Is the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification Exam Worth It?

Thinking about taking the CompTIA PenTest+ certification exam? That’s great! The CompTIA PenTest+ is certainly a popular choice if you’re looking to build a career in penetration testing and vulnerability assessment.

However, with the investment of time, effort, and money required to obtain this certification, it’s important to know if taking the PenTest+ exam is truly worth your time. In this article, we’ll dive into the specifics of the PenTest+ certification exam, explore its benefits, discuss potential alternatives, and ultimately help you determine if it’s the right choice for your career goals.

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My Opinion

The PenTest+ is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a vendor-neutral entry-level to mid-level pen tester certification. But, if you’re new to the field or lack hands-on experience, don’t immediately start off by taking this exam.

Consider starting with CompTIA’s Security+ certification to build your knowledge first. Once you have a good grasp of cyber security concepts, you’ll be much better prepared to tackle the PenTest+ exam.

If you already have the background, this is a great certification to pick up for your pentesting career. However, the one downside is that the PenTest+ certification hasn’t yet built a reputation in the industry.

Though it’s slowly gaining recognition and popularity, some employers still prefer certifications such as the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), both of which are significantly more difficult. That said, more and more employers are starting to view the PenTest+ as a valuable credential.

Because of that, the PenTest+ certification offers a valuable benefit for your career and should absolutely be considered as the next step.

Table of Contents

Is the CompTIA PenTest+ certification exam worth it? Click below to find out!

What Is the Background of the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification?

Who Is the PenTest+ Certification For?

Why Should You Take the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification Exam?

What Jobs Can I Get with a PenTest+ Certification?

What Are the CompTIA PenTest+ Exam Details and Domains?

How Popular Is the PenTest+ Certification?

What Is the Cost of the PenTest+ Certification Exam?

What Experience Is Required to Take the CompTIA PenTest+ Exam?

Is the PenTest+ Certification Exam Hard?

Is the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification DoD Compliant?

How Long Is the PenTest+ Certification Valid For?

How Does the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification Compare with Other Similar Certifications?

What Is the Background of the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification?

Curious about the history of the PenTest+ certification? Launched in 2018 by CompTIA, a well-respected IT industry association, the PenTest+ was developed in response to the growing demand for cyber security professionals with hands-on, practical skills.

CompTIA saw the need for a certification that focused on the performance aspect of cyber security. Thus, PenTest+ was born.

The certification complements CompTIA’s other cyber security offerings, such as the Security+ and CySA+. It creates a comprehensive suite of cyber security certifications for professionals at different stages of their careers.

Since its introduction, the PenTest+ certification has gained recognition in the cyber security community. As a result, the PenTest+ certification is becoming an increasingly popular choice for professionals looking to enhance their skills.

How does the PenTest+ certification stand out from other cyber security certifications?

I’ll discuss that a bit more later; for now, I’ll tell you that it’s designed to validate your knowledge (not skills) in penetration testing and vulnerability management. These skills include identifying, exploiting, reporting, and managing vulnerabilities on a network.

Who Is the PenTest+ Certification For?

So, who should consider the PenTest+ certification? If you already have a foundational understanding of cyber security concepts, such as those covered by CompTIA’s Security+ certification, the PenTest+ certification can help you take your skills to the next level.

This exam isn’t suitable if you’re looking to transition into cyber security and possess absolutely no security knowledge.

It’s a great choice if you’ve already got some experience in IT or cyber security and want to expand your skillset or demonstrate your knowledge to potential employers. This is particularly true if you’re interested in penetration testing and vulnerability assessment roles.

Why Should You Take the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification Exam?

Now you might be wondering, “What are the benefits of taking the PenTest+ exam?” First off, it’s a great way to boost your credibility because it instantly demonstrates your knowledge (not expertise) to employers, but beyond that…

It provides a nice salary! While there wasn’t very much information regarding how much certified individuals make, ZipRecruiter indicates the average annual salary of a penetration tester is $118,287. Your salary is expected to range between $96,500 (25th percentile) went as high as $135,000 (75th percentile). However, that doesn’t mean you’ll make the average if you’re just starting out.

