the following:

  • Job experience – By having prior professional experience, candidates can stand a higher chance of being hired and help build employer trust and expectations. In addition, previous experience also will reduce the amount of time, energy, and resources companies need to invest in their new hire’s training and onboarding. All of these will help to increase one’s paycheck.
  • Additional training and certifications – Often, the significant difference between being hired or not is a certification that can validate one’s credentials and hands-on experience. A Security+ certificate will not only help candidates land their dream job but also help them earn more, even as an entry-level, than non certified professional fighting for the same position. Any additional relevant certifications will only help qualify the candidate for more jobs and higher-paying positions.
  • Periodical renewals – Earning a certificate is essential to one’s security career, but equally as important is renewing that certificate. By remaining certified, candidates can showcase their commitment to the job and that they’re up to date on the latest industry-related trends.
  • Geography – Salaries for the same job post will also differ based on the exact region that they’re located in. Generally speaking, highly urbanized areas will, on average, pay more than smaller towns.
  • Different industries – There are also salary differences based on the industry that the organization that’s hiring is in. The average annual wage in May 2020 for network and computer systems administrators was as follows:
    • Finance and insurance – $89,910
    • Information – $89,660
    • Company and enterprise management – $89,300
    • Computer systems design and related services – $87,190
    • Educational services; state, local, and private – $75,230

There are also a couple of personal factors that can influence the jobs that candidates can get, their promotion opportunities, and the amount they will be paid. One of these revolves around building a professional network with potential employers and other security experts. MyComputerCareer offers plenty of networking opportunities with IT professionals and employers alike through its Career Services.

The other personal factor that can influence the salary and the job description are soft skills. Among these soft skills, we can include excellent communication, problem-solving, good time management, a positive attitude, and more. In today’s business environment, these play a crucial role in career advancement opportunities and earn a good salary.

The CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam

As the first cybersecurity certificate a candidate can earn, CompTIA Security+ helps establish a baseline security readiness for intermediary-level security positions. It incorporates the best practices in troubleshooting, ensuring that candidates have the necessary practical skills needed to:

  • Assess the security posture of an enterprise environment, recommend, and implement the appropriate security solutions to better safeguard against the many different types of attacks.
  • Monitor and secure hybrid environments, which include cloud, mobile, and IoT.
  • Operate with a complete comprehension of all applicable laws and policies, including governance, risk, and compliance principles..
  • Identify, analyze and respond to security events through various incident response procedures.

Typically, the Security+ certification experiences an update every three years. But for a period of time, there’s an overlap between the old and new versions when candidates can choose which one to take. The latest exam version, SY0-601, was released in November 2020. The older version, the SY0-501 exam, will still be available up until July 2021.

The exam has 90 questions with single- and multiple-response options that need to be answered in 90 minutes. Candidates need to obtain a minimum score of 750 out of a total of 900. In terms of the exam objectives that will be covered during the exam, as well as their associated weight percentages, we can include the following:

  • Attacks, Threats, and Vulnerabilities (24%)
  • Architecture and Design (21%)
  • Implementation (25%)
  • Operations and Incident Response (16%)
  • Governance, Risk, and Compliance (14%)

The Prerequisites

Since the Security+ certificate is entry-level, there are no requirements in terms of prerequisites. That said, CompTIA does recommend candidates to have the Network+ and/or two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus before taking the Security+ exam. Nevertheless, the certificate will validate the candidate’s skills and baseline knowledge regarding network and host-based security best practices.

The Security+ certificate was explicitly designed for a security professional who has enough IT security knowledge, enough core technical information security experience, and a broad understanding of security issues.

How to Prepare for the Security+ Exam

While each candidate has their own learning style and can develop their specific exam preparation process, the best place to start is learning as much about it as possible. The more details about the questions that will be asked, the better it will be to understand what the candidate knows and what needs to be further expanded upon. Looking over the exam objectives and doing some practice test questions will go a long way.

CompTIA also offers some extensive learning and training programs to help candidates earn their certificates. These provide numerous ways of learning the knowledge found in the detailed exam objectives. The self-study guide helps close the knowledge gap by teaching the principles of installing and configuring cybersecurity controls, risk mitigation techniques, and incident response. The CompTIA CertMaster also contains an entire suite of products that allows candidates to further understand the skills needed for a cybersecurity career.

A more reliable option to self-study is either classroom training or online training with a professional organization. Such certification training, including CompTIA Security+, is offered by various professional training centers,  public academic institutions, and other authorized training partners such as MyComputerCareer. Instructor-led training can have a tremendous impact on one’s chances of earning their certification of choice.

The total amount of time it takes to learn everything and earn the certificate will largely depend on how much you already know, how much you have to learn, how quickly you can learn, and when you will feel confident enough to take the exam and pass it. It’s also important to keep in mind that while some classroom training organizations teach the Security+ material in a week or two, others do so over several months. While the first option is faster, the second one is usually more thorough.

While it’s impossible to tell how long it will take every candidate before they get their certificate, the general recommendation is to invest enough time into the preparation to ensure that no knowledge gaps remain instead of racing through the curriculum.

The moment you will submit your test, you will be notified if you’ve passed the exam or not. It’s also important to keep in mind that, in order to maintain your hard-earned credentials, you will have to earn and submit continuing education units (CEUs) at three-year intervals following the date of the initial test. If you fail to renew your certification, you will have to retake the exam.

Takeaway

With the demand for cybersecurity specialists being at an all-time high, landing a job in cybersecurity can be pretty straightforward. Professionals with certifications, such as CompTIA Security+, are more likely to earn more than their uncertified counterparts and will be sure to build a long-lasting and highly gratifying career.

Aside from Security+, MyComputerCareer offers programs with a variety of CompTIA certifications, helping its students make the most certification portfolio. Reach out to us if you’re interested in getting CompTIA-certified and start your cybersecurity career.