Last Updated on April 26, 2024

CompTIA Security Plus certification is a widely recognized measure of a person’s competency in network security, compliance, and operational security. The Security+ certification has two exams—the Security+ 501 and the Security+ 601.

In this article, we will compare the two exams to help you determine which one is right for you. The Security+ 501 exam covers the fundamentals of security and is intended for those just starting out in the field, while the Security+ 601 exam covers more advanced topics and is intended for those with more experience.

501 Exam

The 501 exam covers security fundamentals including cryptography, network security, identity, and access management. It is intended for individuals with at least two years of experience in IT administration with a focus on security. The 501 exam is multiple-choice and performance-based and covers six key domains of knowledge. These include:

  1. Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities (21%)
  2. Technologies and tools (22%)
  3. Architecture and design (15%)
  4. Identity and access management (16%)
  5. Risk management (14%)
  6. Cryptography and PKI (12%)

It is considered more basic than the 601 exam.

601 Exam

The CompTIA Security+ 601 exam is the current CompTIA Security+ exam. It’s an updated version of the Security+ 501 exam, and it covers five key domains of knowledge. These are:

  1. Attacks, threats, and vulnerabilities (24%)
  2. Architecture and design (21%)
  3. Implementation (25%)
  4. Operations and incident response (16%)
  5. Governance, risk, and compliance (14%)

The 601 is considered more challenging and in-depth than the 501 exams and places a greater emphasis on hands-on experience and the ability to apply security principles in real-world situations. Eventually, the 601 will be updated as well, so it can be helpful to know when the Security+ exam changes.

501 vs 601

One key change in the 601 exams is the increased emphasis on hands-on experience and the ability to apply security principles in real-world situations. This means that the 601 exam focuses more on practical skills and knowledge than just theoretical concepts.

601 exams also have increased focus on advanced topics, such as cryptography, penetration testing, and incident response. However, they both have much in common. They each:

  • Have ninety questions
  • Has a time limit of ninety minutes
  • Cost $370
  • Have a passing score of 750 on a scale of 100 to 900

Who Should Take the Security+ 601 Exam?

If You’re Already 501 Certified

If you are already Security+ certified, you do not need to take the Security+ 601 exam. The Security+ certification is valid for three years, after which you will need to renew your certification by passing the SY0-501 exam or the newer SY0-601 exam. If you are approaching the end of your certification period, you may consider taking the SY0-601 exam to renew your certification.

If You’ve Prepared for the 501 Exam

The Security+ 501 exam covers the same content as the Security+ 601 exam, but the 501 exam has been retired and is no longer available. If you’re preparing for the Security+ 501 exam, it’s recommended that you take the Security+ 601 exam instead.

In Summary

The 501 and 601 exams are similar, but the Security+ 601 exam requires a combination of hands-on experience and structured learning, meaning passing test-takers will be more prepared for future work in the field.

About The Author

Gary is an accomplished IT professional with over 20 years experience in implementing Microsoft technologies within large scale enterprise environments for both employers and private clients. Expert level instructor with a proven ability to lead and inspire students to understand a variety of Microsoft back office technologies and their application in real world scenarios. Nationally touring speaker for a Microsoft seminar training company, entrepreneur and creator of his own MSCE boot-camp style training program. Technical Trainer for the US Navy, systems administrator for the US Navy, consultant on a number of high level Microsoft migration projects in Southern California and a one of the most in-demand MCT’s in the country for over 13 years. Gary has a deep and broad pool of experiences to draw from and add to that a knack for quickly understanding new technologies and being able to communicate that knowledge effectively allows Gary to help people learn at a variety of levels.

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