Everything You Need To Know About CompTIA Certification

Taylor Karl
Everything You Need To Know About CompTIA Certification 1044 0

What Is CompTIA Certification?

CompTIA certification is awarded by the Computing (Comp) Technology Industry Association (TIA). This non-profit trade association offers training, certification, and skills confirmation for IT professionals. As a highly respected organization in the industry, it’s awarded certificates to more than two million people.

If you’re just getting started in IT or exploring ways to advance your career, earning a CompTIA certification may help you demonstrate specialized skills to your current or future employers.

Why Does CompTIA Matter?

CompTIA is known as one of the best qualification programs for IT professionals, partly because it’s a vendor-neutral certification. Vendor-neutral certifications provide you with a deep but broad skill base, covering universal concepts to help you address issues across multiple networks and tools.

Pursuing a CompTIA certification while employed can both increase your ability to grow in your role, and provide you with negotiating leverage when it comes time for your next salary review. And since CompTIA is a well-known industry standard, gaining certification prior to applying helps to make you a more desirable candidate for future job searches. If your career plans include working for a specific employer, earning a CompTIA certification may also be a job requirement.


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A Brief History of CompTIA

In 1982, a group of hardware and software vendors formed the Association of Better Computer Dealers to encourage collaboration between vendors and the people who purchased their products. The rapid growth and development of the computer industry over the following decade greatly increased the need for qualified tech support. However, training for these individuals — and the quality of their work — was fairly inconsistent.

To get work done correctly, effectively, and efficiently, companies needed more reliable and routine support for their employees and systems. If a computer or network was down, it meant that employees were unable to do their jobs.

In response to this growing need, Compaq partnered with ABCD to develop a certification program for tech support professionals. The goal for this certification was to help set a standard for employers to more accurately ensure that their tech support personnel possessed the qualifications needed in their field.

By 1993, ABCD had officially rebranded as CompTIA, and released the A+ certification. This was the first standardized certification that employers could rely on to ensure the individuals they hired had the requisite knowledge and skills for the job.

What Does It Mean To Be CompTIA Certified?

When you are CompTIA certified, employers can trust that you understand the fundamentals of computer hardware, software, and networks. The certification provides your future or current employer with evidence that you have demonstrable knowledge across a variety of applications, from general tech support to security architecture and system monitoring.

Unlike some certifications that limit your learning to specific systems, CompTIA certifications are vendor-neutral and apply to multiple systems. Being CompTIA certified offers you more flexibility and opportunities for growth, since it provides you with structural expertise that can be applied across tools and jobs throughout your career.

CompTIA organization's certifications continue to be in high demand, and are a strong strategic professional choice.

Certifications Offered

CompTIA offers several certifications grouped by skill set. These groups indicate the domain of the certifications:

  • Core
  • Infrastructure
  • Cybersecurity
  • Additional Professional Skills

Many of the competencies measured through these certification exams overlap, which is why the certification can apply to multiple roles.

Stackable CompTIA Certifications for a Career

Core

Core certifications help you develop elemental skills that can be applied to a variety of IT jobs — many at the entry level. Because these certifications provide foundational training, they’re a popular pathway for IT professionals to begin specializing their careers. Jobs you can pursue after earning these certifications include IT support specialist, IT field service technician, systems administrator, IT consultant, and network analyst.

CompTIA ITF+ provides an overview of IT fundamentals and functionality, with training on technical concepts and common IT practices. While it’s designed for beginners, learners should come to the exam with a basic understanding of computer hardware, software installation, and networking. This certification is open to students and others with no previous IT experience, and is a good choice for individuals beginning a career in IT.

CompTIA A+ is the original CompTIA certification, and remains one of its most popular options. A+ assesses baseline IT skills for a range of devices and operating systems. Some of these skills include installation, troubleshooting, networking, and security for computers and mobile devices. Considered an industry standard, A+ certification shows up frequently as a requirement for IT jobs in a number of large organizations. It's also officially recognized by the Department of Defense, and required for Dell, HP, and Intel technicians.

CompTIA Network+ measures your knowledge of essential skills used to manage and troubleshoot a variety of devices. This exam covers skills specific to the work of a networking professional, including network architecture, wireless technologies, and security techniques used to protect networks from outside threats. Generally, you should have at least nine months of networking experience, and possess an understanding of security, installation, and configuration before signing up for the Network+ exam.

CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level cybersecurity certification that assesses your knowledge of security concepts like access control, identity management, cryptography, and more. Ideally, candidates should have already earned the Network+ certification and have at least two years of experience in IT administration before taking this exam.

Infrastructure

The certifications in the infrastructure group complement the Network+ knowledge base. For this reason, it’s considered best practice to get certified in Network+ before moving on to the infrastructure exams. Individuals working as data center technicians, server administrators, cloud engineers, and systems engineers can all benefit from certifications here.

CompTIA Server+ is one of the certifications recognized by the Department of Defense and can be a requirement for server technicians. Server+ assesses your ability to apply security and backup techniques, configure operating systems, and install physical hardware. Because of the depth and detail required, you'll need 18-24 months of experience before you can sit for the exam.

CompTIA Cloud+ tests your knowledge of cloud systems and confirms the skills you need to manage and secure them. Designed for professionals who have two to three years of experience working with data centers, networking, or storage administration, this certification demonstrates your ability to work with hybrid and multi-cloud solutions.

CompTIA Linux+ assesses your understanding of the entire Linux operating system, from installation to GNU and Unix commands, shells, scripting, and more. This exam is a viable option if you have at least one year of experience working with Linux administration.

