For cybersecurity professionals, two of the biggest industry certifications are the CISSP and CompTIA Security+. But what’s the difference between the two and which one is better for your career? This in-depth comparison examines the key distinctions between the CISSP and Security+ certs to help you decide which is right for you.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary: The CISSP certification is more advanced and prestigious, best for senior and management cybersecurity roles. Security+ is a valuable entry-level certification for those just starting their IT security career.
CISSP Certification Overview
About the CISSP credential
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is a globally recognized accreditation that validates an individual’s expertise in designing, implementing, and managing a secure information system infrastructure.
It is considered one of the most prestigious certifications in the field of cybersecurity.
To obtain the CISSP certification, candidates are required to pass an exam consisting of multiple-choice questions that cover various security topics and domains. Additionally, candidates must have at least five years of cumulative work experience in at least two of the eight domains covered in the exam, or four years of experience with a relevant college degree.
Key topics and domains tested
The CISSP exam assesses a candidate’s knowledge and understanding of eight key domains: Security and Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Architecture and Engineering, Communication and Network Security, Identity and Access Management (IAM), Security Assessment and Testing, Security Operations, and Software Development Security.
Each domain covers a specific set of topics, including but not limited to risk management, cryptography, network security, access control, incident response, and software development security. It is essential for candidates to have a comprehensive understanding of these domains to pass the CISSP exam successfully.
Ideal candidate and experience required
The CISSP certification is designed for experienced professionals working in the field of information security. It is ideal for individuals who have a solid understanding of security concepts and have hands-on experience in implementing and managing security measures.
Candidates who hold managerial or senior-level positions within their organizations and have responsibilities related to the design and implementation of security programs are well-suited for the CISSP certification.
Additionally, professionals working in roles such as security consultant, security analyst, or security auditor can benefit greatly from obtaining this certification.
It is important to note that while the CISSP certification requires a significant amount of work experience, it is not limited to individuals with a technical background. Professionals from various backgrounds, including management, legal, and audit, can pursue the CISSP certification to enhance their knowledge and career prospects in the field of cybersecurity.
CompTIA Security+ Overview
The CompTIA Security+ certification is a globally recognized credential that validates the knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level cybersecurity professionals. It is designed to provide a solid foundation in cybersecurity concepts and best practices, making it an excellent starting point for individuals looking to pursue a career in this field.
The Security+ certification covers a wide range of topics, including network security, threats and vulnerabilities, access control, cryptography, and risk management. It is vendor-neutral, which means that it is not tied to any specific technology or product, making it applicable to a variety of job roles and industries.
The Security+ exam tests candidates on their understanding of various cybersecurity domains. These domains include:
1. Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities
This domain focuses on the different types of threats that organizations face, such as malware, social engineering, and physical attacks. It also covers vulnerability assessment and penetration testing techniques to identify and mitigate these threats.
2. Technologies and tools
This domain covers the various technologies and tools used in cybersecurity, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption algorithms. It also includes topics like secure network design, secure protocols, and secure application development.
3. Architecture and design
This domain focuses on the design and implementation of secure systems and networks. It covers topics like secure network architecture, secure system design, and secure cloud and virtualization technologies.
4. Identity and access management
This domain covers the principles and practices of identity and access management. It includes topics like authentication methods, access control models, and identity and access provisioning.
5. Risk management
This domain focuses on the identification, assessment, and mitigation of risks in an organization. It covers topics like risk assessment methodologies, risk mitigation strategies, and incident response planning.
The Security+ certification is suitable for a wide range of professionals, including:
- Entry-level cybersecurity professionals
- IT technicians and administrators
- Network administrators
- Systems administrators
- Security consultants
It is also beneficial for individuals who want to enhance their knowledge and skills in cybersecurity, even if they are not directly involved in security-related roles.
Key Differences Between the Certifications
Experience level each is designed for
The CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification is designed for experienced professionals who have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains of the (ISC)² CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).
This certification is ideal for senior-level security professionals who are responsible for designing, implementing, and managing an organization’s security program.
On the other hand, the Security+ certification, offered by CompTIA, is more suitable for individuals who are at the entry-level or have limited experience in the field of cybersecurity. It provides a solid foundation of knowledge and skills required to identify and address security vulnerabilities and risks.
Breadth and depth of knowledge tested
The CISSP exam covers a wide range of security topics, including security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security.
It requires a deep understanding of these domains and their related concepts.
The Security+ exam, on the other hand, focuses on foundational cybersecurity knowledge and skills. It covers topics such as network security, compliance and operational security, threats and vulnerabilities, application, data, and host security, access control and identity management, and cryptography.
While it covers a broad range of topics, the depth of knowledge required is not as extensive as the CISSP.
Exam difficulty and format
The CISSP exam is known for its challenging nature and is considered more difficult than the Security+ exam. It consists of 250 multiple-choice and advanced innovative questions that test the candidate’s knowledge and ability to apply their skills in real-world scenarios.
The passing score for the CISSP exam is 700 out of 1000.
The Security+ exam, on the other hand, is relatively less difficult compared to the CISSP. It consists of 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions that assess the candidate’s understanding of the core cybersecurity concepts. The passing score for the Security+ exam is 750 out of 900.
Ideal job roles for certification holders
CISSP certification holders are highly sought after for senior-level cybersecurity positions such as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Security Consultant, Security Manager, and Security Auditor. This certification demonstrates a high level of expertise and experience in the field.
On the other hand, Security+ certification holders are well-suited for entry-level positions such as Security Administrator, Security Specialist, and Network Administrator. This certification serves as a stepping stone for individuals who are looking to start their career in the cybersecurity field.
Which Certification Should You Get?
When it comes to choosing the right certification for your cybersecurity career, two popular options often come into consideration: CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and Security+ certification.
