CompTIA Security+ vs. CCNA: How to Choose

Taylor Karl
CompTIA Security+ vs. CCNA: How to Choose 981 0

CompTIA Security+ vs. CCNA: How to Choose

Do you need clarification about whether you should get CompTIA Security+ vs. CCNA certification? Do you want to know which path is best for you? Or what skills the two certification exams are testing? Are you looking for an overview of the differences between these two industry credentials — including salary ranges, certification requirements, and which might better fit your career goals?

CCNA and CompTIA Security+ are two of the top certifications offered in the IT industry. There are many similarities between the two, but there are also some stark differences. Understanding the differences between these two certifications is important because it will allow you to decide which certificate suits you best. Continue reading to learn more and find answers to commonly asked questions.

What is CCNA?

The Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA) is a certification that evaluates a candidate's knowledge of implementation and troubleshooting skills associated with networking with Cisco equipment. The CCNA certification proves you have a broad range of knowledge fundamental for all IT careers. This industry knowledge includes understanding how to install, operate, configure, and verify a basic IPv4 and IPv6 network. To earn this certification, you must also know how to configure network components, including switches, routers, and Wireless LAN Controllers; manage network devices; and identify basic security threats. To earn a CCNA certification, you must demonstrate comprehension of network programmability, automation, and software-defined networking.

What is CompTIA Security+?

Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a vendor-neutral, independent source of education and certification exam administration for the global tech workforce. CompTIA Security+ tests a candidate’s knowledge of IT security-related concepts and technology. This vendor-neutral credential validates the technical knowledge and skills required to design, implement, and maintain a secure network. The primary objective of the Security+ curriculum is to educate students on the best practices for establishing a secure infrastructure and allowing for the uninterrupted transfer of information from point A to point Z. Learning to identify a security breach and how to respond to it is also covered.

Security+ is an entry-level cybersecurity certification which is a good starting point for anybody interested in a career as a cybersecurity professional, as it covers the basics of performing core network cybersecurity tasks and qualifies its holders for intermediate-level jobs in cybersecurity. In addition, certification as a Security+ professional demonstrates a wide range of skills in the field of information and cybersecurity, including the ability to configure a network in such a way as to prevent unauthorized access, familiarity with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment, and familiarity with best practices in cybersecurity and risk management.

Key Comparisons Between Cisco and CompTIA Security+ Certifications

There are many reasons why an IT professional would pursue either the CCNA or CompTIA Security+ certification, but it's good to understand the differences between them. For example, both are entry-level certifications in the IT industry. However, CCNA covers a broader knowledge base and skill set, including the principles of networking, IP services, security, automation, and programmability.

Security+, on the other hand, is focused exclusively on cybersecurity by validating the baseline skills you need to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career. Security+ is designed to teach students the best practices for establishing a secure infrastructure, allowing for the uninterrupted transfer of information, and identifying and responding to a security breach.

Also, it is important to note that while CompTIA is a vendor-neutral certification, CCNA is unique to Cisco networks. That means it specifically teaches IT professionals how to protect Cisco security infrastructures, install, monitor, and troubleshoot Cisco network devices, and identify and respond to risks.

How Respected Are the Exams in the Industry?


Security+ is well respected in the IT industry as it is a Department of Defense (DoD) standard for some job roles. It is often the first credential that many IT professionals pursue as it teaches fundamental cybersecurity knowledge and how to perform basic security tasks, including configuring, managing, and troubleshooting networks.


CCNA is also a DOD standard certification, but it holds a higher degree of respect because it evaluates not only a candidate's knowledge of IT principles but also their abilities and skillset in using Cisco networking equipment.

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Who Should Take the Exams?

IT professionals who are interested in careers in IT Security should take Security+, whereas IT professionals who are interested in jobs in Network Administration should add the CCNA credential to their resumes.

Security+ is an excellent choice for those just starting out in cybersecurity, as it covers a vast range of topics and requires minimal experience. On the flip side, CCNA Security is suitable for those with a solid foundation in networking and security due to its focus on network security.

What are the Career Paths for each Certification?


This is the first security certification IT professionals should earn, as the knowledge gained in this course provides a springboard to intermediate-level cybersecurity jobs and advanced IT security certifications. This certification is ideal for IT professionals who want to further a career in IT by acquiring foundational knowledge of security topics. Careers in cybersecurity often begin with positions such as cybersecurity specialist, network administrator, and security administrator.


