The NEW CompTIA Security+: Your Questions Answered

by Matthew Stern | Nov 15, 2017
CompTIA Security+ IT Certification

The demands of a career in cybersecurity are changing fast. And CompTIA Security+ is changing to meet them. As the foundational IT certification in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway, the newest iteration of the CompTIA Security+ serves as a springboard for cybersecurity careers, ensuring security professionals are better prepared to solve a wide variety of issues when securing and defending networks in today's complicated business computing landscape. Below, we’ve answered some of the questions you may have about the changes to CompTIA Security+ and how you can add this powerful updated certification to your resume.

Why should I ​get the new CompTIA Security+?

If you want to get a job in cybersecurity, the new CompTIA Security+ will provide you with an endorsement of your skills that is respected globally and industry-wide. This will work strongly in your favor with potential employers for entry-level cybersecurity positions. But just as importantly, CompTIA Security+ allows you to confirm to yourself that you've mastered the latest skills and concepts that act as the foundation of a career in cybersecurity. When you've earned CompTIA Security+, you can be confident that your skills are up to par.

What sort of questions should I expect on the new CompTIA Security+?

IT is a hands-on pursuit. Keeping a business of any size cybersecure requires thinking on the fly and deducing what choices to make. To accurately test this, many CompTIA certifications, including CompTIA Security+, include performance-based questions, The revamped CompTIA Security+ features questions that require you to apply knowledge in simulations of the type of situations you would find yourself in on the job – questions that go more in-depth than traditional multiple choice questions.

CompTIA Security+ is the only entry-level cybersecurity certification that includes this type of hands-on evaluation. Those who earn it will uniquely demonstrate to employers that they have more than just an academic understanding of what's needed for the job. Test-takers report that performance-based questions take up about one-third of their total time on the exam.

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Concepts like risk management and risk mitigation have quickly moved to the forefront of the world of cybersecurity. Malware is more nefarious, and hackers have developed craftier forms of social engineering and system entry. And new devices that require security protocols are emerging every day.

Keeping a business cybersecure requires entry-level security technicians to have a better picture of the full operations of a network than was necessary even five years ago. So, the skills for identifying strange behavior on networks, understanding how proper network architecture can mitigate the damage of cyber-attacks and other higher-level concepts have begun to filter down the job ladder.

To put it simply, the baseline skills security pros need to do the job at the entry level have increased, and the new CompTIA Security+ reflects that.

What’s different between SY0-401 and SY0-501?

As cybersecurity has evolved, CompTIA Security+ has become the foundational certification while CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) and the forthcoming CompTIA Penetration Tester (CPT) have taken on the role of specialized certifications. The updated Security+ covers the baseline skills needed to perform core security functions, covering topics like risk management, risk mitigation, configuring resilient networks and using security frameworks. It goes more in depth than SY0-401 and includes four new objectives.

We also reorganized the exam so it covers threats, attacks and vulnerabilities before addressing tools and risk management techniques. In other words, it starts by answering what and then how but delves less into why than some of our more advanced certifications. It emphasizes application over analytics.

Do I really need to know these new concepts to keep networks safe?

In a word – yes! Being able to do hands-on audits of network security and penetration testing to reveal holes in security is becoming ever more crucial to hardening networks and maintaining appropriate security for business of all sizes. And it's also becoming more sought after by employers. So understanding these concepts – in addition to classic CompTIA Security+ material like cryptography – will only help you, both in your job search and in your mastery of the profession as you continue onward and upward.

What sort of jobs will CompTIA Security+ prepare me for?

In the past, CompTIA Security+ has verified the skills necessary for positions like network administrator, systems administrator and security administrator. With its enhanced objectives, the new CompTIA Security+ will, in addition to those positions, confirm a candidate's ability to thrive in emerging business-critical cybersecurity roles like junior it auditor and penetration tester.

How can I prepare for the exam?

There are a range of exam prep tools, instructional videos, training boot camps and the like out there for the existing CompTIA Security+, and many will be updated as the new curriculum takes effect. Explore these tools and find a way to study that works for you – and keep your eyes peeled for a new version of the online learning tool CompTIA CertMaster for Security+ (SY0-501), coming later this year.

When does the old exam expire?

The English version of the CompTIA Security+ SY0-401 exam will retire on July 31, 2018, and will at that point be completely replaced by SY0-501.

I am interested in a military tech role. Do I need CompTIA Security+? 

Many government, military and military contractor-related job roles require IT professionals to hold certifications that demonstrate baseline skills and comply with Department of Defense (DoD) directive 8570.01-M.

Because of the recognition it receives in both the public and private spheres and its reputation for thoroughness, CompTIA Security+ has long been, and will continue to be, a top choice for IT professionals who need to meet DoD benchmarks for cybersecurity roles. CompTIA Security+ is rated as an Information Assurance Technical (IAT) level 2 and Information Assurance Management (IAM) level 1.

Ready to get to work on the new CompTIA Security+? Get started today!

Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries. 

26 Comments

  • Roy Persaud

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    I might be interested

  • Nicholaus Chuwa

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hi, Where can I find exam preparations tools and videos? Regards, nicholaus.

  • Andre

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Does this mean that my current Sec+ Certification is becoming garbage? I am active duty military and normally we submit our CEU's before the Cert. expires and pay. What happens in my situation?

  • Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hi, Nicholaus! To find training materials, go to the Security+ page and click on "Preparation". From there, you can search self-study and classroom options. CertMaster for Security+ SY0-501 is slated for release at the end of November. Good luck! https://certification.comptia.org/certifications/security#exampreparation

  • Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hi, Andre! Not at all! Once you earn a CompTIA certification, as long as you renew it before the end of your three-year renewal cycle, it will still be valid. You have many options for renewing your certification, but if you'd like to get up to speed on the content covered by SY0-501, you can renew with a CompTIA recertification exam - the one for Security+ will be available in December. You can read more about how to renew in the CE section of our website: https://certification.comptia.org/continuing-education/choose Good luck!

  • Lisa

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Sounds like this exam is going to be harder then the last one. Is that true?

  • Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hi, Lisa! It will be different, for sure. When we launched SY0-401, we didn't have CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+), so Security+ had to cover a wide range of topics for IT pros working in a wide range of roles. With CSA+ and the forthcoming CompTIA Penetration Tester (CPT+) focusing on security analyst/penetration tester positions, it gave us the opportunity to dive deeper into foundational cybersecurity skills with SY0-501. It goes more in depth but with a narrower focus.

  • Raj

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hello, I had been preparing for sy0-401 and planning to write exam by Jan 2018. Should I have to take 501 now instead of 401?

  • Friday, November 17, 2017

    Hi, Raj! You can still take 401 through July 2018. When we release a new exam, we keep both versions live for about six months. Good luck!

  • Tamrat

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    I am confused on renewal and expiring. I certified 401 in March 2017. When is renewal expected? 3 years from March 2017 or soon 405 begin?

  • Steve

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Where could I find Exam dates and locations in my area for Sy0-401?

  • Edward

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

    Will taking ceus for the 401 and the casp keep me up to date with the 501 so I don't have to take the new security+ exam if I already hold a security+ ce with the 401?

  • Graham Johnson

    Sunday, November 19, 2017

    Is there a way to be notified when 501 becomes available.

  • Ajoy

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Hi Tamrat, The renewals are expected within 3 years from the day you took your test. So in your case, it would be March 2020 to either finish your CEUs or take a re-certification exam (SY0-501) or take a higher level exam like CSA+, CPT+ or CASP etc.

  • Monday, November 20, 2017

    Thanks, Ajoy! You beat us to it. Tamrat, what Ajoy says is correct - you have three years from the date you took your exam to complete enough CEUs to recertify. You can learn more here: https://certification.comptia.org/continuing-education

  • Monday, November 20, 2017

    Hi, Steve! You can find exam dates and locations via Pearson VUE, CompTIA's testing provider. Go here for more info: https://certification.comptia.org/testing/schedule-exam

  • Monday, November 20, 2017

    Hi, Edward! You are correct. When you earn a higher-level certification, it renews lower-level certifications, so getting CASP and keeping it current will also renew your Security+ certification, no matter what version it is. You can read more here: https://certification.comptia.org/continuing-education/learn/renewing-multiple-certifications

  • Monday, November 20, 2017

    Hi, Graham! CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 is available now! Consider yourself notified. You can purchase your voucher here: http://www.comptiastore.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=comptias CertMaster for SY0-501 will be available at the end of November. To stay up to date on all things CompTIA, be sure to sign up for our email list: https://comptia.typeform.com/to/mfONGV

  • Jacob

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    I am planning to take 401 in Dec 2017. If i fail, can i still re-sit before July 2018, or is there any restriction on 401 re-sits, since 501 is released?

  • Siya

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Hey I am a new security + Student and I'm about to book my exam in the up coming days and would appreciate any help I can get with my preparation

  • Hermann

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Hi, I have been study for the 401 and I am planning to take the exam before the end of the year. I don't nothing about the 501. Is to late to take the 401 if not the 401will be valid if I pass and also should I take the 401 and later on I can take the 501. Thanks

  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Hi, Siya! You have a number of options to prepare for your exam. First, I would recommend downloading the exam objectives and practice questions. Then, there are a number of self-study tools you can purchase - online, books, etc. Check out this blog post to help you prepare. Good luck! https://certification.comptia.org/it-career-news/post/view/2016/10/06/7-ways-to-prep-for-a-comptia-exam

  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Hi, Hermann! Whenever we release a new exam, we keep the old one active for about six months, so you can still take the 401 exam through the end of July. When you're ready to renew 401, consider taking the recertification exam, which will cover the content that was added with 501. Then you'll get the best of both worlds. Good luck! https://certification.comptia.org/continuing-education/choose/renew-with-a-single-activity/recertify-with-a-comptia-recertification-exam

  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Hi, Jacob! Thanks for your question. There are no restrictions - you can re-take 401 if you need to. Good luck!

  • Pat

    Monday, November 27, 2017

    I obtained my Security+ back in Oct 2007, at the time it was certified for life. Since then I have heard that it is now only good for 3 years and you have the option to re certify by gaining CEUs for the certificate. Working for the DOD, I have done the receritification each time it comes up for renewal but I am wondering is it necessary if I just want to keep my certification? Security+ and Security + CE, can you clear it up for me please? Thank you!

  • Monday, November 27, 2017

    Hi, Pat! Because you earned your CompTIA Security+ certification prior to January 1, 2011, it is considered good for life and does not expire. That means you do not have to renew it with CEUs. However, you do have the option of taking and passing the current exam to get the newer, renewable certification, which has a CEU requirement to keep it current. If you earn the new certification, you would then hold two Security+ certifications. I would recommend checking with your employer to see if they prefer one over the other. In terms of content, getting and renewing the current version will help you stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices in cybersecurity. Good luck!

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