With cyberattacks on the rise, cybersecurity skills are in high demand. For IT professionals looking to boost their cybersecurity career, CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) is an attractive certification option. But is CySA+ worth the time and money required to earn it?
In this approximately 3000 word guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of CySA+ certification to help you decide if it’s right for you.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: CySA+ is worth it for IT professionals looking to validate core security analyst skills and boost their cybersecurity career. While not as comprehensive as higher-level certs, CySA+ provides foundational knowledge and can improve job prospects.
Overview of CySA+ Certification
What is CySA+ certification?
The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification is an intermediate-level credential focused on threat detection and cyber incident response. Created and administered by the non-profit IT trade association CompTIA, CySA+ validates skills like using behavioral analytics to identify malicious activity, conducting vulnerability scans, and configuring intrusion detection systems.
It’s a great way for IT professionals to prove their security analyst abilities.
Who is CySA+ designed for?
The CySA+ certification is designed for IT professionals with at least 2-4 years of hands-on experience in system administration, networking, or security analysis. While there are no mandatory prerequisites, CompTIA recommends gaining the Security+ certification first to establish core cybersecurity skills and concepts.
Typical CySA+ candidates may work as security analysts, threat intelligence analysts, incident response analysts, and other similar roles focused on security operations and defense.
What does CySA+ cover?
The CySA+ exam tests knowledge across these security domains:
- Threat and vulnerability management
- Software and systems security
- Security operations and monitoring
- Incident response
- Compliance and assessment
Specific topics include SIEM, intrusion detection, packet analysis, log analysis, penetration testing, securing IoT devices, and creating incident response plans. Updated in 2021, the objectives cover emerging technologies like containerization and automation.
How difficult is the CySA+ exam?
On a scale of 100-900, CompTIA rates CySA+ as a 750 exam, making it an intermediate-level test. With hands-on cybersecurity experience, the content should be fairly manageable. But the exam covers a broad range of analytical and technical skills, so thorough preparation is important.
CompTIA estimates it will take about 12-20 hours of study to be ready. Practice tests are highly recommended to gauge readiness. The exam has up 85 questions and lasts 165 minutes. A score of 750 (on a 100-900 scale) is required to pass.
How much does CySA+ cost?
Here are the typical costs associated with CySA+ certification:
|Study materials and books:||$50-$300|
|Training course (optional):||$1200-$3000|
Becoming CySA+ certified clearly requires a financial investment. But many IT pros find it pays off with improved job prospects and higher salaries. The skills gained also have intangible value for your career growth.
The Pros of Earning CySA+ Certification
Earning the CompTIA CySA+ certification comes with several benefits that can boost your career in the cybersecurity field. Let’s take a detailed look at some of the pros:
1. Validates your core security analyst skills
Obtaining the CySA+ certification validates your skills as a security analyst, demonstrating to employers that you have the necessary knowledge and expertise to identify and respond to cybersecurity threats.
This certification proves that you have a solid understanding of security concepts, vulnerability management, and incident response.
2. Covers up-to-date cybersecurity topics
The CySA+ certification is designed to keep up with the rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape. It covers a wide range of topics such as threat intelligence, behavioral analytics, and security automation, ensuring that you stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and practices.
This knowledge will enable you to effectively tackle emerging threats and protect organizations from potential cyber attacks.
3. Fulfills DoD directive baseline requirements
The CySA+ certification fulfills the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 8570.01-M baseline requirements for Information Assurance Technical Level II and Information Assurance Management Level I positions.
This means that by earning this certification, you become eligible for a wider range of cybersecurity job opportunities within the government and defense sectors.
4. Opens doors to new cybersecurity job opportunities
With the increasing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals, obtaining the CySA+ certification can open doors to new job opportunities. Many organizations require or prefer candidates with industry-recognized certifications like CySA+ when hiring for security analyst or cybersecurity specialist roles.
This certification can enhance your resume and make you stand out in a competitive job market.
5. Prepares you for more advanced certifications
The CySA+ certification serves as a solid foundation for pursuing more advanced cybersecurity certifications, such as the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
By earning the CySA+ certification, you gain the necessary knowledge and skills to take your cybersecurity career to the next level.
The Cons of CySA+ Certification
Doesn’t cover cybersecurity topics in depth
While the CompTIA CySA+ certification is a valuable credential for cybersecurity professionals, one of its drawbacks is that it doesn’t delve into cybersecurity topics in as much depth as some of the higher-level certifications.
The CySA+ focuses more on practical skills and knowledge rather than theoretical concepts, which may not be suitable for those seeking a more comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity.
Less recognizable than higher-level certs
Compared to higher-level certifications like the CISSP or CISM, the CySA+ may not be as well-known or recognized in the cybersecurity industry. This can be a disadvantage when it comes to job opportunities or career advancement, as employers may prioritize candidates with more prestigious certifications.
However, it’s important to note that the CySA+ is still recognized and valued by many organizations, especially those looking for professionals with hands-on experience.
