On Nov. 12, tech industry association CompTIA released the newest version of its Security+ certification exam. Over a number of years, Security+ has provided the cornerstone for a lot of cybersecurity careers. Like its most notable siblings in the CompTIA certification family, A+ and Network+, Security+ verifies knowledge of important core concepts, processes, tools, and techniques.
Deep knowledge of cybersecurity and fluency in its many applications is an increasingly valuable skill in the global information technology (IT) realm. Cybersecurity professional association (ISC)² recently reported that the number of skilled cybersecurity workers worldwide has grown substantially in recent years — but also that there are still millions of jobs unfilled.
That being the case, Security+ remains a vital point of entry for aspiring cybersecurity professionals to join the ranks of the multinational army that is pressing back against an ever-escalating tide of cybersecurity threats, attacks, and breaches. If you're new to IT, however, or even just switching to cybersecurity from a different IT discipline, then you shouldn't plan to go straight to the test.
It takes time, patience, and study to prepare for a certification exam, sometimes even if you aren't new to the subject matter. Fortunately for anyone interested in Security+, there are a lot of options out there for anyone who wants to take the exam but needs (or intends) to first devote some time to study and preparation.
It bears noting that, until the middle of next year, there will be two Security+ exams available. The new exam, SY0-601, is available immediately. The prior exam, SY0-501 (released Oct. 4, 2017), will also be available, however, until its scheduled retirement date of July 31, 2021.
With that in mind, let's consider some of the possibilities:
CompTIA Online Learning
You could get your Security+ certification prep straight from the horse's mouth, as they say. CompTIA Online Learning is centered around its CertMaster education platform, which has three different modes: CertMaster Learn, for newcomers who need to start at the very beginning; CertMaster Practice, for those who just need to brush up by zipping through a battery of practice exams; and CertMaster CE, for those who want to renew an existing Security+ credential. On top of all of that, CompTIA Labs offers applied learning in true-to-life setting via online practice labs.
Cost: The cost varies, depending on what options you select and where you live, but it's $499.00 for U.S. residents to access the comprehensive start-from-scratch CertMaster Learn approach.
TestOut Security Pro: For Educators / For Professionals
TestOut is unique in that you can use its Security Pro course to 1) prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam (you will pay the exam cost separately), and 2) earn TestOut's own cybersecurity credential (also called Security Pro), which is included in the cost of the course. As with CompTIA Online Learning, you can use Security Pro at your convenience. You can log in any time, from anywhere, to work on your exam preparation in TestOut's LabSim online learning environment. An updated version of Security Pro that covers all of the SY0-601 Security+ exam topics was released on Nov. 17.
Cost: $349.00/year or $79.00/month (individual users); Security Pro is also widely used by colleges and high schools.
CBT Nuggets' Security+ training is offered online. The course is guided by a CBT Nuggets "trainer," who researched and prepared all course material and teaches it via a series of training videos. Each course comes with a full Kaplan IT practice exam. As of this writing, CBT Nuggets is not yet offering training for SY0-601. The currently available Security+ training course is the SY0-501 version.
Cost: $599.00/year or $59/month
Pluralsight uses its own app to deliver courses online, but you can also work on your training without an active internet connection by downloading course materials. Pluralsight courses include a "premium" tier that adds practice exams, projects, and interactive courses to the overall experience. As of this writing, Pluralsight is not yet offering training for SY0-601, though its Security+ training author did create a course update covering cryptography and PKI last year.
Cost: $179/year or $269/year for Premium; $29/month (Premium tier not available)
Microsoft owns LinkedIn, so you can expect the level of quality here that Microsoft brings to all of its other IT education offerings. What you'll get here is a series of seven online video courses that vary in length from 46 minutes to 5 hours and 27 minutes (total length: 21 hours). As of this writing, LinkedIn Learning is not yet offering training for SY0-601, but (as with Pluralsight) the course author did create an additional module covering cryptography two years ago.
Cost: $29.99/month or $19.99/month if paid annually
Here's an interesting and distinguishing characteristic: Udemy's online training module offers "full lifetime access" included in its one-time fee. So, at least presumably, you could dip back into their training the next time that your Security+ credential is about to expire (Security+, like all CompTIA certifications, requires renewal every three years). Here as well, the currently available training covers SY0-501.
The Infosec Institute offers an intensive "boot camp" approach that includes a Security+ exam voucher, five days of live expert instruction (available in-person or online), access to hundreds of hands-on courses and practice labs, a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, and an "exam pass" guarantee. You'll pay a pretty penny for all of that (more about this in a moment), but this might be a good option for individuals who have an employer willing to either share the cost of training or foot the entire bill. The currently offered boot camp covers the SY0-501 exam.
Cost: It takes some hoop-jumping to get a price quote, but our base price was $3,714.00.