My goal for this post is to provide feedback on my experiences obtaining the CompTIA Security+ certifcation. Even though I passed the SYS-401 exam in October 2017, my past experience may help those preparing for the newer exam today.
I began my journey trying to determine how I wanted to learn the Security+ material. I limited my choices to a formal training (boot camp), self-study, and a college course. However, another deciding factor was how much money did I want to invest for this certification.
Based on my past experiences, I enjoy going to a formal training center and being immersed in a boot camp like atmosphere. I find that most instructors are knowledgeable about the topics they cover and this makes it easier for me to ask questions related to issues I have seen on the job.
However, in my situation, I was not involved with daily security functions at work and was afraid that I would not retain the knowledge being taught. Add the cost of the class and travel expenses, estimated to be over $5000, I could not justify this method of learning; even if my company was willing to pay for the class and the expenses.
After eliminating formal training, I started reviewing self-study material. During my research, I found many references to the Professor Messer video series. In addition, my company provided me with a Plural Sight subscription (~$500); which included Security+ videos and a testing engine. Both of these were very useful in my learning. However, I seemed to let life get in the way and started losing focus. Enter the college course.
While taking a basic HTML/CSS course at a local junior college I noticed that they had a degree program in Cyber Defense. Further investigation revealed that this college was an authorized CompTIA Academy and taught Security+.
After doing a little more research, the total cost of the class and books was less than $800. Based on the cost as well as having an avenue that would provide me the ability to retain the information being taught and being accountable for learning, I signed up for the next semester.
In combining the college class and the self-study material, I had finalized my strategy for learning the Security+ material. Once the material was learned, it was time to sit for the certification exam.
As to the exam itself, I found that it was challenging, but not as difficult as others that I have taken in the past. With that said, for those that have little to no IT or Security experience, this test could be very difficult.
For the most part, the questions on the test were covered by the topics in “CompTIA Security Guide to Network Security Fundamentals, Fifth Edition”. The exam questions felt as if the “kitchen sink” was being thrown at you based on the wide range of questions asked.
In addition to the CompTIA book, I found that the test bank of questions from Plural Sight were helpful as well. If memory serves me correctly, their question bank provided a good simulation of topics on the Security+ test. However, one probably would not pass this exam studying only with the Plural Sight testing engine.
In summary, I hope my experience is able to provide guidence and a learning strategy to those who are seeking the CompTIA Security+ certification.