Requires ongoing CE to maintain
Another downside of the CySA+ certification is that it requires ongoing Continuing Education (CE) to maintain. This means that certified professionals need to regularly update their knowledge and skills by earning a certain number of CE credits within a specific time frame.
While this is beneficial for staying current in the rapidly evolving field of cybersecurity, it can be time-consuming and may require additional investments in training or resources.
Doesn’t guarantee a pay raise or promotion
Although obtaining the CySA+ certification can enhance your cybersecurity skills and knowledge, it doesn’t guarantee a pay raise or promotion. Salary and career advancement depend on various factors, including job experience, industry demand, and the overall market conditions.
While the certification can enhance your resume and make you a more competitive candidate, it’s important to manage your expectations and understand that it’s not a guaranteed path to financial growth.
Exam is challenging for beginners
The CySA+ exam is known to be challenging, especially for beginners or those with limited cybersecurity experience. The exam tests candidates on their ability to analyze and respond to real-world cybersecurity incidents, which requires a strong understanding of cybersecurity principles and practices.
It’s recommended for candidates to have at least 3-4 years of hands-on experience in cybersecurity before attempting the CySA+ exam.
Alternatives to CySA+ Certification
While CompTIA CySA+ certification is a valuable credential for individuals looking to pursue a career in cybersecurity, there are several alternative certifications and degree programs that can also provide a solid foundation in the field. Here are some options to consider:
Other entry-level cybersecurity certs (Security+, CEH, etc.)
If you are just starting your journey into cybersecurity, there are other entry-level certifications that can help you get your foot in the door. CompTIA Security+ is a popular choice, covering essential cybersecurity concepts and skills.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is another option that focuses on identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems, making it ideal for those interested in ethical hacking.
Intermediate certs like CISSP or CASP+
For those who already have some experience in the field and are looking to advance their careers, intermediate certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) can be excellent choices.
These certifications delve deeper into cybersecurity concepts, including risk management, security architecture, and incident response.
Vendor-specific certs (AWS, Cisco, Microsoft, etc.)
If you have a particular interest in a specific technology or platform, pursuing vendor-specific certifications can be a great way to showcase your expertise. Certifications like Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Security – Specialty, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security, or Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate can provide valuable skills and knowledge in securing specific environments.
Degree programs in cybersecurity
For those seeking a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of cybersecurity, pursuing a degree program in the field can be an excellent choice. Many universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity, covering a wide range of topics such as network security, cryptography, digital forensics, and ethical hacking.
These programs often provide hands-on experience and can open doors to more advanced career opportunities.
It’s important to carefully consider your career goals and interests when choosing an alternative to the CySA+ certification. Evaluate the specific skills and knowledge you want to acquire and research the requirements and career prospects associated with each option.
Keep in mind that a combination of certifications and degree programs can also be beneficial, providing a well-rounded skill set in the fast-growing field of cybersecurity.
Jobs and Salaries with CySA+ Certification
Obtaining a CompTIA CySA+ certification opens up a world of exciting career opportunities in the field of cybersecurity. With the increasing demand for skilled professionals to protect organizations from cyber threats, the job market for CySA+ holders is highly favorable.
Here are some of the common cybersecurity job titles for individuals with CySA+ certification:
Common cybersecurity job titles for CySA+ holders
- Cybersecurity Analyst
- Information Security Analyst
- Network Security Analyst
- Incident Response Analyst
- Vulnerability Analyst
These job titles represent a wide range of roles and responsibilities within the cybersecurity field. Each role focuses on different aspects of security, including analyzing threats, monitoring networks, responding to incidents, and identifying vulnerabilities.
Average salaries for CySA+ certified professionals
When it comes to salaries, CySA+ certification can significantly boost your earning potential. According to PayScale, the average salary for a Cybersecurity Analyst with CySA+ certification is around $80,000 per year.
However, it’s important to note that salaries can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and the size of the organization.
Furthermore, the salary range for CySA+ certified professionals can extend beyond the average, especially for those with additional experience or advanced certifications. Many employers recognize the value of hiring individuals with CySA+ certification, and they are willing to offer competitive salaries to attract top talent.
High-paying cybersecurity jobs requiring advanced certs
While CySA+ certification can open doors to various cybersecurity roles, there are also high-paying jobs that require advanced certifications in addition to CySA+. These advanced certifications demonstrate a higher level of expertise and specialization in specific areas of cybersecurity.
Some examples include:
|Job Title||Required Certifications|
|Cybersecurity Manager||CySA+ (or equivalent) + CISSP|
|Penetration Tester||CySA+ (or equivalent) + OSCP|
|Security Architect||CySA+ (or equivalent) + CISSP + CEH|
These high-paying jobs often require a combination of advanced certifications and hands-on experience. By starting with CySA+ certification, professionals can lay a solid foundation and then pursue additional certifications to further enhance their career prospects.
In summary, CompTIA CySA+ provides a solid baseline of knowledge for aspiring cybersecurity analysts. While not a comprehensive certification, it validates core skills needed to detect, respond to, and prevent cyberthreats.
For IT pros new to security, CySA+ is a valuable stepping stone that can open doors to exciting, lucrative cybersecurity careers.