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Your Go-To Guide For CySA+

Your Go-To Guide For CySA+

The cybersecurity industry is one of the fastest growing in the world. The market is expected to grow at an astounding 13.3% per year in the next five years, reaching $298.7 billion USD by 2027.

But what does that mean for you?

It means there are more opportunities than ever before to launch a career in cybersecurity. In fact, CyberSeek estimates that there are over 769,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone. Out of these, the top three most sought-after positions are cybersecurity analyst, software developer, and penetration and vulnerability tester.

The problem is that there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill all these positions. In order to help bridge this skills gap, CompTIA offers the Cybersecurity Analyst+ (CySA+), which is an intermediate-level cyber security certification geared towards security analysts.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the CySA+ cert, including what it is, who it’s for, what you need to do to earn it, and what benefits it can offer you.

What is the CySA+?

The Cybersecurity Analyst+ is a performance-based certification that covers the core principles of IT security and risk management. The CySA+ was designed to validate the skills and knowledge necessary to configure and use threat detection tools, perform data analysis, interpret results, and recommend mitigation strategies.

The CySA+ focuses on the hands-on application of these skills, rather than on theory. As such, it is an excellent choice for those who want to prove their practical knowledge of cybersecurity.

The certification is designed by CompTIA, a leading provider of IT certification exams. The CySA+ is one of four certifications in CompTIA’s Cybersecurity Certification Pathway, which also includes the A+, Network+, and Security+ certs.

The CySA+ is recognized by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as meeting Directive 8570.01-M requirements for five job categories:

  • Cybersecurity Service Provider (CSSP) – Analyst
  • CSSP – Auditor
  • CSSP – Incident responder
  • CSSP – Infrastructure support
  • Information assurance technician level II

In other words, if you have your CySA+, you can work as a cybersecurity analyst for the US government.

The CySA+ is also compliant with the ANSI ISO/IEC 17024 standards, meaning that it has been independently verified to meet international quality standards.

Who is the CySA+ for?

The CySA+ is intended for IT professionals who work in security operations and threat intelligence, including roles such as:

  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • Security operations center (SOC) analyst
  • Threat intelligence analyst
  • Vulnerability analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Incident response handler

The recommended requirements for taking the CySA+ are at least 4 years of hands-on experience in IT security. Having certs such as the CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ under your belt (or equivalent knowledge) is also highly recommended.

If you’re just starting out in your cybersecurity career, the CySA+ may not be the best cert for you. In that case, you might want to consider the entry-level Security+ or even the A+.

On the other hand, if you are not a beginner and would like to move up to a more advanced certification, such as the CASP+ or CISSP, then the CySA+ would be an excellent steppingstone.

What does the CySA+ cover?

The current version of the CySA+ exam (the CS0-002) was released in April 2020 and consists of a minimum of 85 both multiple-choice and performance-based questions. These performance-based questions require candidates to solve real-world problems using a simulated environment.

You will have 165 minutes to complete the exam, which is available in English and Japanese.

The CS0-002 exam version covers the following five domains:

  • Security operations and monitoring (25% of exam) – This domain covers the skills necessary to configure and use security tools, interpret data results, and identify and recommend mitigation strategies.
  • Threat and vulnerability management (22% of exam) – This domain covers the skills necessary to identify, prioritize, and remediate security threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Incident response (22% of exam) – This domain covers the skills necessary to detect, respond to, and resolve incidents.
  • Software and systems security (18% of exam) – This domain covers the skills necessary to secure systems and software through the use of various security solutions. Software and hardware assurance measures and best practices are also covered in this domain.
  • Compliance and assessment (13% of exam) – This domain covers the skills necessary to understand compliance requirements and assess an organization’s compliance posture.

Here we have to emphasize that a new version of the CySA+ exam is already in beta and is expected to be released in the first half of 2023. The exam blueprint for the upcoming version may be subject to change.

What score do you need to pass CySA+?

On a scale from 100-900, you will need a score of 750 or higher to pass the CySA+ exam.

You can take the exam as many times as you need to, but you will have to pay the exam fee each time. The current fee is $392 USD, although this may change with the release of the new exam version.

If you fail your exam the first time, you can retake it without a waiting period. However, if you fail a second time, you will have to wait at least 14 days before taking the exam again. The same goes for each subsequent attempt.

Is CySA+ worth it?

After going through all the requirements and exam details, you might be wondering if the CySA+ is worth your time and money.

The answer to that question depends on several factors, such as your experience level, career goals, and employer’s needs.

Here are some key benefits of the CySA+ that might make it a good fit for you:

  • New career opportunities – The CySA+ is highly respected in the industry and can help you move up the cybersecurity career ladder. If you are looking to expand your skill set and take on more responsibility, the CySA+ can give you the boost you need.
  • Higher salary – A short glance at the current job postings looking for a CySA+ certified information security analyst shows that the salary for this position goes up to $210,000 USD per year.
  • Government recognition – If you are working in or seeking a job in the federal government, holding the CySA+ will give you a major advantage.

If you posted the question of whether the CySA+ was worth it on Reddit, you’d mostly find positive reviews from those who have already got the certification.

A lot of users report back that the CySA+ was a great way to validate their knowledge and helped them get a raise or a promotion. It is an excellent intermediate step for those who are looking to move up from an entry-level position.

Positive reviews like these show that the CySA+ is definitely worth considering if you are interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity.

How to prepare for CySA+?

Now that we’ve gone over all the basics of the CySA+, it’s time to talk about how you can prepare for the exam.

The first step is to visit the CompTIA website and download a copy of the CySA+ Exam Objectives. This document will give you a good overview of the topics that will be covered on the exam.

