CompTIA Security+: Anchoring IT Careers, Protecting Systems

by Janet Pinkerton | Jun 10, 2013

Since the CompTIA Security+ certification was introduced in 2002, nearly a quarter-million people have earned the credential in order to land a job, get a promotion or just further their own cybersecurity knowledge.

Soon, someone will earn the 250,000th CompTIA Security+ certification ever issued (likely in June), and CompTIA authorized partner Knowlogy will offer that person a free year of IT training. (If you want to be in the running, schedule your test soon!) CompTIA is also running a cybersecurity infographic contest in honor of the milestone. Winners will receive $100 Amazon giftcards.

The internationally recognized, vendor-neutral CompTIA Security+ certification helps people advance IT careers and organizations to secure IT systems. Typically earned in combination with certifications from CompTIA or other organizations, the certification can help to IT professionals at all stages in their careers to advance.

Criteria for Advancement

adam_darling Adam Darling

Adam Darling passed the CompTIA Security+ exam after already earning his CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications in order to gain more responsibility and a raise while working for defense contractor Advanced Resource Technologies Inc. (ARTI) in Alexandria, Va.

Darling is a lead software technician at ARTI. He explained, "One of the requirements for getting a higher-privilege administrative account was to have the Security+ because it is a Department of Defense requirement."

Since 2005, CompTIA Security+ is one of certifications that the DoD 8570-01.M Directive requires any military, federal or government contractor employee to have in order to work in Information Assurance Technician Level II roles. It is also an option for Information Assurance Management Level I roles. The certification requires candidates to demonstrate competency in:

  • Network security
  • Compliance and operational security
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Application, data and host security
  • Access control and identity management
  • Cryptography

Because Darling earned his CompTIA Security+ certification, ARTI gave him more responsibility and a raise. "Every certification that I get gives more opportunities for growth and more opportunities for my future," he said.

Career Change Catalyst

barrett_madison Barrett Madison

Earning the CompTIA Security+ certification, teamed with CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+, helped Barrett Madison to move out of unemployment into a new career that he loves.

Madison lost a full-time job working in a warehouse in July 2010. He wanted an entirely new career, but the post-layoff job hunt did not go well. "I was in low spirits," he recalled.

Then Madison learned that Maryland was promoting cybersecurity training. A self-described "life-long tech head," he signed up for two sessions of computer skill training at University of Maryland Baltimore College, for which the Maryland Workforce Exchange reimbursed half of his tuition.

Madison found the first session training for the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ exams relatively easy, thanks to his pre-existing computer knowledge. But the second session, training for the CompTIA Security+ and the EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker credentials, was more of a challenge. "When I got to the CompTIA Security+ program, that's when I realized there was a whole world above and beyond what I already understood about computers," said Madison. "It was absolutely fascinating."

His exam in July 2011 was initially "nerve-wracking" but after about 10 minutes, Madison told himself, "Take a deep breath. You know this stuff." And he passed.

Soon after passing the exam, a recruiter at a job fair looked over his resume and noted the CompTIA Security+ credential and later called Madison back for another interview. He eventually landed the job.

Now Madison works as an implementation specialist for Micros Systems Inc., a Columbia, Maryland-based provider of IT systems to the hospitality and retail industries. He travels frequently to work with Micros clients in Canada and the United States. "It's been great," he said.

Comprehensive Specialization

thor_pedersen Thor Pedersen

Some candidates earn CompTIA Security+ along with other security certifications to more deeply cultivate their cybersecurity career. For example, Thoke "Thor" Pedersen earned his CompTIA Security+ certification in Denmark in 2011, while working for TDC, Denmark's largest ISP. He also earned his CISSP, CCNA Security and Certified Ethical Hacker certifications. (CompTIA Security+ exams are taken in 108 countries in the world today.) Pedersen used the credentials to secure a new job and move his family to the U.S., his wife's home country.

"It's easier when you are studying for one exam to add on the others," explained Pedersen. "A good deal of what you are studying and working with is the same."

While CCNA Security was "very Cisco-routing-switching-focused," CISSP and CompTIA Security+ were somewhat more similar, he said, "For me, Security+ was a more practical approach, and a little more technical; whereas CISSP was more managerial-level, and a little broader."

The CompTIA Security+ certification aims not only to ensure that candidates will apply knowledge of security concepts, tools, and procedures to react to security incidents, but also ensures that security personnel are anticipating security risks and guarding against them.

"It definitely helped me get a job here," said Pedersen, who began work this spring as senior computer operator at Community Medical Centers in Fresno, Calif. "It's a big part of the job I have now."

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