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CompTIA Certification Guide: Overview

CompTIA offers some of the most recognized entry-level certifications for IT professionals, including its A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications. This certification guide will help you get started with CompTIA's certs and career paths.  Headquartered near Chicago, CompTIA is a non-profit trade association comprised of more than2,000 member organizations and 3,000 business partners. Although the organization focuses on educating and certifying IT professionals, CompTIA also figures prominently in philanthropy and public policy advocacy.

 

CompTIA Certification Program Overview

CompTIA's vendor-neutral certification program is one of the most recognized in the IT industry, having issued more than 2 million certifications during a 20-year span. Currently, CompTIA certifications are offered at four levels, or series:

  • Foundational
  • Professional
  • Master
     

Although the Basic and Master categories each offer a single certification at this time, CompTIA's Professional series is comprised of nine globally recognized certifications that can help aspiring IT professionals get started in a number of different areas of IT, including security, networking, cloud computing, server and Linux administration, project management and more. There are currently four certifications in the Specialty category, for document imaging, cloud essentials, healthcare IT
and trainers.

 

CompTIA IT Fundamentals

CompTIA IT Fundamentals is the sole certification in the Foundational category. It's ideal for beginners with a basic understanding of PC functionality and compatibility as well as familiarity with technology topics, such as hardware basics, software installation, security risks and prevention, and basic networking. Currently, CompTIA offers both a proctored and a non-proctored version of the exam.

 

CompTIA Professional Certifications

The CompTIA Professional series certifications aim at IT professionals seeking a specific ITcareer, such as computer support, networking, security, mobility, project management or storage. The three most popular CompTIA certifications — namely, A+, Network+ and Security+ — fall in this category, as well as the Linux+, Cloud+, certs. Let's take a closer look at CompTIA's Professional certs.

 

CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification has been described as an "entry-level rite of passage for IT technicians," for a good reason. This certification is designed for folks seeking a career as a help desk, support, service center or networking technician, and it covers PC and laptop hardware, software installation and configuration of computer and mobile operating systems. A+ also tests a candidate's understanding of basic networking, troubleshooting and security skills, which serve as a springboard for CompTIA networking or security certifications or those offered by other organizations. According to CompTIA, more than one million IT professionals hold the A+ certification. The A+ is required for Canon, Dell, Intel and HP service technicians and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Candidates must pass two exams (exams 220-901 and 220-902) to earn the A+ credential.

 

CompTIA Network+

Many IT professionals start with the A+ certification. However, if you have the experience and don't feel you need the A+, you can move directly to the CompTIA Network+ certification, which is geared toward professionals with at least nine months of networking experience. A candidate must be familiar with networking technologies, media, topologies, security, installation and configuration. The Network+ certification is recommended or required by Cisco, Dell, HP and Intel, and is also an accepted entry-point certification for the Apple Consultants Network. The Network+ credential meets the ISO 17024 standard and just like the A+, it is recognized by the U.S. DoD. Only one exam, N10-006, is required to earn the certification.

 

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+ covers network security concepts, threats and vulnerabilities, access control, identity management, cryptography and much more. Although CompTIA does not require any prerequisites, the organization recommends that cert candidates obtain the Network+ credential and have at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus. To obtain the Security+ certification candidates must pass on exam, SY0-401.

 

CompTIA Linux+

The CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI certification aims at Linux network administrators with at least 12 months of Linux administration experience, including installation, package management, GNU and Unix commands, shells, scripting, security and more. The A+ and Network+ certifications are recommended as prerequisites but are not required; candidates must pass two exams to earn the credential.

 

CompTIA Cloud+

As the cloud computing market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, the CompTIA Cloud+ certification has been keeping pace. This certification targets IT professionals with 2 to 3 years of experience in storage, networking or data center administration. The single exam tests candidates' knowledge of cloud models, resource management, business continuity techniques and general hypervisor technology for server virtualization.

 

CompTIA Master Certification

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP)

The highly sought-after CASP certification is the only master-level credential currently available from CompTIA. This certification is designed for seasoned IT security professionals who plan, design and implement security solutions in an enterprise environment. Although this certification doesn't impose any explicit prerequisites, it's not a bad idea to earn the Network+ and Security+ certifications before tackling the CASP exam. You should also have 10 years of IT administration experience, as well as a minimum of 5 years of technical security experience (thus the certification's place in the "Master" category). Booz Allen Hamilton, Network Solutions and Verizon Telematics, among other companies, require CASP certification for certain positions. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy also accept CASP as an industry-based certification required by employees and contractors who perform IT work in DOD data centers. The CASP certification requires that candidates pass the CAS-002 exam, which consists of 80 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

 

Related Jobs and Careers

CompTIA credentials do not focus on a single skill (such as networking or virtualization), CompTIA credential holders may find themselves in a variety of job roles depending on their experience, skill level and area of interest. Here are just a few of the possible careers that CompTIA credential holders may find themselves engaged in:

  • A+: Typically, A+ credential holders find work in support roles, such as support administrators, support technicians or support specialists.
  • Network+: Network+ professionals primarily work in network-related roles, such as network analysts, administrators or support specialists. Credential holders may also work as network engineers, field technicians or network help desk technicians.
  • Security+: Security spans a variety of jobs, such as network, system or security administrators, security managers, specialists or administrators, and security consultants.
  • Linux+: Linux professionals often work in roles such as Linux database administrators, network administrators or web administrators.
  • Cloud+: Cloud+ credential holders typically work as cloud specialists, developers or system and network administrators. Cloud Essentials professionals tend to work in areas related to cloud technical sales or business development.
  • CASP: Common roles for CASP credential holders include cybersecurity specialists, InfoSec specialists, information security professionals and security architects.

While the examples above are by no means exhaustive, they do provide an overview of some of the available careers. You career choices are limited only by your interests, imagination and determination to achieve your personal goals.