This article is a comparison of the CompTIA Network+ and Security+. To see our full review of the CompTIA Security+, go here. To see our full review of the CompTIA Network+, see our article here.
As a tech professional or cybersecurity student, odds are you’ve heard of the CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications. Both are well-regarded certifications, and many people going into cybersecurity as students have asked me which of the two is more useful on the job market. In this article, we’ll compare the two and discuss the most useful for a beginning cybersecurity professional.
Network+ vs. Security+: Which should you choose? Aspiring computer networking professionals will need the CompTIA Network+ and will benefit from having the Security+, however, those intending to get into some aspect of cybersecurity will need to earn the CompTIA Security+ as a minimum.
Unfortunately, I’ve heard some cybersecurity students say that the CompTIA Network+ isn’t an important asset for cybersecurity professionals and that computer networking in general isn’t an important skill. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! As a cyber professional, understanding how to implement and manage a network is a very desirable skill because most attacks occur in some form of computer network system.
But where should you begin? Let’s take a look at the differences between the two certifications.
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What are the Network+ and Security+ Certifications?
You know they’re important. But what are they? The Network+ is an introductory level certification for IT professionals. It is intended for anyone interested in a career in computer networking, network security, systems administration, and computer support.
The Security+ is also an introductory level certification, intended for IT professionals interested in cybersecurity. Basically, any cybersecurity-related job requires an employee to have at least the Security+ certification.
Both certifications intersect on some level, but that doesn’t make them interchangeable. Network security is a feature of both the Network+ and Security+, but they are designed for two different sets of professionals, the networking professional and cybersecurity professional. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take one or the other, but keep in mind that having one does not mean you have the skills to successfully earn the other.
Who are the Network+ and Security+ certification exams intended for?
According to CompTIA, the Network+ is designed for anyone who will professionally troubleshoot, configure, and manage networks. The Security+ certification demonstrates a basic understanding of cybersecurity skills.
Both certifications are intended to validate an individual’s basic expertise in both networking and security concepts. Because the Security+ and Network+ are both introductory-level, they’re the best place to begin for anyone starting out in networking and/or cybersecurity.
Should you consider taking the Network+ or Security+ certification exams?
Certifications are critical in today’s job market. They prove to employers that you have the basic skills needed to perform a certain role, and certifications are especially useful when you lack in other qualifications, such as education or experience.
That doesn’t mean you should immediately buy a voucher and set a test date. These certifications are intermediate to entry-level, and that doesn’t mean they’re easy. It’s recommended that you take them only after you have some experience in a security-related or network-related job. CompTIA usually recommends between 6 – 12 months of experience for certifications at this level.
While experience is recommended, it isn’t required. It is possible to successfully earn a Network+ or Security+ certification after intensive studying. There are plenty of sample tests available to help you prepare for the certification exams.
For the Security+, it’s generally recommended that you have a solid understanding of the following skills and concepts:
- Command-line interfaces
- Network security
- Common vulnerabilities
- Secure network protocols
It is possible to study all these subjects successfully on your own without taking prep classes. There are plenty of tools available online to help you prepare for the Security+. If you are a cybersecurity student, the classes you take can help prepare you for many of the concepts the certification covers.
For the Network+, you need to understand these skills and concepts:
- Wireless networking
- Networking attacks
- Command-line utilities
- Connectors and cabling
- IP addressing
- Routing and switching
- Network protocols
You can see that these certifications have several concepts in common. Being able to use the command line interface, understanding network protocols and network security, are subjects that are covered in both certifications.
The Network+ stresses more network-related concepts than the Security+, but the similarities between the two stress how important both certificates can be to a cybersecurity professional. Likewise, the Security+ can be a valuable asset to anyone in networking.
So should you consider taking the Security+ or Network+? Yes. If you can, you should definitely try for not just one or the other, but both. In today’s job market, having both certifications can only increase your chances of getting a good job in a field that matches your expectations.
For a cybersecurity professional, the Network+ may not be mandatory but it proves that you have a basic understanding of how networks function, and with today’s cyber attacks that kind of knowledge is invaluable. Many cybersecurity jobs, from security analyst to penetration tester, require a solid understanding of networking.
Which should you take, the Network+ or Security+?
If you’ve read this far and are still debating which certification is best for you, read on to see a more in-depth comparison of the differences between the Network+ and Security+ certification exams.
Factor #1: Network+ and Security+ Certification Exam Requirements
While the CompTIA Network+ is introductory level, it still requires you to have a solid understanding of how networks function. While no experience is required prior to taking the exam, you should be familiar with all the concepts you’re going to be tested on.
Key skill areas that will be covered in the Network+ are general networking concepts, infrastructure, network operations, network security, and network troubleshooting. For this reason, the Network+ is difficult for beginners in IT.
With networking experience, you can master the Network+ in at least 60 days. Otherwise, you need to take your time familiarizing yourself with the concepts covered in the test.
Again, no prior experience is required for anyone interested in taking the Network+ exam. Experience only increases your familiarity with the subject and boosts your chances of being certified.
