Is CompTIA Security+ Worth It? A Salary Perspective

IT security is expected to grow 28 percent between 2016 and 2026, making this field an attractive career option. Many professionals turn to certifications to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Today, we take a closer look at the CompTIA Security+ certification and ask the question – is it worth it? 

Security is one of the fastest growing areas in IT. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 28 percent for Information Security Analysts between 2016 and 2026. (Information Security Analysts is a general job category designation used by the BLS for security-related roles in the field of Computer and Information Technology.) With growth rates higher than the national average, IT security-related positions continue to be a very attractive career option for those seeking entry to security roles or looking to make a career change.

Almost 90 percent of IT professionals hold at least one certification. Many IT professionals view certifications as a way to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce marketplace. Unfortunately, not all certifications are created equal, and popularity doesn’t necessarily guarantee a return on investment in terms of helping you to gain a new job or secure a much-needed raise.

Today, we’re going to take a look at one of the CompTia’s star certifications — CompTIA Security+ — and examine whether it delivers in terms of advantages in hiring and higher salary.

About CompTIA Security+

Globally recognized, CompTIA is one of the world’s largest IT trade associations. A leader in vendor-neutral certifications, CompTIA has awarded more than two million certifications since its inception in 1993. Currently, it offers 13 vendor-neutral credentials across four focus areas: core skills, infrastructure, cybersecurity and other professional skills (project management or training, for example).

One of CompTIA’s most popular certifications to get, the CompTIA Security+ credential is part of CompTIA’s Core certification portfolio, which includes the IT Fundamentals+, A+, and Network+ credentials. Security+ builds on the technical and networking skills gained through the A+ and Network+ certifications. Both A+ and Network+ are recommended prerequisites for the Security+ certification, along with two years of security-focused IT administration experience.

An entry-level credential, Security+ is ideal for individuals seeking to establish themselves as IT security professionals. The certification targets IT professionals who troubleshoot, configure and manage networks. It not only validates a candidate’s knowledge of core cybersecurity topics, but also their ability to perform core cybersecurity tasks. Security+ credential holders are able to identify and solve security issues and are well-versed in managing and mitigating risks and detecting threats.

The latest version of the certification exam is sy0-501. Like many other certifications, Security+ is valid for a limited period of time and requires continuing education for each renewal.

CompTIA Security+: Salary Overview of Certified Professionals

As an entry-level credential, Security+ is frequently one of the first certifications obtained by aspiring IT security professionals. It validates that a candidate possesses the knowledge and skills to fulfil a variety of junior and entry-level security related roles, such as penetration tester, junior IT auditor, and systems, network or security administrator. Security+ skills are also used by security specialists, engineers and security consultants.

According to the May 2017 BLS Occupational Employment and Wages (BLS wage) report, the national mean wage for security analysts is $99,690, with the top ten percent earning more than $153,000.  There are a number of factors — specific job role, years of experience, industry sector and geographic location, for example — that influence individual salaries. The report notes that IT security employment rates are highest in Virginia, California, Texas, New York and Florida. On the other hand, if you’re looking for top earning power, then the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Maine are the big winners. (Similarly, Global Knowledge’s 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report says that survey participants in the south and northwest earned lower salaries, and higher salaries were reported in the eastern states.)

The BLS report also indicates that the top five paying industries for IT security professionals are (1) Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers; (2) Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities; (3) Scientific Research and Development Services; (4) Utility System Construction; and (5) Legal Services. Please refer to the May 2017 BLS Occupational Employment and Wages to learn more about security job opportunities and salaries in your location and industry.

To provide typical salaries for some of the various Security+ job roles, I conducted a salary search on SimplyHired (a popular job board).  As noted above, many factors influence an individual’s salary, but the table below provides an example of what wages different security-related roles command.

Job Role Low Salary Median Salary High Salary
Junior IT auditor $67,746 $83,769 $103,580
Penetration tester $81,910 $110,026 $147,794
Systems administrator $49,193 $77,858 $123,224
Network administrator $50,642 $74,033 $108,229
Security administrator $58,821 $82,425 $115,500
Security specialist $14,711 $31,569 $67,745
Security engineer $59,892 $97,999 $97,999
Security consultant $55,487 $94,249 $160,092

Is CompTIA Security+ Worth it?

Do certifications matter? The answer is a resounding YES!

According to CompTIA, 96 percent of managers look for certifications when screening candidates or include certifications as part of the job requirements. The data in the Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report indicates that 15 percent of respondents reported that adding new certifications to their skill set resulted in receiving a raise, with some respondents reporting raises of as much as 16 percent. The Global Knowledge report also notes that certified IT professionals earn 22 percent more than their non-certified counterparts, which makes a strong statement in favor of earning certifications.

Are employers looking for Security+ certified professionals?

The CompTIA Security+ credential is very popular with job seekers and employers alike. A simple search for “CompTIA Security+” on SimplyHired yielded 2,250 job postings in which employers are seeking candidates who possess the Security+ credential.

What about earning potential?

The CompTIA Security+ credential ranks number 10 on Global Knowledge’s list of the top 20 highest paying certifications.  Also included in the top 20 list are the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential from (ISC)2 (which took the number one slot), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) from ISACA, which ranked number 6.

As you can see from the table below, the average salary of people holding the either the CISSP or CISM is $20,000 more than what average Security+ certification holders earn. This salary difference is not surprising given that both CISSP and CISM are expert-level credentials geared to seasoned, experienced security professionals at the pinnacle of their careers, while Security+ is an entry-level credential.

Salary facts at a glance  

Certification Salary Exam Fees Experience Level
CompTIA Security+ $84,000 $319 Entry
CISSP $110,000 $800 Expert
CISM $106,000 $800 Expert

Certifications do make a difference. IT professionals with certifications gain skills that enable them to perform more quickly, easily and confidently, which often translates into higher salaries. If you’re new to the IT security field and seeking to validate your skills to current or prospective employers, then the CompTIA Security+ is a great vendor-neutral credential that will add value to your certification portfolio. On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned security professional, you may want to take a closer look at the CISM or CISSP, since these certifications are a better fit for experienced security professionals.

If you have decided to pursue the Security+ certification and need some help to nail the exam, check out a practice test and study guide we created to support you in your certification preparation journey.

Mary is a freelance writer, content developer, and project manager. She writes articles related to IT certifications, health, and develops content for courses.