Obtaining the CompTIA Security+ certification isn’t easy, but candidates can greatly improve their chances with proper preparation and targeted training.
The CompTIA Security+ test is difficult to pass, like any other test you need to pass to get a professional license. But those who rise to the challenge can take advantage of many well-paying cybersecurity jobs. This guide examines how the exam compares in terms of difficulty and the study time needed to pass it.
CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level cybersecurity certification, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get. CompTIA suggests obtaining Network+ or similar certification before opting for Security+. This path ensures that candidates already have the basic skills they need to specialize in cybersecurity, such as knowing how to configure, run and repair networks.
What are the requirements to take the CompTIA Security+ exam?
Since Security+ is an entry-level certification, there are no formal requirements to take the exam, and if you pass, you’ll get a formal certification no matter what. CompTIA recommends that applicants have at least two years of work experience in a related field, such as network administration or risk management, with a focus on cybersecurity.
How prepared a candidate is to pass the exam depends a lot on their knowledge and accomplishments in cybersecurity and related fields. This information and experience will help them bridge the gap between what they know and what they should know before the exam. Those with enough experience only need to study a little more to prepare for the test. Those just starting out may need a few months to get up to speed.
Self-study or formal training can help fill the knowledge gap.
There are many official and unofficial CompTIA Security+ study guides for people who want to get the Security+ certification. There are self-paced online courses and virtual practice labs, as well as more traditional options like in-person seminars, bootcamps, and study guides. Online self-study is the most popular choice because it’s easy to access and works well for people who already have full-time jobs.
It shouldn’t take more than 8-10 hours to study an introductory course that should teach candidates the basics of Security+ certification. But to fully prepare for the test, you must also undergo hands-on training, either through virtual labs from 101 Security+ Labs or through in-person workshops. It should take between 25 and 30 hours to gain hands-on experience in all areas covered by the exam, such as penetration testing and risk management. Candidates who already have extensive cybersecurity experience can expect to spend significantly less time filling the knowledge gap before the exam.
What does the CompTIA Security+ test cover?
The test covers five main areas, and each is worth a certain amount of the total score. Candidates should know the exam they are taking, as they can choose between the current version and a previous version. At the moment, however, you can only take the current SY0-601 exam in English. Most people who want to take the test will want to take the current version, unless they have just finished studying for the latest one. In the most recent version, here are the areas and weight of each on the exam:
- Attacks, threats and vulnerabilities – 24%
- Architecture and design – 21%
- Implementation – 25%
- Operations and Incident Response – 16%
- Governance, risk and compliance – 14%
The test has up to 90 questions covering all of the above areas, and candidates have 90 minutes to complete it. The best score you can get is 900, and if you get 750 or more, you pass.
The test questions are either in the usual multiple-choice format or based on your job performance. Performance-based questions (PBQ) are different from traditional questions because they test the candidate’s ability to solve real-world problems in a simulated environment.
Before taking the test, it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time in virtual practice labs. CompTIA also suggests that candidates quickly move on to the next PBQ if they don’t feel confident answering a certain one. This is because there is a time limit. Most PBQs, however, come at the start of the test, so candidates should also pay attention to how much time they spend on each exam question.
How long is the CompTIA Security+ certification valid?
After passing the exam, a Security+ certificate is valid for three years. But it’s easy to keep certification current by participating in CompTIA’s continuing education program. Candidates will only have to retake the test if they let their certification expire or do not meet the other requirements to keep it.
The standard for cybersecurity and related certifications is a validity period of three years. This helps ensure that certificate holders stay up-to-date with the ever-changing adoption cycles of new technologies and new threat vectors. CompTIA also reviews and modifies the content of its exams every three years to keep up with these changes. This update is necessary to maintain its ISO/ANSI accreditation status and meet US Department of Defense certification requirements.
A Security+ certification can be maintained in three main ways. Most people choose to take accredited training, which should take those already working in the field between 6 and 8 hours. Another popular choice is to do activities that earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs), such as those that match one or more of the exam objectives. The third option is to recertify by taking a test that covers the most recent version of the test material.
Finally, maintaining the Security+ certification costs $50 per year, or $150 for the entire three-year period. This is in addition to the $370 fee to take the exam.
But after three years as a certificate holder, candidates may want to take their career to the next level by earning a more advanced certification, such as the PenTest+, CASP+ or CySA+. Other groups, such as (ISC), offer a variety of certifications that compete with each other.