CompTIA Security+ 501 vs 601: What's the Difference
As technologies evolve and work environments undergo the next steps in the digital transformation process, information and network security management procedures are more critical today than ever before. This is not limited to large organisations but also affects small businesses. 
Cybersecurity infrastructure is a leading and growing challenge among several corporate organisations. With the evolution of technology, cyber-attacks are not only increasing but also getting more advanced. By 2020, the average damage per cyberattack was estimated at $150 million.  
To fight off cybercriminals, discover vulnerabilities in existing security infrastructure and prevent cyberattacks, organisations are increasingly hiring in-house experts with advanced skills in network security. These experts are equipped with the knowledge and credentials needed to protect organisations against malicious third-party hackers.
Among the different credentials that network security experts can attain, CompTIA Security+ is one of the highest. It is a vendor-neutral certification program that is often one of the first network security certifications that IT professionals go for. It is also a highly recommended credential among organisations, higher than all other fundamental cybersecurity skill certifications. 
CompTIA Security+ is a certification program that trains you to locate threats, future threats and vulnerabilities and perform penetration testing. It also teaches you the basic concepts of scanning vulnerabilities and preventing attacks, along with installing, configuring identities, accessing services, managing controls, deploying components, and assessing and troubleshooting problems to improve security measures. You get the skills needed to implement and summarise best practices of risk management, implementation of secure architecture concepts in networks and designing systems. You also attain the knowledge necessary to install, configure security settings and implement the critical infrastructure. 
Several job roles within an organisation can benefit from a Security+ certification. This includes:
  • Security Administrator
  • Junior IT Auditor
  • Security Engineer
  • Security Consultant
  • Security Specialist
  • Network Administrator
Before 2020, professionals only had to pass the Security+ SY0-501 exam. That changed in November 2020, which was when CompTIA introduced the Security+ SY0-601 exam. CompTIA is ready to retire the 501 exams by July 2021, but you can choose which of these exams you wish to take to attain the CompTIA Security+ credential until then.
There are several similarities and differences between these organisations. Which one should you choose when you apply for your credential? But first, let's take a quick look at a comprehensive list of all CompTIA certifications.

CompTIA Certification Program:

In 1993, CompTIA received the A+ credential. It has issued certifications to more than two million individuals since then. CompTIA has a vendor-neutral certification program recognised as one of the premier ones in the global IT industry. 
CompTIA launched its 'Infrastructure Career Pathway' in 2018. This comprises various certifications you might or might not have heard of or read about that together form the base of all CompTIA certifications. The new solution track was meant to ensure that the certifications one chooses will align better to real-world situations and role-based skills that professionals might face whenever they work to support or manage an organisation's IT infrastructure. 
All the CompTIA certifications can be divided into four groups, based on the skill it tests. Every certification is a part of one of these groups.

Core Certifications

These certifications are aligned to help professionals develop their IT domain's fundamental skills. In this category, CompTIA offers four certifications to choose from.

Infrastructure Certifications

The second category has been created to align with Network+, a networking credential. This group has three certifications.
  • CompTIA Cloud+
  • CompTIA Server+
  • CompTIA Linux+

Cybersecurity Certifications

Within this category of certifications, you can choose from three globally renowned credentials designed for cybersecurity aspirants and individuals in the network and information security domain.
  • CompTIA CySA+
  • CASP+
  • CompTIA PenTest+

Additional Professional Certifications

Within this category of certifications, several credentials are not explicitly part of any predefined career path. They include:
  • CompTIA CTT+
  • CompTIA Cloud Essentials
  • CompTIA Project+

You May Also Like: CompTIA Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

About the Exam

The CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 exam was announced in 2017 and will retire, according to CompTIA, in July 2021. The CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 exam was announced in November 2020 and will be the only exam you will need to pass after July 2021 to earn the Security+ credential.
You will get 90 minutes to write the exam, which comprises 90 performance-based and multiple-choice questions. To pass the exam, you need to score 750 marks. There is an exam fee of $349 to be paid. You can give the Security+ exam in Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and English.
As a prerequisite to this exam, you must have a CompTIA Network+ certification, along with work experience in IT administration for at least two years, with security as your focus.

CompTIA Security+ 501 vs 601 -

  1. Number of Objectives: The SY0-601 has 35 objectives, which is less than the 37 that the SY0-501 has. 
  2. Examples Given: The SY0-601 has about 25% more examples than the SY0-501 did.
  3. Level of Understanding: By having more examples, the SY0-601 becomes much easier to understand than its predecessor, making it easier for you to learn.
  4. Number of Domains: The Security+ SY0-501 covered six domains, while the SY0-601 has just five. 
  5. Different Priorities: The SY0-601 exam has newer priorities when it comes to domains. The 'Attacks, Threats and Vulnerabilities' domain holds 24% weightage, compared to 21% in the SY0-501. Also, the 'Architecture and Design' domain in the SY0-601 carries a 21% weightage, compared to 15% in the SY0-501.
  6. New Skills in Focus: The CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 pays more attention to current skills essential to assess the cybersecurity position of a company's infrastructure, recommend and implement corrective measures, monitor and secure hybrid environments and operate while abiding by laws and policies that are in effect. It also places more importance on the identification, analysis and response to cybersecurity situations.

Importance of CompTIA for Businesses Today:

A cyberattack at some point has targeted almost every organisation, but only 38% of organisations are equipped to handle it. According to reports, 85% of professionals with a Security+ credential are more confident in their abilities and have 58% more knowledge than their uncertified peers. 
Give your career a boost and start training today.
Armin Vans
Aarav Goel has top education industry knowledge with 4 years of experience. Being a passionate blogger also does blogging on the technology niche.



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