CompTIA A+ vs. Security+: Differences Explained

Taylor Karl
CompTIA  A+ vs. Security+: Differences Explained 19604 0

CompTIA A+ vs. Security+: Differences Explained

CompTIA A+ vs. Security+ certifications: which is right for you? To make the best decision about which certification to pursue, use your information technology experience and education as your initial guide. From there, understanding each certifications will help you determine which to pursue to help you reach your career goals.

What is CompTIA

CompTIA is a nonprofit global trade organization and the world’s largest vendor-neutral IT certification exam developer. CompTIA manages credential standards, certification exams, and the associated certification path for in-demand technology skills. Whether starting your cybersecurity career, currently working as an entry-level analyst or engineer, or advancing your career with roles of greater responsibility, CompTIA certifications enhance your professional standing.

What is CompTIA A+ certification?

CompTIA A+ certification is designed for entry-level technology support professionals in Help Desk and repair roles. It is valid for three years with the opportunity to renew.

Earning a passing score on the CompTIA A+ exams demonstrates your knowledge of “the technologies and skills IT pros need to support a hybrid workforce," including:

  • Increased reliance on SaaS (Software-as-a-service) applications for remote work;
  • How to remotely diagnose and correct common software, hardware, or connectivity problems;
  • Evolving core technologies from cloud virtualization and IoT device security to data management and scripting;
  • Multiple operating systems, when to use them and how to keep them running properly; and
  • Reflects the changing nature of the job, including how to assess if it's best to fix something on-site or send it to a specialized provider

What is CompTIA Security+ certification?

CompTIA Security+ certification is designed for entry-level cybersecurity professionals and is valid for three years with the opportunity to renew.

    

The CompTIA Security+ exam assesses your experience in being able to:

  • monitor and secure hybrid environments,
  • operate with an awareness of applicable laws and policies,
  • identify, analyze, and respond to security events and incidents,
  • help assess the cybersecurity posture of an enterprise environment, and
  • recommend and implement appropriate security solutions.

CompTIA Security+ certification verifies your understanding of the foundational cybersecurity knowledge essential to pursue higher-level cybersecurity certifications and roles of specialized and greater responsibility.


CompTIA eBook

Submit your email below to download our free eBook, Upgrade Your Team with CompTIA Certification


What are the differences between CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications?

CompTIA A+ and Security+ certifications have global recognition of verifying technology experience and knowledge, as CompTIA administers both. However, the certifications have differences you need to know so that your training and certification efforts align with your short and long-term career goals.

Difference #1 | number of exams required to earn CompTIA certification:

  • A+ | Two 90-minute exams

  • Security+ | One 90-minute exam

Difference # 2 | technology role alignment to CompTIA certification:

  • A+ | entry-level IT support and computer repair
  • Security+ | entry-level cybersecurity within IT Administration

Who are the best candidates for CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications?

The development of your certification plan, meaning which certifications you will pursue and in what order, should be heavily shaped by what aspect of technology you seek to be your career focus.

CompTIA A+ Certification Candidate | entry-level Help Desk support or repair of devices

A+ certification is best suited for those new to the world of information technology (IT). The certification is ideal for those seeking entry-level jobs within a Help Desk where core knowledge of multiple operating systems and SaaS for remote work is critical. A+ certification is also beneficial for those looking for roles in which they are building, repairing, and/or troubleshooting devices.

CompTIA Security+ Certification Candidate | Entry-level cybersecurity professional seeking career advancement

Security+ certification does not have education or work experience prerequisites. However, it is best suited for those with at least 2 years of IT Administration focusing on security experience. The ideal candidate is looking for an entry-level cybersecurity certification that verifies baseline knowledge and is a steppingstone for pursuing higher-level cybersecurity certifications.

What are potential career paths related to the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications?

Technology is a field with much career growth, which means it is also competitive. Knowing which certificate best fits your career aspirations is important in mapping out what education and experience you want to gain.

CompTIA A+ Certification Career Path Opportunities

CompTIA provides these example jobs and career opportunities for A+ certification holders:

  • Associate network engineer
  • Data support technician
  • Desktop support administrator
  • Desktop support analyst
  • End-user computing technician
  • Field service technician
  • Help desk technician
  • Help desk tier 2 support
  • Service desk analyst
  • Support specialist
  • System support specialist
  • Technical support specialist

Note that the example jobs reflect the help desk and the repair of devices aspects of the knowledge verified through A+ certification.

CompTIA Security+ Certification Career Path Opportunities 

According to CompTIA, those with Security+ certification often serve in roles such as:

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

The demands for cybersecurity knowledge and security skills continue to grow. In 2022, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the"…employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 35 percent from 2021 to 2031.”

What is the salary range for CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification professionals?

When considering what salary range to expect for a job type, note that geography, company size, education, and experience all factor into the earning potential.

CompTIA A+ Certification Salary Range

CompTIA provides this information regarding US-based median salary expectation for roles most commonly held by those with A+ certification:

  • Desktop support analyst   $60,000
  • Field service technician     $46,000
  • Help desk tier 2 support    $45,000
  • IT support specialist           $54,500

CompTIA Security+ Certification Salary Range

Jobs most commonly associated with Security+ certification fall within what the US Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as network and computer system administrators and have expected growth at least through 2026.

  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for network and computer systems administrators the 2017 median pay was $81,100.

Many businesses offer incentives and salary increases for professional certifications earned, especially IT security certifications.

What are the prerequisites to take the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams?

