CompTIA CySA+ vs Security+: Differences Explained

Taylor Karl
CompTIA CySA+ vs Security+: Differences Explained 20522 0

The CompTIA Security+ certification validates the knowledge and skill set of a cybersecurity professional, and is considered an entry-level certification for this field. Security+ certification is broad by design because the test is meant to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise for a wide variety of cybersecurity domains.

The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) focuses on behavioral analytics as they apply to devices and networks for cybersecurity. The CySA+ demonstrates your ability to study network and device behavior to spot and respond to abnormalities that could indicate a threat.

What Are the Differences Between the CompTIA Security+ and CySA Certifications?

Even though both certifications cover cybersecurity, they’re very different, particularly when it comes to who should take which and the career paths of candidates.

Who Should Pursue the Security+ Certification?

People who are relatively new to cybersecurity and may not be entirely sure how they want to craft their career path are a good fit for the Security+ certification. This credential is an entry-level career tool that covers a diverse array of topics.

For example, suppose you have just graduated from college with a Computer Science degree with a focus on cybersecurity. You are interested in both cryptography and regulatory compliance. While there’s some overlap between these two topics, they’re very different, and their job descriptions would have very little in common.

If you are in this position, you may want to go for the Security+ certification because it would provide evidence of your qualifications for both careers. This broad applicability doesn’t exist with the CySA+ credential.

Who Should Pursue the CySA+ Certification?

The CySA+ certification is a great fit for people who are more analytical and want to use analytics to detect and mitigate threats. However, CySA+ is not just for those pursuing a career in analytics—it’s also good for those who use analytical skills as a part of their job, such as security consultants and security architects.

Typically individuals who purse the CySA+ certification are further along in their cybersecurity career and know they want to focus on using data to address threats and design or maintain cybersecurity defense systems.

For example, the CySA+ certification would be ideal if you were looking to study a company’s network traffic to design an automated threat response system. Suppose a company has two web applications, one that’s customer-facing and another that is used by internal employees as a part of their jobs. The traffic each app gets is drastically different, both when it comes to legitimate and potentially problematic connections.

The customer-facing app is a likely target for a DDoS attack, while the internal app would be a prime target for corporate sabotage and/or a ransomware attack. To best assess how to defend against these threats, you could use the analytical knowledge covered in the CySA+ certification. You could then design systems that detect and mitigate each network-based threat.

On the other hand, if you wanted to help a hospital align its data management system with HIPAA, the Security+ certification may be a better choice.

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What Are the Career Paths for Security+ Candidates?

The spectrum of career paths for someone holding a Security+ certification is broad. With this credential, you can pursue dozens of different cybersecurity positions, and the knowledge you've gained would help you in each one.

For example, you could be a network, systems, or security administrator. You could also qualify to be a security consultant or engineer, or even an auditor. Pen testers may benefit from the Security+ certification, as would incident responders and cryptographers. You have a lot of choices with this certification.

What Are the Career Paths for CySA+ Candidates?

The career paths a CySA+ candidate may steer towards are also relatively diverse, yet also a little more focused than those of a Security+ candidate. Many of the job roles a CySA+ candidate would qualify for have the word "Analyst" in them as those roles focus on data analysis..

For instance, you could be a Security, SOC, Threat Intelligence, Vulnerability, or Network Security Analyst. At the same time, you have several other career options for which data analysis may not be a foundational component but is still important. For example, you could use your CySA+ certification to qualify for a security engineer or security operations managerial position.

What Salaries Can You Expect with the CySA+ and Security+ Certifications?

The salary ranges for each of these certifications depend heavily on the job title and the company you work for. Using data from Indeed, the salary for someone with a Security+ certification is around $100,000.

The salary for someone with a CySA certification is a little over $100,000 a year, which may be because these individuals tend to have more cybersecurity experience.

However, these are ballpark figures only, and it’s more important to focus on what the salary is for the job to which you’re applying. Also, because data from Indeed reflects positions all over the country, the salary range may not reflect what you should expect for your specific location. For instance, someone working in Silicon Valley may make more than someone with the same job title in Missouri—only because Silicon Valley has a more competitive job market and higher standard of living.

What Experience Should You Have Before You Take These Certification Exams?

There are no set-in-stone experience requirements for either certification but there are some recommendations.

For the Security+ certification, it’s recommended that you have at least two years of experience in an IT admin position that focuses on cybersecurity.

For the CySA+ certification, CompTIA recommends that you have either the Security+ or Network+ certification and four or more years of experience in information security.

For this reason, it would be best to get the Security+ certification before going for your CySA certification.

What Are the Benefits of These Certifications?

Both CySA+ and Security+ certificate holders benefit by having evidence of their cybersecurity knowledge embedded in their portfolios.

If you are certified with Security+, that means you may be able to walk into a range of cybersecurity-related interviews and be seen as one of the more elite applicants. While the same can be said if you are a CySA+ certification holder, you would have the added benefit of potentially being seen as having advanced knowledge when it comes to using data to decide how best to defend digital assets.

How Hard Is Each Exam?

Both exams are on the challenging side, and the difficulty level will likely depend on your prior knowledge and experience. Even so, some may feel the CySA+ exam is harder because it covers more advanced cybersecurity knowledge, like threat analysis and monitoring a security operations system.

Others may feel the Security+ exam is harder because its scope is so broad. As a result, even though you don’t need to be an expert in any specific area, you must have a working knowledge across a wide range of cybersecurity domains.

How Long Do You Need to Study for Each Exam?

The length of time you spend studying for each exam will vary depending on the knowledge and experience you already have. Generally, you should expect to invest around two to three months studying for the Security+ test and three to four months preparing for the CySA+ exam.

The CySA+ certification may take a little more time to prepare for because it covers more specific topics. As a result, you may have to have deeper, more detailed knowledge of certain topics, and acquiring this can take time.

You Can Start Getting Prepped for the CompTIA Security+ or the CySA+ Certification Now

With United Training's CompTIA preparation courses, you can walk into either of these exams with confidence. You not only get to dive into the knowledge and skills you need to perform well on the Security+ and CySA+ exams, but you also gain an understanding of how each exam works and the kinds of questions to look out for. You can get started by