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Last Updated On: May 27, 2024

Choosing the right cybersecurity certification can significantly impact your career trajectory. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) are two of the most popular certifications among cybersecurity professionals looking to advance their careers. Each certification offers unique advantages and caters to different professional goals.

Whether you're aiming for a broad, managerial role or a specialized, analytical position, understanding the key differences between CISSP and CySA+ is crucial. This guide will help you navigate through their specifics, benefits, and career implications so you can make an informed decision that aligns with your aspirations.

Let’s get started!

What is CISSP?

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a globally recognized certification in the field of cybersecurity. Administered by ISC2, the CISSP certification validates an individual’s expertise in designing, implementing, and managing a best-in-class cybersecurity program. It is ideal for professionals aiming to advance into roles such as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), security consultants, managers, auditors, or architects.

To earn the CISSP credential, candidates must demonstrate deep knowledge across eight domains, including security and risk management, asset security, and security operations. Achieving CISSP certification not only enhances your technical skills but also proves your commitment to upholding high ethical standards in the cybersecurity industry.

What Is a CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)?

The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) is a widely respected certification designed to validate a professional’s ability to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats using behavioral analytics. Offered by CompTIA, this certification is aimed at IT professionals looking to specialize in cybersecurity analysis, focusing on threat detection, data analysis, and network monitoring.

The CySA+ certification emphasizes the hands-on skills and practical knowledge required to combat advanced persistent threats and to understand and apply security solutions in real-world scenarios. Earning the CySA+ credential signifies that you have the expertise to proactively defend and continuously improve the security posture of an organization, making it a valuable asset for those pursuing careers in cybersecurity operations and threat intelligence.

CISSP vs. CySA+: Pros and Cons

Feature

CISSP

CySA+

Focus

Broad aspects of cybersecurity management and operations.

Behavioral analytics and threat detection.

Pros

  • Recognized globally across industries.
  • Opens doors to technical and high-level security roles.
  • Comprehensive coverage of various cybersecurity domains.
  • Emphasizes practical, hands-on skills.
  • Focuses on real-world threat detection and response.
  • Highly relevant for roles in cybersecurity operations and threat intelligence.

Cons

  • Requires extensive knowledge across multiple domains, making it challenging to prepare for.
  • May be too broad for those looking to specialize early in their career.
  • Less recognized globally compared to CISSP.
  • Focuses mainly on analysis and response, which might not appeal to those interested in broader managerial roles.
  • Requires continuous updates to stay current with emerging threats.

CISSP vs. CySA+: Key Differences

In the cybersecurity industry, getting certified can undoubtedly propel your career to new heights. Both the CISSP and CySA+ can elevate your career prospects, but they will lead you towards different trajectories. So, how do they differ?

Prerequisites

Depending on the certification you choose, you'll need some sort of experience under your belt. This ensures that candidates like you have the necessary background and skills to succeed in their respective roles.

CISSP Prerequisites

To sit for the CISSP exam, you need at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK). This can be from full-time jobs, part-time roles, or even internships. If you have a four-year college degree or an additional credential from the ISC2-approved list, you can waive one year of the required experience. 

If you don't have any experience but are still interested in pursuing the CISSP, don't be disheartened. You can still take the exam. If you pass, you will be awarded the Associate of ISC2 designation, allowing you to gain the necessary experience in 6 years.

CySA+ Prerequisites

For the CySA+ certification, CompTIA recommends having three to four years of hands-on experience in information security or a related field. While it's not mandatory, having prior CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications, or equivalent knowledge, is highly beneficial. This background helps you build a solid foundation in network security and cybersecurity principles.

The CySA+ exam is designed to validate your ability to apply behavioral analytics to networks and improve security, skills best honed through practical, real-world experience.

Exam Details

Apart from their eligibility requirements, another difference between the CISSP and CySA+ is the coverage of their exams. Let's take a look at the details of each exam so you know what you are up against:

CISSP Exam Details

The CISSP exam consists of 100 to 150 questions, and candidates have up to three hours to complete it. The exam is offered in multiple languages and is administered in a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format. In a CAT format, the difficulty of the questions adjusts based on your performance as you progress through the exam.

The CISSP exam covers eight domains:

  1. Security and Risk Management (16%)
  2. Asset Security (10%)
  3. Security Architecture and Design (13%)
  4. Communication and Network Security (13%)
  5. Identity and Access Management (IAM) (13%)
  6. Security Assessment and Testing (12%)
  7. Security Operations (13%)
  8. Software Development Security (10%)

The weights of these domains reflect the comprehensive nature of the certification, ensuring a broad and deep understanding of cybersecurity.

CySA+ Exam Details

The CySA+ exam consists of a maximum of 85 questions; candidates have up to 165 minutes to complete it. It is offered in multiple languages and includes multiple-choice and performance-based questions The CySA+ exam focuses on four primary domains:

  1. Threat and Vulnerability Management (22%)
  2. Software and Systems Security (18%)
  3. Security Operations and Monitoring (25%)
  4. Incident Response (35%)

These domains emphasize practical, hands-on skills required for analyzing and responding to cybersecurity threats, reflecting the exam's focus on real-world applications and threat management.

