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Why Security+ Certification Is Your Ticket to a Rewarding Career

Jacqueline Lee| April 07 2016

| security, IT insights

security-certificationDo jobs like security specialist, security analyst, systems administrator, security administrator, network administrator or security consultant sound right for you? Those who work in IT are always looking to bolster their current credentials or sharpen up in network security, and earning your Security+ certification from CompTIA can help you do both.

Why Security+ Certification?

You've probably heard there are plenty of security jobs and not enough skilled professionals to fill them. Although stats differ depending on the source, they all point to a significant shortage in infosec talent. Symantec CEO Michael Brown, according to CSO Online, says there will be 1.5 million unfilled cyber security positions by 2019. U.S. News & World Report ranked information security analyst as the 34th-best job in its 100 Best Jobs rankings, its ninth-ranked STEM job and its fifth-best technology job overall — with open positions expected to grow 18 percent through 2024. Those shortages, however, aren't entry-level opportunities.

For the most part, entry-level security jobs take an average of only three months to fill because expectations are fairly basic. These numbers tell you that when you're just getting started in network security, you're probably facing the highest level of competition (in terms of sheer number of applicants) you'll face throughout your career. Security+ certification distinguishes you from your competitors for these entry-level positions. As you progress into more specialized positions, where the shortage is severe, you'll find companies and government agencies willing to offer top dollar for your experience, skills and potential.

Even if you prefer network admin to a seat in security, keep in mind this credential makes you highly desirable as a multi-skilled sysadmin. In today's job market, security credentials are highly desirable even if you don't specialize in it.

How Much Could You Make?

If you earn your certification, get an entry-level job and continue to advance to more specialized positions, you can expect solid compensation as your career progresses. Take a look at these positions and the salaries they command now, according to averages from tech security job hub Dice:

  • Lead software security engineer: $233,333
  • Chief security officer (CSO) and chief information security officer (CISO): $225,000 and $192,500, respectively
  • Global information security director: $200,000
  • Security consultant: $198,909
  • Director of security: $178,333
  • Cyber-security lead: $175,000
  • Lead security engineer: $174,375

Security+ is vendor-neutral, which means you can apply these principles to a job opening no matter what kind of equipment or applications it may require. Nonetheless, it is recognized by such top tech employers as Dell, Apple and the U.S. Department of Defense. The certification complies with requirements of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA), and is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It's a highly respected and universally accepted IT credential.

How Do You Become Certified?

Certification starts with passing the CompTIA Security+ certification exam. It's a mix of multiple-choice and performance-based questions that cover network security, operations security and compliance, threats and vulnerabilities, and application, host and data security. You'll also be tested on your knowledge of access control, basic cryptography and identity management. Follow these steps to sign up for your exam:

  • Find a testing center near you. Visit CompTIA's site to search for a Pearson VUE testing center in your geographic area.
  • Buy a voucher, which costs $311. You can purchase it online from CompTIA. The exam code is SYO-401.
  • Create an account and register for your exam. Once you have your voucher, create your CompTIA/Pearson VUE account and schedule your exam.

Brushing Up

To study the material covered, most security pros recommend Mike Meyers' "CompTIA Security+ Certification Passport, Fourth Edition (SYO-401)." You can also find free overviews online, such as the Security+ review available on Wikibooks, but remember that Wikibooks is only a starting place for an exam overview. You can't always depend on it for 100-percent up-to-date information. If you prefer videos or similar e-learning content, try CompTIA's CertMaster training. Pearson also has an IT certification video series that covers common Security+ concepts.

If you fail your exam the first time, you can take a second exam immediately. Security pros who take the exam three or more times will have to wait 14 days between attempts. Once you've passed, you'll need to take 30 or more continuing education units (CEU) every three years. And once you have your CEUs and you've paid your renewal fee, you can renew your certification without retaking the test.

Get Started Today

Adding this certification to your resume is a great investment in your future. Whether you see yourself in full-time information security, as an executive or a network sysadmin, this credential shows you're an asset that can help today's organizations tackle their most urgent threats.

Don't sweat this thing too much; if you're keen enough to this cred in the first place, you're smart enough to get it.

Topics: security, IT insights

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Jacqueline Lee

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