Technology / Networking

Should I Earn Network+ Certification Before Security+?

Should I Earn Network+ Certification Before Security+? picture: A
Published on August 9, 2022

Should you get the Network+ or Security+ certification first? Should you earn both certifications? Or is it okay to only have one? The answer is, of course, it depends.

This is one of those circumstances where there is no correct answer. Everyone has a different starting skill set and understands information differently. Everyone learns in different ways, and everyone has different career goals. These differences make it challenging to give you a concrete answer on whether you should earn the Network+ cert before the Security+.

Today we will discuss some of the key reasons you would want to earn one CompTIA certification over another, and we will highlight some reasons why you might want to earn the Network+ before the Security+ or vice versa.

Are You Ready to Get CompTIA-Certified?

CompTIA certifications are vendor-neutral, meaning they are not tied to a specific vendor. Rather, they validate foundational knowledge and skills that can be applied to a variety of real-world situations. As result, CompTIA is a great starting point for those who are new to IT and even IT pros who need to learn new skills such as the cloud.

CBT Nuggets offers training for both the Network+ and Security+, as well as other CompTIA certifications. If you are ready to move past CompTIA certifications, consider the CCNA cert as well. The CCNA is widely recognized in the IT industry and is considered the premier networking certification.

Should I Get Network+ Before Security+?

Before discussing whether you should get the Network+ before the Security+ certification, we need to discuss your career goals. That makes a big difference. Here's why.

The Network+ certification is focused on the foundations of networking knowledge.  The Network+ certification will discuss things like networking theory, networking architecture, best practices, etc…

The Security+ certification focuses on cybersecurity, however. Think of the Security+ certification as a more focused version of the Network+ cert. It's like taking a 101 class on psychology versus studying the intricacies of ADHD. Learning ADHD requires prerequisite knowledge of psychology, but the general study of the psychology field includes other things, too.

Meanwhile, the Security+ certification focuses on cybersecurity. Think of the Security+ certification as a more focused version of the Network+ cert. It's like taking a 101 class on psychology versus studying the intricacies of ADHD. Learning ADHD requires prerequisite knowledge of psychology, but the general study of the psychology field includes other things, too.

Determining your career focus depends on whether you earn the Network+ before the Security+, vice versa, or only one of the certifications. For instance, a career in cyber security requires the Security+ certification. Most positions in the cyber security world require the Security+. However, many do not require the Network+.

Does that mean you shouldn't earn the Network+ certification?  No. Studying for the Network+ certification is invaluable for earning the Security+ certification, but achieving the Security+ cert will open more doors in your career life sooner. Likewise, since you already studied for the Network+ cert, you might as well take the test and earn the certificate. Having the Network+ cert will only make you more valuable. It just might be a better idea to earn the Security+ cert first.

If your goal is to be a systems administrator, though, you will want the Network+ certification as soon as possible.  The Network+ cert is a mainstay for the SysAdmin field. Most employers look for the cert on resumes.

The CompTIA Certification Path

CompTIA has a recommended certification path for their certifications, even though most CompTIA certifications don't have prerequisites. If you follow the CompTIA way of obtaining certs, you'll want to earn the Network+ certification before the Security+ cert. Here's why.

We mentioned in the section above that the Security+ certification depends on a lot of information tested for in the Network+ certification. It makes sense. Even though the cybersecurity domain contains many learning paths outside of networking, a significant component of infoSec is networking. After all, other than social engineering attacks, networks are the primary attack vector of choice. Cybercriminals prefer not to be on location when they are breaking the law.

If you want to understand how to secure an information network, you need to understand how that network works. Networks are becoming much more complicated. That means there are even more attack vectors for cybercriminals to choose from.

This is true for all aspects of the cybersecurity world. For instance, security researchers must have intimate knowledge of both practical and theoretical understanding of networks and applications. They aren't going to find exploits by bumbling around. Security researchers need to understand how things like wireless networking protocols work so they can discover potential exploits and patch existing ones.

If you are beginning your IT career, you might want to stick with CompTIA's recommended certification path. This is especially true if you're still a help desk jockey. Leverage that learning path to your benefit. Learn and grow along with CompTIA's certifications.

How to Know if I should earn Network+ Before Security+?

It's easy to figure out which CompTIA certification you should earn first. Look at job boards. Seriously, take a look.

The thing about job boards (Eg. GlassDoor, Dice, Monster, etc…) is that employers continually advertise their hopes and dreams. If the world were perfect, an organization's ideal candidate would have every skill and certification listed in their mile-long fluff employment advertisement. Organizations rarely hire their 'perfect candidate,' and sometimes they have no idea what their perfect candidate is. That's the same reason you should never hesitate to apply for a position you want.

With that said, we can use their hopes and wishes to our benefit. If 90% of the job listings for a security advisor on GlassDoor state they want the Security+ certification, there's a good chance you should probably earn the Security+ certification first.

Looking at job boards is an excellent way to accomplish impromptu data mining, but it's not always a silver bullet. We have other options, however.

Thankfully we live in an increasingly social world. LinkedIn is a fantastic resource. First, LinkedIn has the same types of job boards as other websites, but LinkedIn tends to be a little more focused on its listings. LinkedIn spends a lot of time helping employers craft the best job listing they can.

More importantly, LinkedIn gives you tons of access to people and their resumes. Why not simply ask people what they prefer? For example, if you want to work at Amazon in IT, why not send a manager at Amazon a quick message on LinkedIn asking which certification they prefer? If you ask someone a quick and simple question, you're likely to get a fast and straightforward response.

Let's be clear; you don't need to send that manager a diatribe on why you want to work at Amazon and why you are the best candidate. A simple, "Hey! If I want to work at Amazon, is it better to get the Network+ or Security+ cert first?" You might only get a one-word response, but that's all you need. Isn't it?

At any rate, if you need help determining whether to get the Security+ or Network+ certification first, those two strategies are proven effective.

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