The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is among the most respected computer security associations worldwide. Since its foundation in 1982, CompTIA has developed numerous certifications to support assessing individuals in the computing industry, beginning with networking, hardware devices, and reaching cybersecurity.
There are many certifications offered by CompTIA, the most popular ones among IT professionals are:
In this article, we will briefly discuss each certification from the perspective of a person who wants to follow a cybersecurity learning path. Also, we will suggest which certificate they should go with first. Before we begin, it is good to see the job outlook of CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications.
The job outlook of CompTIA certifications
The demand for cybersecurity experts remains high worldwide; according to Cyber Security Venture, there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings in 2025. For newcomers to the cybersecurity field, having a CompTIA certification remains a great option to start your career path. However, not all job roles provide the same level of employment. According to CompTIA "IT Career & Job Opportunities for November 2021", Network Engineer (17,397 jobs) and Cyber Analyst (16,406 jobs) were the top two IT roles posted the most significant number of IT jobs in October 2021 in the USA.
In 2021, the CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications were also among the top-paying certifications in the United States. For instance, the average annual salary of a Network+ certification holder was $82,656 Security+ salary reached up to $93,987.
The previous figure shows that having a CompTIA certification is worth the effort and money; this will become evidence of your proficiency in the field and increase your salary significantly.
What is the Network+ Exam?
CompTIA Network+ exam helps candidates understand the foundation of computer networking and how IT infrastructure works. The main areas covered in Network+ certifications are computer networks configuration, troubleshooting, and management.
Network+ is a vendor-neutral certification; hence, it allows learners to troubleshoot and manage networking devices from any vendor and under any platform. Unlike other vendor-specific certifications that focus on a specific equipment type or platform, like Cisco and Fortinet, CompTIA Network+ validates the certificate holder's IT networking experience up to the mid-level. The Network+ exam will cover the following key points:
- Fundamentals of computer networks consist of network design, topologies, cloud networking, and virtualization. Also, explain the concept of networking ports and protocols.
- Networking appliances, cables, and interfaces.
- The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model – Understand various devices, applications, and protocols at each layer in the OSI model.
- Networking infrastructure consists of networking devices (switch, router) and how each device functions.
- IPv4, IPv6, IP addresses, VLAN, and routing.
- Wireless technologies.
- Network security – understand authentication types and access controls, popular cyber-attacks types, and defense strategies.
- Network Troubleshooting – identify problems in networking connectivity (both wireless and wired) and software issues related to networking.
- Network Operations – Ensure the best network performance and monitoring to support organizational needs.
As we saw from the main points covered in the Network+ exam, this certification covers the foundation of networking; you must take this exam before attempting any other vendor-specific networking exam.
You can undertake various job roles after becoming a certified Network+ professional.
- Network Administrator
- Network Field Technician
- Junior Systems Engineer
- Network Support Specialist
- Systems Administrator
- Data Center Technician
What is the Security+ Exam?
Based on your knowledge of computer networks, tools, and related software, security+ will validate the technical skills of candidates about different cybersecurity topics, such as:
- Understand the different types of cyberattacks, such as social engineering and DDoS, and how to mitigate them.
- Understand the concept of penetration testing and how a vulnerability scanner works.
- Understand how to secure hybrid IT environments, including cloud and IoT.
- Understand how incident response works and how to respond to security incidents correctly.
- Understand how to install and configure systems to secure applications, networks, and devices (servers, endpoint devices).
- Understand and implement the best security in designing network architecture and system design.
- Understand how identity and access management works, how to implement it to store users' credentials, and how to govern their access to protected resources.
- Understand Risk management and its impact on business continuity.
- Understand the core concepts of cryptography, end-to-end security, and implementing PKI.
- Understand how to secure wireless networks.
- Understand cyber threat analysis techniques and respond accordingly to various cyberattacks types.
- Understand IT security policies and their importance in protecting sensitive resources.
- Understand data protection regulations and laws concerning data privacy and the importance of complying with regulations such as PCI-DSS, SOX, HIPAA, GDPR, FISMA, NIST, and CCPA.
Security+ certification is compliant with ISO 17024 standards and approved by the United States. DoD to meet directive 8140/8570.01-M requirements. It is considered the opening door for any Information Technology professionals who want to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Some job roles a Security+ certified holder can apply for include:
- Security Administrator
- Security Engineer
- Information Technology Auditor
- Systems Administrator
- Network / Cloud Engineer
- Software Developer
- Junior Penetration tester
- Information Technology Manager
Which one should I go with first?
The Network+ exam validates how individuals can install, configure, and troubleshoot networking devices; assess their understanding of how networking devices work, how IP addressing and packet forwarding works, and the different types of applications and services on each layer in the OSI model.
A Cybersecurity professional cannot understand how cyber attacks exploit their networks using various entry points without obtaining networking knowledge. Knowing how computer networks operate and interconnect and how packet filtering and IP addressing work is essential to understand how to secure IT environments in today's complex and hybrid IT environment.
Based on this discussion, it is best to take the Network+ exam after obtaining hands-on experience and passing the Security+ exam. The Security+ exam is considered the entry path for all newcomers who want to pursue a career in the cybersecurity field.
Taking the Network+ exam is especially important for less experienced IT users or those who do not have adequate hands-on experience in computer networks. Because the Security+ exam will not cover the core concepts of computer networking in-depth, understanding how to secure computer networks from cyberattacks is more difficult for those users.
Information security jobs are expected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, more than the average of all occupations. Boosted by the proliferation of cloud computing, IoT, and big data, According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 667,600 new jobs will be created and announced in this period.
There are millions of IT professionals worldwide, many of them are thinking of shifting their careers into cybersecurity. Acquiring relevant certifications is considered the best path to begin your cybersecurity career. This article discussed the most popular entry certifications from the CompTIA association, suitable for entry-level professionals who want to move to the next career level. CompTIA is possibly the best option because it offers vendor-neutral certification, ideal for implementing in any organization regardless of its technology or used platform.