Job Roles and Salary

If you still can't decide which certification to pursue, understanding the potential job roles and salary expectations might help you make a more informed decision. Let's break down what you can expect in terms of career opportunities and earnings for both CISSP and CySA+ certifications.

CISSP Job Roles and Salary

With a CISSP certification, you can expect to qualify for a variety of high-level cybersecurity roles. These roles include:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Systems Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Network Architect
  • Security Manager

The CISSP credential is highly regarded in the industry, often leading to senior and managerial positions.

On average, CISSP-certified professionals earn an annual salary of around US $120,552 in the United States which can vary depending on the role, location, and experience. This certification not only boosts your earning potential but also opens doors to leadership roles in cybersecurity.

CySA+ Job Roles and Salary

The CySA+ certification is geared toward those looking to specialize in cybersecurity analysis and operations. Common job roles for CySA+ certified professionals include:

  • Security Analyst
  • Threat Intelligence Analyst
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst
  • Vulnerability Analyst.

While the CySA+ is typically considered a mid-level certification, it provides a solid foundation for advancing cybersecurity operations.

The average annual salary for CySA+ certified professionals in the United States is approximately US $54,791 and can vary depending on your experience, location, and the job you’re applying for. Although the salary is lower compared to CISSP, it offers excellent opportunities for growth and specialization in cybersecurity analytics.

Cost and Recertification

Let’s face it. Getting any cybersecurity certification, whether CISSP, CySA+, or something else, requires a significant investment. But don’t let the prices scare you. While the upfront investment may seem steep, the benefits you'll gain once you get a credential are insurmountable. So, how much will you be spending when you take any of these certifications?

CISSP Cost and Recertification

The cost of the CISSP exam is US$749 and can vary depending on the region. In addition to the exam fee, you may also encounter other expenses such as preparation materials, courses, and possibly travel expenses if you need to take the exam at a distant location.

After passing the exam, you will need to pay an Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) of US $125. To maintain your CISSP certification, you must earn and submit 120 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits over three years. These CPEs ensure that you stay current with the evolving field of cybersecurity.

CySA+ Cost and Recertification

The CySA+ exam voucher costs US $404. Similar to the CISSP, you might also incur additional costs for study guides, training programs, and other preparation materials. Once you pass the exam, there is an Annual Maintenance Fee (AMF) of US $50.

To keep your CySA+ certification active, you need to earn 60 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) over a three-year period. These CEUs help you stay updated with the latest developments and skills in cybersecurity analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is CISSP Better Than CompTIA?

It depends on your career goals. The CISSP certification is ideal if you're aiming for senior-level roles and management positions in cybersecurity. It's globally recognized and covers a broad range of cybersecurity domains.

On the other hand, CompTIA certifications, like CySA+, are great for those starting out or focusing on specialized areas within cybersecurity. Both have unique advantages, so the best choice depends on where you want to take your career.

Is the CySA+ Certification Worth It?

Yes, the CySA+ certification is definitely worth it if you're looking to enhance your skills in cybersecurity analysis and operations. It's particularly valuable for roles that focus on threat detection, vulnerability management, and incident response. The certification provides practical, hands-on experience and is recognized by employers as a mark of proficiency in cybersecurity analytics.

What Is CySA+ Equivalent To?

The CySA+ certification is considered a mid-level cybersecurity certification. It's comparable to other intermediate certifications like the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). It bridges the gap between entry-level certifications like CompTIA Security+ and more advanced certifications such as CISSP, providing a solid foundation for progressing in the cybersecurity field.

CISSP vs. CySA+: Final Verdict

The best certification for you depends on where you're currently at career-wise and where you want to go. If you're an experienced professional looking to advance into senior positions, the CISSP is the way to go. It opens doors to high-level roles and demonstrates a broad, in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity. On the other hand, if you're relatively new to the field and enjoy analysis, the CySA+ is a great starting point. It provides practical skills in threat detection and response, making it ideal for roles in cybersecurity operations.

However, in the field of cybersecurity, you don't have to limit yourself to just one certification. Having multiple credentials under your belt can showcase your dedication and versatility in the field. Moreover, the CySA+ is an ISC2-approved credential, which means that if you obtain it before pursuing the CISSP, you can have one year of the work experience requirement waived.

If you're considering going straight for the CISSP, let DestinationCertification be your guide. We offer a CISSP Masterclass that equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the exam and excel in your cybersecurity career. The best part? Our course is designed to cater to your unique learning needs, adjusting to your existing knowledge and schedule. This means that you can prepare effectively without compromising your current responsibilities.

Explore our CISSP MasterClass today and take the first step towards achieving your cybersecurity career goals! 

Image of Rob Witcher - Destination Certification

Rob Witcher

Rob is the driving force behind the success of the Destination Certification CISSP program, leveraging over 15 years of security, privacy, and cloud assurance expertise. As a seasoned leader, he has guided numerous companies through high-profile security breaches and managed the development of multi-year security strategies. With a passion for education, Rob has delivered hundreds of globally acclaimed CCSP, CISSP, and ISACA classes, combining entertaining delivery with profound insights for exam success. You can reach out to Rob on LinkedIn.

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