CySA+ vs PenTest+: Which One Fits Your Career Path?

In the realm of cybersecurity and IT, the CompTIA CySA+ and PenTest+ exams hold significant recognition and reputation. Upon closer examination, you will notice that these exams share many similarities in terms of their objectives and course content.

Updated at April 17, 2024

Nowadays, technology has reached impressive levels of advancement. However, it is disconcerting that cybercriminals often possess skills and knowledge that surpass those of cybersecurity professionals working for organizations. If you find this situation hard to believe, the evidence lies in the alarming frequency of cyberattacks. According to a global survey conducted by PWC, a significant 48% of companies still lack a comprehensive information security policy, 44% do not have employee security awareness training programs, and 54% have not established an incident response process. As the importance of cybersecurity continues to grow, there is now an unprecedented demand for qualified candidates in this field.

In the realm of cybersecurity and IT, the CompTIA CySA+ vs PenTest+ exams enjoy significant recognition and reputation. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that these exams share numerous similarities in terms of their objectives and course content. If you find yourself confused and uncertain about which certification is the most suitable choice for you, this article offers a comprehensive comparison of these two certifications. It provides an overview of the topics covered by CySA+ vs PenTest+, the testing format, preparation time, and the types of job roles they prepare individuals for.


What are CySA+ and PenTest+?


The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification verifies that successful candidates possess the knowledge and skills necessary to detect and analyze indicators of malicious activity, understand threat intelligence and threat management, respond to attacks and vulnerabilities, perform incident response, and report and communicate relevant activities. This certification was updated with the exam number CS0-003 in June 2023.

What sets the CompTIA CySA+ certification apart from others in the market is its focus on security analytics, which provides a deeper understanding of this field. Unlike other certifications, CySA+ delves more extensively into analytics. The CySA+ exam objectives include Security Operations, Vulnerability Management, Incident Response and Management, and Reporting and Communication.

If you are preparing for the CySA+ exam, we recommend trying out the free CySA+ Practice Test to increase your chances of passing the exam on your first attempt.


The CompTIA PenTest+ certification is designed for cybersecurity professionals who actively participate in penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. These professionals, known as Penetration Testers, showcase their proficiency in utilizing security systems, tools, and techniques to proactively identify vulnerabilities and mitigate security risks. The PenTest+ certification encompasses various areas, such as risk management, communication, penetration testing methodologies, and familiarity with security assessment tools.

What Are the Differences Between CySA+ vs Pentest+?

Skills Covered

Both the CySA+ and PenTest+ certifications cover a wide range of cybersecurity skills, but their primary focuses differ. CySA+ places its emphasis on security operations and incident response, while PenTest+ concentrates on penetration testing and vulnerability assessments.


The CySA+ certification covers the following domains:

  • Security Operations
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Incident Response and Management
  • Reporting and Communication

The Pentest+ certification covers the following domains:

  • Planning and Scoping
  • Information Gathering and Vulnerability Scanning
  • Attacks and Exploits
  • Reporting and Communication
  • Tools and Code Analysis


Most exams have recommended prerequisites in terms of training and work experience before attempting them. These prerequisites are typically considered the minimum requirements for building a solid foundation for the exam. For CompTIA exams, it is recommended to have 3-4 years of hands-on information security or related experience for each exam. Additionally, CompTIA suggests having the Network+ and Security+ certifications or equivalent knowledge to feel reasonably comfortable with the exam material. This indicates that CompTIA aims to position these exams as equals, each with its own distinct focus.

Security Software Features

In this comparison, we will explore the features of CySA+ and PenTest+ security software to gain an overview of the capabilities offered by each certification.

Feature CySA+ Pentest+
Vulnerability Scanning Detailed scans of endpoints Automated analysis of vulnerabilities
Network Security Real-time monitoring of network traffic Monitoring of web applications
Access Control Define permissions to access resources Secure authentication and authorization
Data Protection Encryption of sensitive data Data loss prevention (DLP)
Threat Detection Real-time monitoring of threats Advanced analytics for threat detection
Compliance Policy-based compliance checks Reporting of compliance violations
Intrusion Prevention Monitoring of network activity Protection against malicious code
Log Management Log storage and analysis Real-time alerting of suspicious activity
Incident Response Investigation and analysis of incidents Incident response planning
Asset Management Inventory of assets Asset classification and tracking

Level of Difficulty

The PenTest+ certification is oriented towards offensive security, focusing on skills related to identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities. Conversely, CySA+ places greater emphasis on defensive and preventive security tactics. CySA+ is considered an entry-level certification that covers the fundamental aspects of cybersecurity, while PenTest+ is more advanced and delves into the specific skills required for identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, elements such as the quality of study materials, lab activities, and available software tools for preparation can also impact the difficulty level. Prior knowledge and expertise in the relevant disciplines are also important factors to consider. For instance, if you possess a few years of experience in penetration testing, the PenTest+ exam may be relatively easier for you due to its alignment with your previous knowledge and experience.

Preparation Time

The length of time required for test preparation varies based on an individual’s level of expertise. Even experienced cybersecurity professionals, such as specialized penetration testers and cybersecurity analysts, may need to dedicate significant study time to effectively prepare for these tests. This is because CompTIA tests feature a unique style of questions that require a thorough understanding of the subject matter and familiarity with the exam structure. Investing an appropriate amount of study time, regardless of experience, is necessary to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the exam subject and increase the chances of success.


Job Roles

The CySA+ certification covers security operations, vulnerability management, incident response and management, and reporting and communication. Its primary focus is to train individuals for the role of a cybersecurity analyst, which is a high-level function within corporations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 28% growth in cybersecurity analyst employment between 2016 and 2026, indicating an increasing demand for professionals with this skill set.