The CCNA certification provides an in-depth understanding of Cisco Systems and can you specialize your career. IT professionals with a CCNA certification often find opportunities in the field of network security, including as a network security analyst,

security consultant, and security engineer.

Salary Potential for CCNA and Security+

A person's salary varies based on their employer, experience, job title, and duties. However, certified professionals usually earn more than their uncredentialed peers.


Security+ is typically associated with entry-level positions. Salaries for these roles are included below:

  • Security Administrator: median salary of $91,562.
  • Security Specialist: median salary of $61,090.
  • Security Systems Engineer: median salary of $88,932.


Because CCNA is a more specialized certification, the salaries for associated positions are, on average, higher than those that require Security+. Here are a few average salaries for CCNA-certified professionals as reported by Glassdoor:

  • Network Security Analysts average $87,000 annually
  • Security Consultants Average $103,000 annually
  • Security Engineers Average $116,000 annually

What are the Prerequisites Required?

Neither certification requires any prerequisites.

What are the Prerequisites Suggested?

While neither certification requires specific prerequisites, some industry-specific job experience and certificates can be helpful.


CompTIA Security+ focuses on entry-level knowledge and recommends that those interested in becoming credentialled first complete a minimum of two years of working in system IT administration with a security focus. Additionally, CompTIA recommends completing the CompTIA Network+ certification before attempting the Security+ exam.


For the CCNA certification, it would be advantageous first to take the Network+ course. Additionally, it is recommended that all IT professionals take a programming class, with a preference for Python. However, any programming class will fit the bill.

What Experience Should You Have Before You Complete the Certification?

Typically, at least a year in the information technology field would be optimal before completing the certification.


While there are no prerequisites for CompTIA Security+, it is recommended that students have at least 2 years of IT administration experience with a security focus and the CompTIA Network+ certification.


There are no formal prerequisites, although it is advised candidates have at least one year of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions.

What are the Benefits of Each Certification?

Continually learning new things is necessary for a happy and well-adjusted life. More practically, these certifications demonstrate your expertise in cybersecurity, make you more competitive as a jobseeker, and can help you achieve your desired career goals.

What Topics Are Covered in the Exams?


The CCNA Security exam consists of 120 minutes of testing and includes the following sections:

  • Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity
  • Network access
  • Network fundamentals
  • Security fundamentals
  • IP services
  • Automation and programmability


The CompTIA Security+ certification exam is 90 minutes with a maximum of 90 multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and performance-based questions on the following topics:

  • Cryptography,
  • Access Control Identity Management
  • Data Integrity and Privacy
  • Operational and Organizational Security

How Hard is Each Exam?

Both exams are very difficult but for different reasons. Because Security+ established a foundational knowledge base, it is a broader exam that is geared toward individuals newer to cybersecurity. Meanwhile, CCNA Security is a more advanced certification focused on the intricacies of network security and, specifically, using Cisco technology.

The difficulty of this exam will vary depending on your preexisting security work experience and strength as a test taker.

How Long Do You Need to Study for the Exams?

The preparation time for each exam is dependent on the candidate’s capabilities and skill set.


How long you will need to prepare for the CCNA exam depends on your work experience and knowledge base. Candidates for the CCNA certification typically require a minimum of three months to study.


Depending on your existing experience and expertise, candidates typically require 30-45 days to study.

What do the Exams Cost?


It costs $300 to take the Cisco CCNA certification exam.


Interested candidates need to purchase an exam voucher to take this certification test. The fee for the Security+ voucher is $392. This exam also requires you to pay for another voucher if you need to retake the certification exam.

What are the Recertification and CEU policies?


Accreditation holders must retest every four years to maintain certification.


After passing the exam, accreditation holders must complete 120 CEUs over a 3-year period or successfully retest.

How Should You Choose Which Exam to Take?

The decision of which exam to take is based on the career path you choose. While each certification is focused on cybersecurity principles, they are managed by different professional bodies. Which credential you opt to pursue should be driven by your work experience and desired career path. If you want to get into IT Security, you should take Security+. If you want to get into Network Administration, the CCNA is for you.

Do You Need One or Both Certifications?

Depending on the job role, you might only need one, or you might benefit from taking both. The more you know, the more you are qualified to do.

Do You Have to Take the Exams in a Particular Order?

Although each is a cybersecurity credential, there is no order as to which exam you should take first. Obtaining one should have no influence on whether you decide to obtain the other. You should prioritize which certification you pursue depending on your experience and career interests.