A career as a cybersecurity specialist has an undeniable appeal. On a financial level, the position benefits because computer security is an absolute necessity within the modern networked world. And on a personal level, cybersecurity is exciting and filled with rewarding challenges. However, there’s another undeniable fact about cybersecurity. The field has grown in complexity over the years. And this has resulted in additional areas of study and certifications. Likewise, people interested in cybersecurity often find themselves confronted by the need to choose one certification over another. This commonly comes up with the CompTIA CySA+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications. Is one of these certifications better than the other? And what exactly do they cover?
What is the CompTIA Security+ certification?
CompTIA’s Security+ is often considered a foundational certification. It’s one of the first specialized certifications that you’d want to earn when starting out in a new field. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea to simply jump right into it as your first certification. The Security+ certification might be the first step into cybersecurity, but this foundation is itself built on top of a wide range of other prerequisites. For example, consider what you’d need to know to learn about network security and the need to pass the foundational certification in CompTIA A+.
Understanding network security requires an understanding of digital networks. Likewise, to understand those networks you need to understand the hardware they’re running on. This would include routers, servers, assorted accessories, and a variety of different operating systems. The Security+ certification essentially assumes that you have a basic mastery of those subjects. As such, it’s common for people to have already earned A+ and Network+ certifications before taking the Security+ exam.
The Security+ exam covers most conceivable elements of modern digital security. Some of the subjects covered by Security+ are obvious. For example, you’ll need to prove that you know how to detect, analyze, and respond to a cyberattack. Plus, the Security+ exam also covers some elements of cybersecurity that people often overlook. For example, imagine that your company planned to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) devices into the office infrastructure. You might know how to secure an IoT device, and you might know how to secure the company’s servers. However, what special precautions would need to be taken when both are used with full parity? Questions like these are one of the reasons the Security+ exam covers so many different subjects. It needs to touch on many topics to certify your ability to handle the basics of every possible security issue.
What is the CompTIA CySA+ certification?
The CompTIA CySA+ certification is a relatively new addition to CompTIA’s offerings. It was first offered to the public in 2017, but the exam filled such an important role that it quickly garnered a lot of professional attention.
The CySA+ certification is a new marker between the Security+ certification and the expert-level Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification. Before CySA+, people needed to move between a foundational certification (Security+) and an advanced one (CASP). This left an obvious hole where middle to high-level certification was needed. And CySA+ fills that gap.
It’s important to keep in mind that CySA+ technically has minimal prerequisites. However, like Security+, CySA+ expects a strong grasp of computer networking and hardware. And as a general rule, someone taking CySA+ will usually have already earned Security+ certification. This advanced knowledge base is reflected in the topics covered by CySA+.
CySA+ generally puts a heavy focus on analytics and threat detection. Essentially, it asks a central question. Not about how to solve security issues, but rather how you can analyze data to detect possible issues and fully deal with them before active threat mitigation is even needed. Pivoting the premise to prevention means that there’s also a heavy emphasis on the various software systems used to analyze data and potential threats.
What is the Difference Between CompTIA CySA+ and Security+?
The difference between Security+ and CySA+ can be best understood as a matter of depth. The two exams cover much of the same material. However, Security+ focuses on a more utilitarian principle. Security+ certification proves that its holder can handle almost any given security issue that occurs over the course of normal operations. However, it doesn’t attest to particularly advanced knowledge or skill with any individual subject within the broad banner of digital security. This by no means should be taken to imply that someone with a Security+ certification doesn’t have advanced knowledge of any given issue. It’s just that those advanced skills usually aren’t reflected within the Security+ certification itself. This is why Security+ is often seen as a foundational certification within cybersecurity. It’s a certification that people build on top of to demonstrate their overall skill set.
It’s true that CySA+ puts a heavy emphasis on data analytics and threat detection. However, the exam also tests applicants on many of the more advanced elements of subjects covered in Security+. This is also why most CySA+ certification holders have also passed the Security+ certification. In many ways, the CySA+ exam builds on top of the foundation laid down by Security+.
You should generally think of CySA+ and Security+ as complementary certifications rather than exclusionary to each other. Security+ covers a wide variety of subjects but generally stays at a utilitarian level. While CySA+ usually goes into more advanced depth on some, but not all, of those subjects. If you’re interested in cybersecurity, then working through Security+ and following up on it with CySA+ can be a solid plan for professional success. The good news is that the Cybersecurity program at Peloton College prepares you for both certification exams.
What Jobs are CompTIA CySA+ and CompTIA Security+ Best Suited For?
You’ve seen that the CompTIA CySA+ and CompTIA Security+ cover similar topics. And they also share relevancy to the same career paths. While the certifications can be used within a few different careers, the most common use is within cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity specialists handle a role related to computer and network security. However, they primarily work within a single company to ensure that its resources are secure and inaccessible to unauthorized entities. In doing so a cybersecurity specialist will usually take on a dual role of planning defenses and actively mitigating any ongoing digital attack.
The exact nature of a cybersecurity specialist can vary by individual skillset. For example, someone with a CySA+ certification has proven their ability to work with advanced analytics and threat detection. This would make them uniquely qualified to analyze server data to determine points of vulnerability. While someone with a Security+ certification might take those findings and implement a plan of action to deal with the potential risk factors.
And while a cybersecurity specialist usually works in a corporate environment, don’t assume that’s all there is to the job. Cybersecurity is also an important part of any business that has a networking infrastructure. For example, hosting companies have a strong cybersecurity team with a broad range of skills and duties. And smaller companies often need some form of cybersecurity. Though within the context of a smaller business this will often get rolled into the IT department as a whole. This career path is ideal for people with multiple certifications. For example, you might start out with a foundational certification in basic computer hardware and software like A+ certification. If this was expanded into Security+ then you’d have a range of skills that could cover multiple roles in a smaller IT department.
How Do You Become a Cybersecurity Specialist?
Now that you’ve seen how Security+ and CySA+ relate to cybersecurity, you might be wondering about the most efficient way to become a cybersecurity specialist. Thankfully, there’s a fairly straightforward answer to that question. You can attend a technical school program that teaches you the relevant skills needed for a career in cybersecurity.
A technical school program also helps you discover how you want to shape your future career path. Most areas of IT move and grow at a rapid pace, but an academic environment gives you a chance to get a true window into the IT world. The instructors have first-hand experience using the relevant technologies in real-world situations. And this experience can help you discover what it’d be like to work with those concepts, on a daily basis. For example, you might start a technical program with the intent of earning Security+ certification, but in the process, you might find out that the relevant areas of CySA+ are just as appealing.
A technical school program obviously teaches the relevant skills and helps you prepare for certification exams. However, it also teaches you about the various career paths that will become available to you once you’ve earned a certification. It’s this combination of real-world experience and academic expertise that makes technical school programs so effective.
Want to Learn More?
The Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity training program prepares and supports you in obtaining several certifications in support of their cybersecurity career including CompTIA’s A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, Pentest, & CySA+. AAS in Cybersecurity training program graduates will typically qualify for entry-level employment in roles such as Information Security Analysts and Computer Network Support Specialists.
The mission of Peloton College is to be the premier provider of hands-on training and education by providing you with the necessary skills to secure occupational careers. Contact us today to learn more.