The PenTest+ certification requires skills related to planning and scoping, information gathering and vulnerability identification, attacks and exploits, tools and code analysis, and reporting and communication. According to a report by Cyberseek, the role of a penetration tester is in high demand, with professionals in this field earning a median salary of $98,000.

Both certificates emphasize the importance of qualified individuals in their respective fields of expertise. CySA+ focuses on broader aspects of cybersecurity analysis, while PenTest+ concentrates specifically on penetration testing and vulnerability assessment.

Certification Validity

CompTIA recommends that professionals have a minimum of three years of hands-on experience in information security or a related field to qualify for both the CySA+ and PenTest+ exams. Each certification is valid for only three years. Professionals must renew each certification separately within this timeframe to maintain its validity.

While your previous certifications remain valid, you have the option to pursue a higher-level certification, such as the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+). This means that if you already hold the CySA+ and PenTest+ certifications, you can pursue the CASP+ certification without losing your existing ones. The CASP+ certification is designed to validate advanced-level cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

CySA+ vs Pentest+: Which Fits Your Career Path?


When it comes to job interviews, the reputation and respect associated with a certification are critical factors to consider. The value and impact of a certification in the industry are heavily influenced by the recognition and esteem it has gained over time.

Although the PenTest+ is a relatively new exam, it has earned a high degree of reputation due to its challenging nature and use of hands-on simulations, much like other CompTIA exams. If you obtain the PenTest+ certification, you may be the first applicant an employer encounters who holds this certificate. However, this does not diminish the potential value of the certification in establishing a connection with the company. CompTIA’s endorsement and support contribute significantly to the reputation of the PenTest+ certification.

The CompTIA CySA+ certification, which has been in existence for slightly over a year longer than the PenTest+ certification, is highly regarded as a vendor-neutral certification within the defensive cybersecurity domain, often referred to as the blue team.

Both certifications are recognized as approved baseline certifications by the Department of Defense (DoD).

Now that you understand the differences between CySA+ and PenTest+, you can choose the certification that best aligns with your needs. Cybersecurity is an exciting and promising career field that significantly impacts various aspects of our daily lives. The knowledge gained from one exam can be complemented and enriched by the other. If you aspire to excel in cyber defense, understanding potential hacking attacks and their preventive measures is crucial. Similarly, if your passion lies in penetration testing, comprehending vulnerabilities and the defensive mechanisms to counter them is essential. Therefore, it is safe to say that both exams are indispensable for your career, as they equip you with valuable knowledge from both perspectives of the cybersecurity landscape.

What Are the Pros & Cons of CySA+ vs Pentest+?

  CySA+ Pentest+
  • Offers a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity principles and practices
  • Provides in-depth knowledge of the security landscape
  • Gains global recognition as a valuable certification
  • Includes an exam that is relatively manageable to pass
  • Offers a comprehensive understanding of the security landscape
  • Earns global recognition as a reputable certification
  • Encompasses a wide range of subjects, including web and mobile application security
  • Requires a minimum of 4 years of cybersecurity experience
  • Requires a significant time commitment to complete the certification exam due to its extensive content
  • May not cover the most recent technologies and emerging threats
  • Mandates a minimum of 3 years of cybersecurity experience as a prerequisite
  • Demands a significant time commitment to complete the certification exam due to its extensive content
  • May not cover all the latest technologies and emerging threats
  • Presents a challenging exam that requires substantial effort to pass



Should I take CySA+ or PenTest+?

Professionals aspiring to pursue a career as a cybersecurity analyst or engineer should start with the CompTIA CySA+ training course. Conversely, individuals interested in a career as a penetration tester should focus on the CompTIA PenTest+ training course.

Is the CySA+ certification worth it?

The CySA+ certification holds significant value in the IT industry. This certification can greatly contribute to an individual’s career growth in various related fields and is recognized as one of the baseline certifications by the DoD, further enhancing its worth. The certificate validates an individual’s knowledge and carries considerable respect within the cybersecurity field.

What is CySA+ equivalent to?

When combined with the PenTest+ certification, professionals holding the CySA+ designation obtain credentials equivalent to those achieved in the CompTIA Security+ exam. Those who demonstrate proficiency in CySA+ excel in system threat detection and data analysis techniques.

Can I get a job with just PenTest+?

There are several careers for professionals who are PenTest+ certified. This credential can help you land a job as a Penetration Tester, Vulnerability Tester, Security Analyst, Vulnerability Assessment Analyst and Network/Cloud/Application Security Specialist.

Do I need Network+ for Pentesting?

To pursue Pentesting, it is recommended to have Network+, Security+, or an equivalent level of knowledge. Additionally, a minimum of 3-4 years of hands-on experience in information security or related fields is required. While there is no mandatory prerequisite, PenTest+ is designed to follow CompTIA Security+ or an equivalent level of experience, and it emphasizes a technical, hands-on approach.


Which of these certifications you should take depends on your existing knowledge, desired areas of expertise, and career goals. However, we highly recommend considering taking both exams. The knowledge gained from one exam can be significantly enhanced by the other.

Where the CySA+ certification may have gaps, the PenTest+ certification often fills them in. To excel in any aspect of network security, a comprehensive understanding of the other side is essential. To be proficient in cyber defense, it is crucial to comprehend potential attacks that hackers might employ to exploit systems. Similarly, to excel in penetration testing, a solid understanding of potential exploits for vulnerabilities and the corresponding defensive mechanisms is necessary. Both the CySA+ and PenTest+ exams, as well as the knowledge covered in both, provide substantial career benefits. Acquiring proficiency in both areas can greatly enhance your professional prospects in the cybersecurity field.