It’s a fantastic way to expand your skillset. It helps you stay up to date with the latest cyber security trends and best practices. Plus, it can open doors to new job opportunities and career advancement.

It can help you build a strong professional network. CompTIA offers resources and networking opportunities for certified professionals. These include online forums, local chapters, and conferences. By connecting with other cyber security professionals, you can share knowledge, discuss challenges, and discover new opportunities.

The PenTest+ certification is vendor-neutral. This means it doesn’t focus on specific technologies or platforms. This can be an advantage when working in a diverse IT environment because you can work with a wide range of systems and tools. The vendor-neutral nature of the certification also ensures that your skills remain relevant.

It’s is a solid stepping-stone for advancing your career. By investing the time and effort into preparing for and passing the exam, you’re demonstrating your dedication to professional development. This can be an attractive quality to potential employers.

The PenTest+ exam is a well-rounded assessment of your security knowledge. The exam covers various domains, including planning and scoping, information gathering, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, and reporting. We’ll discuss those below.

What Jobs Can I Get with a PenTest+ Certification?

Alright, let’s get down to business: What jobs can you get with a PenTest+ cert? Well, the certification opens doors to a range of cyber security roles. These include:

  • Penetration Tester
  • Security Consultant
  • Cloud Penetration Tester
  • Web App Penetration Tester
  • Cloud Security Specialist
  • Network Security Specialist
  • Network Security Operations
  • Threat Intelligence Analyst
  • Vulnerability Analyst
  • Penetration Tester

What you’ll be doing depending on your specific role; if you’re more offensive, you’ll be assessing and identifying vulnerabilities in the systems, networks, or applications. If you’re more defensive, you’ll be developing strategies to mitigate risks and protect sensitive information.

Keep in mind that the PenTest+ certification is not a magic ticket to a dream job. However, it can certainly boost your resume and make you a more competitive candidate.

By combining your certification with relevant experience, networking, and a strong work ethic, you can increase your chances of landing a rewarding role in cyber security.

What Are the CompTIA PenTest+ Exam Details and Domains?

Understanding the exam details and domains is essential before you dive into the exam preparation. The PenTest+ exam covers five domains, each focusing on a specific area:

Planning and Scoping (14%)

This domain focuses on your ability to plan and scope penetration tests, including defining objectives, establishing communication channels, and determining the scope of the test. You’ll need to be familiar with legal and compliance requirements, as well as how to select the appropriate testing tools and methodologies for different situations.

Information Gathering and Vulnerability Identification (22%)

In this domain, you’ll learn how to gather information about your target systems, identify vulnerabilities, and analyze the results. This includes techniques like passive and active reconnaissance, social engineering, and vulnerability scanning. You’ll also need to understand how to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity and potential impact on the organization.

Attacks and Exploits (30%)

This section covers various attack techniques and tools, such as system hacking, web application attacks, and wireless and mobile attacks. You’ll need to know how to exploit vulnerabilities, gain access to systems, and maintain persistence. Additionally, you should be familiar with how to escalate privileges, pivot between systems, and evade detection.

Penetration Testing Tools (18%)

Here, you’ll explore the wide range of tools available for penetration testing, from network scanners and vulnerability scanners to web application scanners and social engineering tools. You’ll need to know how to select the right tool for each task, as well as how to use these tools effectively and responsibly.

Reporting and Communication (16%)

The final domain focuses on your ability to effectively communicate the results of your penetration test to various stakeholders, including technical staff, management, and executives. You’ll need to know how to create clear, concise, and actionable reports that include recommendations for remediation and risk mitigation. Additionally, you should be comfortable presenting your findings and answering questions about the test process and results.

The exam itself has a maximum of 85 questions which include multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and simulated/virtual environments. Additionally, you’ll have 165 minutes to complete the test, and you need a passing score of 750 on a 100-900 scale.

The hope is, that by studying these domains, you’ll develop a well-rounded understanding of the penetration testing process and the various tools and techniques used in the field. Make sure to allocate enough time to each domain and practice using relevant tools (e.g. Kali Linux, Metasploit, NMAP, etc.) to ensure you’re well-prepared for the exam.