There are no formal education or experience requirements to take the A+ or Security+ certification exam. While an exam may not have requirements to take it, a lack of needed knowledge or experience will dramatically impact the amount of time you need to study for, and pass, the A+ or Security+ exams.

What work experience is needed to pass the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams?

In addition to work experience, consider training to augment your knowledge so that you know industry best practices regardless of how your current employer manages technology. Be sure your training meets the most current industry standards and is aligned with current CompTIA certification content. 

CompTIA A+ Certification Work Experience for Exam

CompTIA highly recommends students have at least 9 to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field.

CompTIA Security+ Certification Work Experience for Exam

Students are encouraged to have at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus and hold the CompTIA Network+ certification or equivalent knowledge. Gain networking skills through on-the-job experience and high-quality training.

What are the benefits of earning CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications?

Technology certifications from a verified and trusted source can enhance any IT career. Whether for help desk or cybersecurity, a CompTIA certification can lead to benefits such as:

  • salary increase potential,
  • globally recognized knowledge and level of expertise,
  • digital skill badge for adding to online profiles and job applications,
  • vendor agnostic for wider application of knowledge, and
  • job opportunities in both private and government sectors with certification requirements.

How hard are CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams?

Considering the needed knowledge level to achieve a passing score, the Security+ exam would be more difficult than the A+. For some, since the A+ certification includes two exams to pass, it would seem more difficult than the single exam of Security+. Rather than comparing the number of exams within a certification to determine the "hard" one, the comparison should be driven by the depth and type of specialized knowledge needed to earn it. Therefore, Security+ is more challenging to achieve than A+.

How long do you need to study to pass the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams?

The A+ and Security+ exams can be difficult, depending on your level of related technology experience. In general, plan for at least three months of continuous study to prepare for either the A+ or Security+ exam; more if you are newer to the field or less if you are more experienced.  

What do taking the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams cost?

Review all CompTIA fees on their exam pricing list, including costs by country. The costs listed below are from June 2023 prices in US dollars as quoted by CompTIA.

CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Cost 

CompTIA provides the below costs for A+ certification exam fees:

  • $246 US per exam [CompTIA A+ 1101 and 1102]
  • $359 US per exam with one retake [CompTIA A+ 1101 and 1102]

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Cost

Exam fees with retake options are provided by CompTIA for Security+ certification as follows:

  • $392 US exam [CompTIA Security+ SYO-601]
  • $565 US exam with one retake [CompTIA Security+ SYO-601]

Can you earn both CompTIA A+ or Security+ certifications?

Short answer? Yes! IT professionals commonly have multiple certifications to augment work experience; certifications do not negate or replace each other.

For entry-level professionals who need to decide between (or in what order to earn) CompTIA's A+, Security+, or Network+ certification:

  • A+ deals with computer hardware and software. 
  • Network+ or equivalent knowledge is needed before Security+.
  • Security+ assumes you have that knowledge verified in A+ and Network+.

CompTIA eBook
 

Submit your email below to download our free eBook, Upgrade Your Team with CompTIA Certification


How should you choose to take the CompTIA A+ or Security+ exam first?

While career prospects and earning potential are important, earning an A+ or Security+ certification first should be driven by your existing IT work experience. If you are new to IT, A+ is the best starting point as it helps you gain the fundamental technology knowledge you need to kick-start your IT career.

Security+ does not have official prerequisites. However, you must have the knowledge verified from CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications to pass it. If you already have practical IT experience in the areas covered by A+ and Network+, you can begin with Security+.

 

CompTIA A+
Certification

CompTIA Security+ Certification

Who should take exam

new to IT profession; seeking role in Help Desk or repair of devices

starting security career

Certification digital image

 

 

Potential career paths

examples:

  • Desktop support analyst
  • Field service technician
  • Help desk technician
  • Technical support specialist

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

examples:

  • Junior IT auditor
  • Systems administrator
  • Network administrator
  • Security administrator

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

Exam prerequisites

No exam prerequisite.

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

CompTIA Network+ certification or equivalent knowledge is recommended but not required

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

Work experience recommendation

at least 9 to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field recommended

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus recommended

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

Topics

  • Increased reliance on SaaS (Software-as-a-service) applications for remote work;
  • How to remotely diagnose and correct common software, hardware, or connectivity problems;
  • Evolving core technologies from cloud virtualization and IoT device security to data management and scripting;
  • Multiple operating systems, when to use them and how to keep them running properly; and
  • how to assess if it is best to fix something on-site or send it to a specialized provider.
     

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

  • Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities
  • Identity and access management
  • Technologies and tools
  • Risk Management
  • Architecture
  • Cryptography and PKI
     

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

US exam cost

  • $246 per exam [CompTIA A+ 1101 and 1102]
  • $359 per exam with one retake [CompTIA A+ 1101 and 1102]

 

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

US salary average

US-based median salary expectation for roles most commonly held by those with A+ certification:

 

  • Desktop support analyst   $60,000
  • Field service technician     $46,000
  • Help desk tier 2 support    $45,000
  • IT support specialist           $54,500

(CompTIA.org June 2023)

$61,520 - $102,600
 

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

Conclusion

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification ideal for those new to the IT industry and looking to break into it via a Help Desk role or computer device repair. CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level cybersecurity certification best suited for those already working in IT Administration and wishing to build a cybersecurity career. A+ nor Security+ certifications have no prerequisites. However, at least three months of study and relevant work experience (9 – 12 months for A+ and two years for Security+) are highly recommended to ensure success with the first exam experience. 

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