Once you have a general understanding of the exam content, you can start looking for study materials. There are many different ways to prepare for the CySA+, but some of the most popular methods include attending a training course, using practice exams, and reading study guides.

Instructor-led training courses are a great way to prepare for the CySA+ exam. These courses are typically led by experienced cybersecurity professionals who can provide you with in-depth knowledge of the topics covered on the exam. If you are the type of learner who prefers face-to-face interaction, a training course might be the best option for you.

If you have the budget, attending a training course is definitely worth considering. However, keep in mind that these courses can be expensive and may not be feasible for everyone.

If you can’t attend a training course, don’t worry – there are plenty of other options available. One popular method is the self-study approach, which involves using practice exams and study guides to prepare for the exam on your own.

This method is often more affordable than attending a training course and can be just as effective if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

Some training institutions, such as the CyberAgility Academy, offer both instructor-led courses and self-study options. This gives you the flexibility to choose what best suits your needs and budget.

Is CySA+ hard?

No matter which study method you choose, make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare for the exam. Depending on your experience level, it may take several weeks or even months to feel confident and ready to take the test.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying – you will likely feel overwhelmed and unprepared if you try to cram everything in at the last minute.

Once you’ve put in the time and effort to prepare, you should be confident and ready to take the CySA+ exam. Although the CySA+ can be challenging, it is achievable if you are willing to put in the work.

Does the CySA+ guarantee a job?

While holding the CySA+ certification will give you a major advantage when applying for jobs, it is important to keep in mind that it is not a guarantee of employment. There are many factors that contribute to landing a job and having the CySA+ is just one piece of the puzzle.

However, if you are looking to move up in your career or switch into the cybersecurity field, the CySA+ is a great way to validate your skills and show employers that you are serious about your chosen profession.

Cybersecurity analyst certification roadmap

Talking about one certification is all well and good, but where does the CySA+ fit into the bigger picture?

If you’re just starting out in your cybersecurity career, you might be wondering what other certifications you should consider down the line. To help you plan your future, we’ve put together a brief overview of some of the best cybersecurity analyst certification options, starting from entry-level and moving up.

Entry level: Security+

The CompTIA Security+ is a must-have for anyone starting out in the cybersecurity field. This entry-level certification will give you a strong foundation of knowledge that you can build upon as you move up in your career.

The Security+ covers topics such as network security, cryptography, and identity management. Much like the CySA+, the Security+ is also vendor-neutral, meaning it is not specific to any one technology or product.

Additionally, the Security+ is recognized by the US Department of Defense (DoD) and is compliant with ISO/IEC 17024 standards.

Entry to mid-level: CEH

The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is another vendor-neutral certification that is popular among entry to mid-level cybersecurity analysts.

This certification focuses on ethical hacking and penetration testing, giving you the skills you need to identify vulnerabilities in systems and networks.

You might wonder why this is relevant for a cybersecurity analyst – after all, isn’t it their job to stop hackers?

The CEH is designed to give you an understanding of how hackers think and operate so that you can better defend against them. In order to become certified, you will need to pass a four-hour exam that covers a range of offensive security topics. At the end of it, you will be able to identify and carry out various hacking techniques.

The CEH is also recognized by the DoD and is compliant with ISO/IEC 17024 standards.

Mid-level: CySA+

In our cybersecurity analyst certification roadmap, we feel that the CySA+ belongs somewhere in the middle. After you’ve built up a solid foundation of knowledge with the Security+ and CEH, the CySA+ is a great next step to take.

Mid-level: GSEC

If you’re after more technical knowledge, the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) certification is worth considering. This certification focuses on the practical application of security concepts and is ideal for those who want to get hands-on experience with tools and techniques.

The GSEC exam covers topics such as risk management, incident response, and forensics. It does not have any specific experience requirements or prerequisites, making it a popular choice among mid-level cybersecurity professionals.

The GSEC exam is an open book, meaning you are allowed to bring in reference materials to help you during the test. This may sound like cheating, but it’s actually a great way to test your ability to find and use relevant information in a real-world situation.

Senior level: CRISC

ISACA, the organization behind the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification, describes it as “the only certification that prepares and enables IT professionals for the unique challenges of enterprise risk management.”

The CRISC exam covers four domains that include risk identification, assessment and evaluation, risk response, monitoring and reporting, and organizational and risk governance, among others.

To become CRISC certified, you will need to have at least three years of experience in two or more of the four domains. Additionally, you will need to pass a four-hour exam that covers all four domains.

On their website, ISACA declares that the average salary for CRISC holders is $151,000 USD.

The CRISC certification is also compliant with ISO/IEC 17024 standards.

Best for those with significant experience: CISSP

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is one of the most highly respected cybersecurity certifications out there. It’s also one of the most difficult to obtain and is best suited for those with significant experience in the field.

To become CISSP certified, you will need to have at least five years of experience in two or more of the eight CISSP domains. These domains include security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security.

In addition to the experience requirements, you will also need to pass a four-hour exam that covers all eight domains.

The CISSP certification is recognized by the DoD, NSA, as well as many other international organizations such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Australian Government Information Security Registered Assessors program. It is also compliant with ISO/IEC 17024 standards.

If you wish to transition to a management role, the CISSP is a great choice.

Conclusion

The role of a cybersecurity analyst is vital in today’s increasingly digital world. With the right mix of technical knowledge and soft skills, analysts are able to protect organizations from a wide range of cyber threats.

When choosing a certification, it’s important to consider your experience level and career goals. The CySA+ is a great mid-level certification that focuses on the use of behavioral analytics to detect and respond to threats. It is not the easiest cybersecurity certification to obtain, but it is certainly attainable with the right amount of effort.

For more information on the CySA+ or any other certifications mentioned in this article, please visit our website or contact us to find out how you can jumpstart your cybersecurity career today.

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