Each certification offers its own unique benefits and is suited for different career paths. Let’s explore which certification might be best for you based on your career goals and aspirations.
For entry-level cybersecurity careers
If you are just starting your journey in cybersecurity and looking to land an entry-level position, the Security+ certification can be a great choice. Offered by CompTIA, this certification provides a solid foundation in cybersecurity principles and best practices.
It covers a wide range of topics including network security, threat management, cryptography, and more. Security+ is widely recognized and respected in the industry, making it an excellent starting point for those who are new to the field.
According to a survey conducted by CyberSeek, there is a high demand for professionals with Security+ certification, with over 90,000 open job positions in the United States alone. This indicates the value and relevance of this certification in the current job market.
For managerial and senior-level positions
If you have already gained some experience in the cybersecurity field and are aiming for managerial or senior-level positions, the CISSP certification might be a better fit for you. Offered by (ISC)², this certification is highly regarded and respected in the industry, demonstrating your expertise and commitment to the field of cybersecurity.
CISSP covers a broad range of topics including security and risk management, asset security, communication and network security, and more. It requires a minimum of five years of professional experience in at least two of the eight CISSP domains, making it an ideal choice for individuals with a solid background in cybersecurity.
According to the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, professionals with CISSP certification earn a higher average salary compared to those without the certification. This highlights the value and recognition that CISSP brings to your career.
If you want to do both eventually
While both certifications cater to different career stages, there is no harm in pursuing both if your long-term goal is to excel in the cybersecurity field. By obtaining both certifications, you can showcase a well-rounded skill set and increase your chances of career advancement.
Keep in mind, however, that CISSP is often considered more advanced and requires a higher level of experience. It is recommended to first gain some experience and foundational knowledge through Security+ before pursuing CISSP.
Ultimately, the choice between CISSP and Security+ certification depends on your career goals, level of experience, and the specific job requirements in your desired field. Consider researching job postings and speaking with professionals in the industry to gather more insights and make an informed decision.
Study Time and Cost Comparison
Estimated study hours needed
When comparing the CISSP and Security+ certifications, one important factor to consider is the amount of study time required for each. The CISSP certification is widely regarded as one of the most challenging certifications in the cybersecurity field.
It typically requires a minimum of 40-60 hours of study time to adequately prepare for the exam. On the other hand, the Security+ certification is considered to be more entry-level and can be obtained with approximately 20-30 hours of study.
However, it’s important to note that these estimates can vary depending on the individual’s prior knowledge and experience in the field.
Exam registration fees
Another crucial aspect to consider is the cost associated with exam registration. The CISSP certification exam registration fee is currently $699 for members of (ISC)² and $899 for non-members. This fee includes the cost of the exam and a one-year membership.
On the other hand, the Security+ certification exam registration fee is typically around $349. It’s important to note that these fees are subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to check the official websites of (ISC)² and CompTIA for the most up-to-date pricing information.
Annual CPE maintenance costs
Both the CISSP and Security+ certifications require ongoing professional development to maintain the validity of the certification. For the CISSP certification, professionals are required to earn a minimum of 40 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits per year, with a total of 120 CPE credits over a three-year renewal period.
The cost associated with earning these CPE credits can vary depending on the chosen activities, such as attending conferences or completing online courses. Similarly, the Security+ certification requires professionals to earn 50 CPE credits every three years.
The cost of earning these credits can also vary, but it’s important to allocate a budget for professional development activities.
Certification Pathway Options
When considering a career in the field of information security, there are several certification options to choose from. Two popular choices are the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and Security+ certifications.
Each certification has its own unique benefits and career pathways. Let’s explore some of the different options available:
Pursuing Security+ before the CISSP
For individuals who are new to the field of information security, starting with the Security+ certification can be a great stepping stone. Security+ covers foundational knowledge and skills, providing a solid understanding of the principles and best practices in the field.
It is less demanding in terms of experience requirements compared to the CISSP.
By obtaining the Security+ certification first, individuals can gain practical experience and build a strong foundation in information security. This can enhance their chances of successfully pursuing the CISSP certification later on.
Many professionals view Security+ as a stepping stone towards more advanced certifications like the CISSP.
Obtaining both certifications
While Security+ focuses on foundational knowledge, the CISSP certification is considered more advanced and comprehensive. It covers a wide range of topics, including security architecture, risk management, and cryptography.
Individuals who hold both certifications demonstrate a well-rounded knowledge of information security.
Having both certifications can open up a wider range of job opportunities and increase earning potential. Employers often value professionals who possess a combination of foundational knowledge (Security+) and advanced expertise (CISSP).
This dual certification can give individuals a competitive edge in the job market.
Alternatives like the SSCP or CCSP
Besides the CISSP and Security+ certifications, there are other options to consider. The SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) certification, offered by (ISC)², is an excellent choice for individuals looking to specialize in operational security.
It focuses on hands-on technical skills and is often seen as a bridge between Security+ and CISSP.
The CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional) certification, also offered by (ISC)², is ideal for professionals who want to specialize in cloud security. With the increasing adoption of cloud technologies, the demand for skilled cloud security professionals is on the rise.
CCSP certification can provide individuals with the necessary knowledge and expertise to excel in this domain.
Ultimately, the choice between CISSP and Security+ depends on an individual’s career goals, experience level, and personal preferences. It is important to thoroughly research and understand the requirements and benefits of each certification before making a decision.
Both certifications can significantly enhance one’s career prospects in the field of information security.
The CISSP offers deeper knowledge assessment for high-level cybersecurity roles, while Security+ meets foundational certification needs for those earlier in their career.
Determine your experience level and long-term goals to decide if the CISSP, Security+, or both suits you best for career advancement.