Earning a globally recognized security certification is a great way to expand your career prospects and give future employers the message that you are dedicated to the field of security. Employers are looking for both experience and education, and increasingly turn to certifications to identify candidates who have a competitive edge.

But which certification should you get? Which one will offer you both an educational experience you can use to enhance your skill set, as well as impress potential hiring managers?

Two common certifications for professionals at the early stages of a security career are the SSCP from ISC2 and Security+ from CompTIA. Let’s compare the features of both to understand how they differ.

The SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner)

Cost: $249

Number of questions: 125 items

Time to complete: 180 minutes

Who should get it?

The SSCP is ideal for IT administrators, managers, directors and network security professionals responsible for the hands-on operational security of their organization’s critical assets. It shows you have the advanced technical skills and knowledge to implement, monitor and administer IT infrastructure using security best practices, policies and procedures.

Jobs that use the skills and education this certification offers include Database Administrator, Network Security Engineer, Security Administrator, Security Analyst, Security Consultant/Specialist, Systems Administrator, Systems Engineer and Systems/Network Analyst.

What kind of experience do I need?

To qualify for SSCP certification, candidates must pass the exam and have at least one year of cumulative, paid work experience in one or more of the seven domains of the ISC2 SSCP Common Body of Knowledge.

The domains covered in the exam are:

Domain 1. Access Controls
Domain 2. Security Operations and Administration
Domain 3. Risk Identification, Monitoring and Analysis
Domain 4. Incident Response and Recovery
Domain 5. Cryptography
Domain 6. Network and Communications Security
Domain 7. Systems and Application Security

Other factors to consider:

A candidate who doesn’t yet have the required work experience to become an SSCP may take the exam, and then become an Associate of ISC2 after successfully passing the SSCP exam. The Associate of ISC2 will then have two years to earn the work experience needed for full SSCP certification.


Obtaining the SSCP sends a clear message that you are dedicated to the professional path of an information security leader and serious about the career. The certification is also administered by the same organization that offers the CISSP credential, which is widely considered the world’s premier cybersecurity certification. Many who take the SSCP say it is a solid training ground for the CISSP. It is also a great place to start for those who want to demonstrate more advanced skills in security operations and administration. It is valid for three years, and 60 continuing professional education (CPE) credits are required to renew.


Number of questions: The CompTIA SY0-401 exam has 90 questions

Time to complete: 90 minutes

Who should get it?

Roles that would use the education gained from Security + include Systems Administrator, Network Administrator, Security Administrator, Junior IT Auditor/Penetration Tester, Security Specialist, Security Consultant and Security Engineer.

According to CompTIA, the exam will certify the successful candidate has the knowledge and skills required to install and configure systems to secure applications, networks and devices; perform threat analysis and respond with appropriate mitigation techniques; participate in risk mitigation activities; and operate with an awareness of applicable policies, laws and regulations. The successful candidate will perform these tasks to support the principles of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

What kind of experience do I need?

Security+ is an entry-level certification for candidates to demonstrate basic cybersecurity knowledge and perform basic security tasks, including configuring, managing and troubleshooting networks. They must also possess the skills necessary to identify threats, detect intrusions and conduct penetration testing, and be well-versed in risk management and mitigation.

Other factors to consider:

CompTIA recommends candidates also have their Network+ credential and two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus before taking the exam.


Security+ certification is for junior-level IT security professionals who are just beginning in cybersecurity. It is valid for three years, and 50 continuing education (CE) credits are required to renew.

Read the related article, Security+ or SSCP: Which Entry-Level Certification Is Right for Me?