SSCP vs. CompTIA Security+: Which Is Right for You?

Taylor Karl
SSCP vs. CompTIA Security+: Which Is Right for You? 5012 0

SSCP vs. CompTIA Security+: Which Is Right for You?

Understanding the differences and similarities between the SSCP and CompTIA Security+ certifications helps you know which will best meet your professional goals.

Understanding the (ISC)2 certification: Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

The International Information Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)offers multiple IT cybersecurity certifications such as the entry-level Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), and the mid-level Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). If you are new to IT cybersecurity the SSCP certification is a great starting point.

SSCP certification exam administration

(ISC)2 is an international, nonprofit membership association for information security leaders. They maintain certifications for information technology (IT) specialists, including cybersecurity, network, and cloud, including SSCP and CISSP.

SSCP credential preparation

(ISC)provides a checklist to guide candidates through the SSCP certification requirements, including becoming part of the global IT professional organization for multiple specialists.

  1. Become an (ISC)² Candidate when you create an org account.
  2. Gain the necessary work experience.
    1. Complete at least one year of cumulative, paid work experience in one or more of the seven domains of the (ISC)² SSCP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).
    2. Use the one-year prerequisite pathway if you have a cybersecurity degree.
  3. Pass the SSCP exam.
  4. Complete the application process by attesting to your professional experience claims.
  5. Commit to supporting (ISC)² Code of Ethics
  6. Pay your first of the Annual Maintenance Fees (AMFs).

While exam questions differ, the (ISC)² Code of Ethics applies to all (ISC)² certifications, including the SSCP and CISSP.

SSCP exam level of difficulty

For SSCP certification, you must complete the credential requirements and earn a passing exam score. The SSCP exam gives candidates 180 minutes to answer up to 125 questions covering seven security domains:

  1. Access Controls
  2. Security Operations and Administration
  3. Risk Identification, Monitoring, and Analysis
  4. Incident Response and Recovery
  5. Cryptography
  6. Network and Communications Security
  7. Systems and Application Security

SSCP and CISSP candidates who complete exam prep training are more likely to earn a passing score on their first exam attempt as there is content overlap. Security specialists often earn the SSCP, then progress to the CISSP.

Benefits of obtaining SSCP certification

Becoming an SSCP certification holder shows that you have the "...technical skills and knowledge to implement, monitor and administer IT infrastructure using security best practices, policies, and procedures established by the cybersecurity experts at (ISC)²." In addition, it can meet job requirements and help with salary increases. There is also the benefit of the resulting digital skill badge, which can enhance your resume, online profiles, and job applications.

SSCP certification renewal and continuing education requirements

All (ISC)² certifications have specific renewal and continuing education requirements. For the SSCP credential, credential holders must:

  • renew every three years,
  • pay the annual maintenance fee in full and on time, and
  • complete 60 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits within each renewal period.

SSCP related certifications

The (ISC)² offers the SSCP as an entry-level certification for the information security professional seeking to advance their career. Additional certifications under (ISC)² administration include:

  • SSCP | Security Administration and Operations
  • CCISP | Cyber Security Leadership and Operations
  • CCSP | Cloud Security Expertise
  • CGRC | Governance, Risk, and Compliance
  • CSSLP | Secure Software Development
  • HCISPP | Securing Patience Data and Critical Systems

While the (ISC)² is well renowned and established, it is not the only organization with information security certifications. For example, the mid-level professional CCISP certification is widely regarded and sometimes compared to the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)’s Security Essentials (GSEC) certification. However, as the SSCP and CCISP have differences, so do CCISP and GSEC. Regarding cybersecurity certification options, note that the GSEC is more technical in scope, whereas CCISP is focused on management.

For any training or certification, it is always good to check with your management to see what support your company may provide.

Understanding the CompTIA certification | Security+

Understanding the requirements of a CompTIA Security+ credential helps you plan your certification work.

Organization that oversees Security+ certification exam administration

With over 2 million IT certifications issued, CompTIA is the world’s largest vendor-neutral IT exam developer. It is also a nonprofit global trade association.

Security+ credential preparation

The Security+ exam is designed for the entry-level cybersecurity professional with content focused on the core cybersecurity skills required for security and network administrator roles. There are prerequisites for the exam, but prep training courses can help you reach a passing score.

Security+ certification exam level of difficulty

With up to 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions to be completed in 90 minutes, the CompTIA Security+ exam is designed to verify your "...knowledge and skills required to assess the security posture of an enterprise environment and recommend and implement appropriate security solutions; monitor and secure hybrid environments, including cloud, mobile, and IoT; operate with an awareness of applicable laws and policies, including principles of governance, risk, and compliance; identify, analyze, and respond to security events and incidents."

Benefits of Security+ certification

Security+, like SSCP and CISSP, enhances the career of all IT specialists, with benefits including:

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

Security+ certification renewal and continuing education requirements

The CompTIA Security+ certifications have a three-year renewal from the day you pass the exam. Renew certification through CompTIA continuing education (CE) specified training and activities.

Related certifications/progression

CompTIA administers certifications for professionals working to advance their careers, including:

  • Cloud+
  • Server+
  • CySA+
  • CASP+
  • PenTest+

Check with your management to see what training support and certification exam fee reimbursement your company may provide.

Comparing SSCP and CompTIA Security+

For SSCP, Security+, or the CISSP or GSEC, knowing what to expect from a certification and its potential impact on your cybersecurity career is important.

 

SSCP Credential

Security+ Credential

who should take exam

early in security career

starting security career

certification digital image

potential career paths

examples:

· Network Security Engineer

· Systems Administrator

· Security Analyst

· Systems Engineer

· Security Consultant

· Security Administrator

· Systems/Network Analyst

· Database Administrator

(isc2.org, April 2023)

examples:

· Junior IT auditor

· Systems administrator

· Network administrator

· Security administrator

 

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

exam prerequisites

None
(isc2.org, April 2023)

CompTIA Network+ certification is recommended but not required

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

credential experience

One year continuous and paid in one or more of the seven domains of the SSCP CBK, or,

an approved cybersecurity degree from an accredited college or university or regionally equivalent education program

(isc2.org, April 2023)

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

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

topics

· Security operations and administration

· Access Controls

· Risk identification, monitoring, and analysis

· Incident response and recovery

· Cryptography

· Network security

· Systems and application security

(isc2.org, April 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

$249

(Isc2.org exam costs, April 2023)

$392
(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

US salary average

$80,000

(Payscale.com, April 2023)

$61,520 - $102,600

(CompTIA.org, April 2023)

Job outlook for SSCP and CompTIA Security+

The demands for cybersecurity knowledge and skills continue to grow. Thus, certifications such as Cisco CyberOps, SSCP, Security+, and CISSP certifications are tied to very strong job outlooks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2022 that the"...employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 35 percent from 2021 to 2031."

Which certification should specialists pursue: SSCP or CompTIA Security+?

Cybersecurity specialists commonly have multiple certifications to augment work experience; certifications do not negate or replace each other. A great example is moving from SSCP to CISSP to show growing cybersecurity knowledge.

Conclusion

Prioritize the IT credentials that validate your skills in the area you want your career to grow. For example, Security+ targets entry-level security practitioners in roles such as information security analysts; SSCP targets IT professionals with security operations and administration skills.

 

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