Cybersecurity

The need for cybersecurity professionals across all industries has grown exponentially, making this field one of the fastest growing in the world. Pursuing these certifications is a strategic option if you’re looking for cybersecurity jobs — including roles as security architects, technical lead analysts, vulnerability testers, and cybersecurity specialists.

CompTIA CySA+ (Cybersecurity Analyst) is a bridge between Security+ and the master-level CASP+ certifications and is a popular certification for IT behavioral analysts. It tests your ability to monitor behavior on a network, interpret data, assess vulnerabilities, and apply the information to secure applications and systems.

CASP+ (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner) is designed for IT professionals who work with security architectures and engineering in both physical and cloud environments. As a high level certification, you’ll need at least 10 years of experience before you can take the exam. It happens to be CompTIA's only performance-based certification, and it covers topics like detecting and responding to incidents and implementing secure solutions.

CompTIA PenTest+ (Penetration Testing) is the newest certification available from CompTIA, and is meant to be taken by professionals who conduct penetration and vulnerability testing. This certification complements CySA+, covering topics like planning for penetration testing, using tools to conduct penetration testing, and reporting the results of the test to let stakeholders know about system vulnerabilities.

Data and Analytics

Data+ is a certification that benefits data and analytics professionals. This program assesses data skills, including mining, manipulating, and visualizing data, as well as analyzing through statistical methods and critical analysis. You also will learn the most up-to-date information about governance and quality control. If your career plans include positions like data scientist, marketing analyst, or database administrator, this certification may be relevant to your work.

Other Professionals

Although many people associate CompTIA certifications with the IT profession, the organization offers broader certifications as well. These certifications include skills that apply to other roles, including project management and training. You may consider one of the following certifications if you train employees, manage large projects, or want to expand your knowledge of cloud concepts and how they intersect with business.

Project+ is a versatile certification designed for individuals who already have a foundation of project management skills. Concepts assessed on the exam do not focus on a single project management methodology but cover broader topics like resource management and appropriate communication.

Cloud Essentials+ is more than an IT certification. It covers concepts that apply to the roles of tech and non-tech professionals working with cloud systems. Topics assessed include business and technical components of the cloud, as well as cloud security concerns, solutions, and benefits.

CTT+ (Certified Technical Trainer) is a qualification that will officially retire at the end of 2023. But you can hold the certification for a lifetime if you earn it before the retirement date. Designed for training professionals, this certification requires a written exam and performance-based assessment through which you can demonstrate your knowledge of learning and instructional delivery methods.

Benefits of CompTIA Certifications

Earning a CompTIA certification offers loads of benefits, starting with the satisfaction that you have successfully demonstrated your knowledge and skill. Employers worldwide recognize the value of these certifications, as they have been developed by industry experts who know what is expected in the field.

Other benefits of becoming "CompTIA certified," include the following:

  • Knowledge building of key concepts and skills needed in the IT industry
  • Networking opportunities to meet other professionals in your field
  • Pay increase as you qualify for new jobs and promotions
  • Remote work options with companies around the world
  • Improved work-life balance through a challenging yet rewarding career
  • Ability to keep your knowledge and skills up to date in a changing environment

Where To Start

Where you start on your CompTIA certifications will depend on where you are in your career, and what you plan to do next. If you’re new to the industry or aren’t where to begin, earning a core certification is typically a good place to start. If you have a few years of working experience or have your eye on a specific job, you might be able to jump to the certification you need for your career plans.

Keep in mind that more advanced certifications tend to assume you have foundational knowledge and may not be the best choice for someone new to the industry. The certification exam will test your knowledge through multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop activities, and performance-based items that require you to have the fundamentals to succeed.

Career Path For CompTIA Certifications

CompTIA offers a few different pathways for their certifications. Each one starts with a foundational certification and advances to those that require more nuanced skills and knowledge. You can use these paths to guide you as you decide which certifications to earn or which to take next to meet your career goals.

  • Core: ITF+, A+, Network+, Security+
  • Infrastructure: ITF+, A+, Network+, Security+, Server+ or Linux+, Cloud+
  • Cybersecurity: ITF+, A+, Network+, Security+, PenTest+ or CySA+, CASP+

CompTIA Career Pathway

How to Choose Your Certification

While certain CompTIA certifications require hands-on work experience, others are open to anyone interested in pursuing a career IT. In order to decide which certifications to sign up for, it’s worth considering your current experience as well as your desired career path.

If you're new to the IT industry, focus on beginner certifications that cover foundational concepts and skills, like CompTIA Fundamentals and CompTIA A+. With some hands-on IT experience under your belt, you could skip past the basic exams and start with an intermediate certification like Network+ and Security+. Advanced certifications, including Server+, Cloud+, PenTest+, and CASP+, may be a better fit if you already have a few years of work experience and a strong understanding of core topics.

You might also find it helpful to choose a certification based on the type of work you're most interested in. The knowledge and skills assessed through CompTIA certification exams span many fields within the IT industry. For example, data analysts and marketing analysts may pursue Data+ certification. If you want to work as a project coordinator or SCRUM master, consider earning Project+ certification. Cloud Essentials+ certification may be useful for a career in technical sales.

For years, CompTIA certifications have been the gold standard for industry certification. If one or more of these qualifications is part of your career plans, it is important to learn more about the key skills and competencies assessed in the exams so you can plan a timeline for preparing for and earning the certifications you need.

 

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