Unlike the CompTIA A+ certification exam which requires two separate tests, the Network+ requires only one. No sponsors or documented experience is needed.
Like the Network+, the CompTIA Security+ requires no prior experience, sponsorship, and is tested in one 90 question exam. If you do have prior experience in a security-related job, that will make studying for the exam easier. If you don’t, intensive study is all you need to succeed.
If you want to ace Security+ certification, you’re going to need a solid understanding of:
- The OSI model
- Types of cybersecurity threats
- Networking protocols
Basically, you need to be well-versed in everything the Network+ covers with a little extra.
The Security+ exam is tough, and you should take your time reviewing the subjects covered in the exam before signing up for a test date. You can take prep classes that will help you prepare for the exam, or there are resources online available to you.
There are plenty of study resources available for both the Network+ and Security+. While you should pick and choose your online sources wisely, many universities and colleges have classes that will help you prepare for the Network or Security+.
Factor #2: Cost
The CompTIA Network+ and Security+ are both fairy inexpensive compared to some of the higher-level certifications you might be interested in pursuing later in your career.
The Network+ costs $329. The Security+ is $339. Keep in mind that if you are a student, your college may offer a discount which can cut the price significantly. Similarly, if you are already an IT professional your company may cover the cost of your certification.
Costs can rise depending on what you’re looking for. $329 and $339 are just the base prices of the certification exams. Purchasing additional training can raise the price to up to $500.
While these certifications aren’t the most expensive, they’re still an investment, and you should make sure you are well prepared before you decide to take the test.
Factor #3: Exam Difficulty
There’s no doubt that the Network+ is difficult. That’s why a little experience in the field is required before you try to take the certification exam. The topics covered in the exam are in-depth and may require you to solve complicated networking issues. Simulations may be included that ask you to set up your own functioning network.
The Security+ is even more challenging. Not only are you required to understand networking concepts but you need to be current in your understanding of security issues as well. If you are a cybersecurity student or working in a security-related profession, you have an advantage in familiarity with these concepts.
That doesn’t eliminate the need for study. You should familiarize yourself with the question and answer format in the Security+ exam—not infrequently, you will be asked to choose between two right answers to a question to prove that you understand which solution to a security problem is not only effective, but the best. Make sure you understand all the topics covered in the exam before you attempt it.
Keep in mind that while the Security+ may sound like an advanced version of Network+, this isn’t actually the case. Network+ and Security+ are too very different certifications and based on where you see yourself in the world of IT, one or the other could be more important to your immediate career goals.
Factor #4 Employability
Either of these certifications will put you in a good position on the job market. Both are highly sought-after and can get you great, entry-level or mid-level positions. Most employers will not even consider an employee who doesn’t have certification.
The Network+ is most attractive to employers who want someone who can analyze network abnormalities or help them maintain a reliable network infrastructure. Jobs like network analyst, network administrator, and network engineer would fit an individual who could demonstrate familiarity with networks.
On the other hand, Security+ is specifically for people who intend to go into a security-related field. Pen testing, security analysts, cybersecurity consultants, all benefit from having the Security+.
Taken together, the Network+ and Security+ can broaden your choices on the job market. If you are interested in network security, you should certainly consider taking both the Network+ and Security+.
Factor #5: Recertification
Keep in mind that once you get your certification, that isn’t the end. In order to remain certified, you need to renew your Security+ and/or Network+ every three years.
CEUs (Continuing Education Units) are required to renew your certification. The number of CEUs required varies. For instance, if you have the Network+, 30 CEUs are required. For the Security+, 50 are required.
So what is a CEU? Basically, activities that cover the exam objectives. Related work experience, published articles, industry activities, can all contribute to CEUs. So if you’re already working in a security-related field, renewing your Security+ isn’t going to be that difficult.
Keep in mind that you will have to document all your experience in order for it to count towards your certification renewal.
The CompTIA site has a useful CEU Assessment tool that can help you figure out if your continuing education activities contribute to your certification renewal.
What about online exam question dumps?
Yes, they exist. No, they will not make your life easier. Imagine you were able to memorize the answers to all the available exam questions. Imagine you pass the Security+ or Network+. All good, so far, until you actually get a network or cybersecurity job.
These tests are meant to prove what you know. Memorizing meaningless words isn’t going to help you in your career goals. Understanding your subject thoroughly is the key to your success. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort, but when you succeed, you’ll have earned it.
Alright. Which should you choose first—the Network+ or Security+? As a cybersecurity professional, the Security+ is your primary objective. The Security+ is a basic steppingstone to getting a cybersecurity job.
Does that mean you should ignore the Network+? Not at all. As we’ve already seen, the two can complement each other. So much of cybersecurity defense is network-related that any demonstrated experience with networks is a great asset to your resume.
If you are a networking student or professional interested in transitioning to cybersecurity, you will need the Security+. If you’re a cybersecurity student, the Security+ should be first on your list as well. If you have or are planning to study for the Network+, go for it. The more certificates you have, the greater your chance of landing a really great job.