What Is the CompTIA Security+ (Plus) Certification? 2024 Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about this popular entry-level credential and how to earn it.

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The CompTIA Security+ certification is an internationally-respected cyber security certification that focuses on specialised knowledge required by information security professionals. For many aspiring cybersecurity professionals, earning this popular entry-level certification can be a first step toward a rewarding, in-demand career.

What is Security+?

Security+ is the entry-level cyber security credential offered by non-profit trade association CompTIA. This certification was launched based on the need for a specialised certification for information security professionals. It builds on foundational knowledge gained in CompTIA certifications such as A+, Network+, and Server+. However, you do not need to obtain any previous certifications to take the Security+ exam. 

Security+ is typically the first certificate many IT security professionals earn and is often considered a baseline requirement for roles in the IT field. By showing potential employers that you have the core skills required for a cybersecurity role, you may find more job opportunities as a more competitive candidate. 

What does the exam cover?

The CompTIA Security+ ranks as one of the most popular certifications for cybersecurity professionals. It focuses on hands-on, practical security skills in six major domains. Preparing yourself for the exam gives you a broad base of practical knowledge and skills you’ll need to handle real-world security situations. Here’s a list of the domains and topics covered on the exam:

  • Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities include social engineering attacks, newer denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and vulnerabilities found in the Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded devices.

  • Architecture and design: Focuses on enterprise, cloud, and hybrid environments.

  • Implementation: This domain covers topics like identity and access management, cryptography, end-to-end security, and public key infrastructure (PKI).

  • Operations and incident response: This section tests your knowledge of incident response procedures, including threat detection, security controls, risk mitigation, and digital forensics.

  • Governance, risk, and compliance: Make sure to understand major risk and compliance regulations, including HIPAA, GDPR, SOC, NIST, CCPA, FISMA, and PCI-DSS.

Security+ prerequisites

There are no formal requirements to take the Security+ exam. CompTIA recommends that you have two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus. Having an up-to-date CompTIA Network+ or Server+ certification may also be a good idea.

CompTIA Security+ exam details

Earning your Security+ certification requires passing a certification exam. Let’s take a closer look at the details of this exam as of April 2023.

Exam codeSY0-601
Number of questions90
Passing score750 (from 900 possible)
Test length90 minutes
Recommended ExperienceCompTIA Network+ and two years of experience in IT administration and security

Types of questions on the Security+ exam

You’ll find two types of questions on the latest version of the Security+ exam, traditional multiple-choice questions and performance-based questions (PBQs). PBQs test your ability to solve security problems in a simulated environment; for example, you might be asked to install and configure a firewall or set up a wireless network.

PBQs often appear toward the beginning of the exam. If you get stuck on a question, you can flag it for review and return to it if you have extra time at the end of the exam. All of your work will be saved. Some PBQs may offer partial credit, so it’s a good idea to complete as much of the question as you can.  

Complete the sample PBQ on the CompTIA website before your exam so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

What’s new on version SY0-601

The latest version of the Security+ exam was launched in November 2020. This version covers five domains, including three new or updated domains from the last exam. These new domains—Implementation; Operations and Incident Response; and Governance, Risk, and Compliance—reflect the evolving industry. As you prepare for the exam, be sure your materials cover the 601 exam objectives. 


Is the Security+ certification worth it?

Passing the Security+ exam often requires an investment of both time and money. The return on your investment will depend on your personal career goals. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, having a credential like Security+ on your resume could give you a competitive edge as you apply for jobs. 

But there are other potential benefits as well. Preparing for the exam can be a good way to develop your cybersecurity skills, giving you greater confidence in your ability to handle real-world security threats. Taking the CompTIA Security+ exam in the UK will cost £233.

Jobs that hire for Security+

Many jobs in the information security field use the skills and knowledge tested by Security+. Here’s a look at some available job titles on LinkedIn that request or require this certification, along with average salaries in London, UK, from Glassdoor as of April 2023:

  • SOC analyst (UK): £39,485 [1]

  • Systems administrator (UK): £41,254 [2]

  • Vulnerability analyst (UK): £40,126 [3]

  • Database administrator (UK): £43,708 [4]

  • Cyber security consultant (UK): £53,472 [5]

  • Information security analyst (UK): £49,852 [6

  • Information systems architect (UK): £68,638 [7]

How to prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam

There’s more than one way to prepare for the Security+ exam. How you choose to prepare will depend on your previous experience, current knowledge, and learning style. Here are some options to consider. 

1. Exam prep courses

Several organisations offer exam preparation courses specifically for the Security+ exam (including CompTIA). Registering for a course can structure your learning and help ensure you cover all the required topics. As you’re researching courses, make sure to find one that covers the latest version of the exam (SY0-601).

2. CompTIA Security+ practice tests

Taking a practice test can help you identify what topics you might need to study for the test. This could help you be prepared for the test day. CompTIA offers a free practice test for the Security+, though you can find many others with a quick internet search. 

If you’re preparing for the exam on your own, it might help to take a practice test early in your preparation to assess your knowledge, then again a couple of weeks before your exam date to determine where you still need to study.

3. Books, blogs, and websites

If you’d prefer to build your own program to prepare for the exam, you’ll find no shortage of resources—everything from books and website articles to blogs and podcasts. Here are a few resources recommended by those who’ve passed the exam:

  • Professor Messar: This popular YouTube channel features 177 free videos specifically for the latest Security+ exam. They’re also available as a podcast.

  • CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-601 Study Guide: This book by Darril Gibson, available as an ebook or paperback, covers the exam objectives with more than 300 practice test questions with detailed explanations. 

  • Quizlet: Build your own set of flashcards to study acronyms.

4. Exam tips

No matter how you choose to prepare for the certification exam, here are some tips to help you succeed.

  • Use flashcards to help you memorise acronyms and port numbers.

  • Read all the answer options in multiple choice questions carefully, and eliminate the ones you know are wrong before choosing your answer.

  • If you’re unsure about a question, flag it for review and come back to it later if you have time.

  • Pay attention to words like “best,” “most,” and “least” in the test questions. These can sometimes help you narrow down your answer options. 

  • Take sample tests from more than one vendor. Continue preparing until you can reliably pass with an 80 or 90 per cent.

  • Answer every question, even if you have to guess. CompTIA does not penalise your score for wrong answers.

  • You can reschedule your exam up to 24 hours before your appointment time. Feel free to take advantage if you feel you need more time to prepare.

  • Join the CompTIA groups on Reddit and Discord to connect with others studying for the exam.

What’s next: Cybersecurity certification paths

Earning your Security+ is a major accomplishment. It could also be the first step in a long career in cybersecurity. As you advance in the field, you may pursue other certifications to qualify for better opportunities. 

Get started in cybersecurity

If you’re interested in starting a career in cybersecurity or information technology, consider building essential skills with the Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate on Coursera. Build job-ready skills at your own pace as you learn how to protect networks, devices, people, and data from unauthorized access and cyberattacks.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “SOC Analyst Salaries in London, England, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/london-england-soc-analyst-salary-SRCH_IL.0,14_IC2671300_KO15,26.htm.” Accessed April 28, 2023.

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