How Popular Is the PenTest+ Certification?

Since its launch in 2018, the PenTest+ certification has gained popularity among cyber security professionals and employers alike. And while it may not yet be as well-known as some other certifications, such as the eJPT, CEH, or OSCP, the PenTest+ certification has been steadily growing in recognition.

This is only the second version of the exam. As more professionals and organizations become aware of the value and hands-on nature of the certification, its popularity will rise.

What Is the Cost of the PenTest+ Certification Exam?

Let’s talk about the cost of the PenTest+ exam. The exam voucher costs $392 (USD), but that doesn’t include the cost of everything.

If you’re interested in purchasing the optional study guides, practice exams, labs, and exam retake vouchers, CompTIA also offers packaged bundles ranging anywhere from $565 to $977 (USD). It may be steep, but I always suggest to only use the official study guides and practice exams as they offer the most up-to-date content.

When you weigh the cost of the exam against the potential benefits, it’s well worth it.

What Experience Is Required to Take the CompTIA PenTest+ Exam?

CompTIA recommends having at least three to four years of hands-on experience in cyber security before attempting the PenTest+ exam. Although there are no formal prerequisites for the exam, having a solid foundation in security concepts and some practical experience can significantly increase your chances of success.

Is the PenTest+ Certification Exam Hard?

Is the PenTest+ exam hard? Well, that depends on your perspective and experience. The exam is challenging, as it tests your knowledge across various domains and includes performance-based questions that require hands-on skills.

To succeed on the exam, you’ll need a solid understanding of cyber security concepts and practical experience with penetration testing tools and techniques. That said, with the right preparation and dedication, the PenTest+ exam is achievable.

Be sure you allocate enough time to study each domain thoroughly, practice using relevant tools, and consider taking advantage of exam prep resources, such as practice exams and study guides. By preparing effectively, you can increase your chances of success and earn the PenTest+ certification.

Here’s a free 11-hour video by Paul Browning covering the PenTest+ exam.

Is the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification DoD Compliant?

The CompTIA PenTest+ certification is indeed Department of Defense (DoD) compliant. It meets the requirements for DoD Directive 8570.01-M, which establishes baseline cyber security certifications for various roles within the DoD.

Specifically, the PenTest+ certification is approved for the CSSP Analyst, Auditor, Incident Responder categories. This means that if you’re pursuing a career in cyber security within the DoD, the PenTest+ certification can be a valuable credential to help you meet the requirements for specific roles.

How Long Is the PenTest+ Certification Valid For?

The PenTest+ certification is valid for three years from the date of passing the exam. To maintain your certification, participate in CompTIA’s Continuing Education (CE) program. This program involves earning Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through activities such as attending webinars, taking courses, or teaching classes.

Over the three-year period, you’ll need to earn a total of 60 CEUs to renew your PenTest+ certification. Participating in the CE program demonstrates your commitment to staying current with the latest cyber security trends and best practices, which can further enhance your professional credibility.

How Does the CompTIA PenTest+ Certification Compare with Other Similar Certifications?

There are several exams that you could research, but the only exam that’s a true competitor to the PenTest+ is INE’s eLearnSecurity Junior Penetration Tester (eJPT) exam. I’ll avoid discussing the CEH, GPEN, or OSCP mainly because these exams are either too expensive (>$1,000 USD) or are too difficult for a novice.

The eJPT is a practical, entry-level certification offered by eLearnSecurity (part of INE). It aims to provide foundational knowledge in penetration testing.

The exam will ask you to showoff your skills in assessment methodologies, host and network penetration testing/auditing, and web application penetration testing. The eJPT costs $249 USD and contains 35 performance-based questions conducted in a virtual lab environment which must be completed within 48 hours after starting the exam.

There is no specific passing score, but you must successfully complete a certain number of challenges to pass. INE recommends that you have a solid understanding of TCP/IP networking, reasonable Windows and Linux administration experience, and familiarity with basic Bash and/or Python scripting.

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by Amit Doshi

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