The IT industry is one of the fastest developing and most competitive markets in the world. Even niches like hardware, networks, and cybersecurity – are often subject to new developments and changes. This is why you need a CompTIA A+ certification.
To keep up with all the changes and remain a desirable candidate in your career, certifications are important and go a long way in keeping you fit.
Fortunately, there are several IT certifications that cover a variety of skill levels. One of the most popular IT certification providers is CompTIA.
Here we will go through the best CompTIA certifications, with details on what specific courses cover and how they can help you. We also provide a list of CompTIA alternatives.
What is CompTIA?
Founded in 1982, CompTIA is a not-for-profit organization that has offered rigorous, industry-leading information technology certifications for nearly 4 decades. Her goal is to develop a capable workforce and a reliable work ethic for the IT industry.
CompTIA certification programs are recognized worldwide and are designed for professionals, beginners, and everyone in between. It also offers education-specific IT niches such as hardware support, networking, and system security.
What is CompTIA A+ certification?
CompTIA A+ certification is earned by passing a set of two exams created by IT industry professionals that validate the skills required for entry-level IT jobs. However, CompTIA A+ isn’t just about repairing PCs.
CompTIA A+ candidates are better prepared to troubleshoot and solve a broader range of problems, ranging from networking and operating systems to mobile devices and security.
Unlike other certifications, many of which only require coverage in one area, CompTIA A+ covers a broader variety of skills that technicians need today, making A+ relevant to many more jobs.
What job roles can a CompTIA A+ holder take?
The CompTIA A+ is designed for professionals who want to pursue a career in IT and have 9 to 12 months of hands-on lab or field experience, or equivalent training. CompTIA A+ prepares candidates for the following roles:
- Service Desk Analyst
- Technical Assistance Specialist
- Field Engineer
- Dedicated Network Engineer
- Data support technician
- Desktop Support Administrator
- End-user computer technicians
- Help Desk Technician
- System support specialist
How much can I make with CompTIA A+ certification?
Here are a few CompTIA A+ jobs and their average salaries:
- Support Specialist: $54,500
- Field Engineer: $46,000
- Desktop Support Analyst: $60,000
- Level 2 Helpdesk Support: $45,000
What does the CompTIA A+ exam include?
CompTIA A+ is a performance-based certification that supports the ability to connect users to the data they need to do their jobs, regardless of the devices they use. Successful candidates possess the following skills:
- Configure, install and update operating systems including: Windows, Apple OS X, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile
- Install and create a virtual machine image
- Set up and troubleshoot peripherals
- Assemble and disassemble computer hardware
- Set up and support simple home networks and small office networks
- Implement cybersecurity controls appropriate for helpdesk and technical support roles
- Troubleshooting and supporting end-user access to applications and data
The CompTIA A+ exam covers the following areas and topics:
- Hardware: Identify, use, and connect hardware components and devices
- Networking: Explain types of networks and connections, including Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), Wi-Fi, and Small Office/Home Office (SOHO)
- Mobile devices: Install and configure laptops and other mobile devices
- Network and Hardware Troubleshooter: Troubleshoot device and network problems
- Security: Identify and protect against security vulnerabilities for devices and their network connections
- Windows operating system: Install and support the Windows operating system, including command line and client support
- Other OS Technologies: Familiarize yourself with Mac OS, Linux and mobile operating systems
- Software Troubleshooter: Troubleshoot PC and mobile device issues, including application security support
- Operating procedures: best practices for safety, environmental impact and communication and professionalism
Which CompTIA Certification Should You Pick First?
It is recommended that you start with the CompTIA A+ before proceeding to any of the other certifications. In fact, CompTIA A+ certification is a requirement for some certifications.
There is a specific CompTIA certification hierarchy, with A+ being the starting point. Experts often see Network+ and Security+ as the next steps.
You can then take either the infrastructure path (Server+, Linux+, or Cloud+) or the cybersecurity path (PenTest+, CASP+, and CySA+).
CompTIA has also discussed this extensively, so you may want to read their post to learn more about the CompTIA certification path.
Which CompTIA certifications are most valuable?
There is no specific rulebook by which you can compare the value of different CompTIA courses as it depends on what you want to get out of your learning.
However, the CompTIA A+ core certification is almost mandatory as it lays the foundation for future certifications.
From this perspective, the CompTIA A+ certification could be considered the most valuable. Future certifications can then be decided depending on the desired career path.
Does CompTIA Project+ certification expire?
The CompTIA Project+ certification does not expire and neither does the CompTIA Server+ certification. Once you get the certification, it’s good for life.
Which CompTIA certification is the hardest/easiest to get?
This is entirely subjective. Many have said that the CompTIA A+ certification is difficult, while some have said that it is fairly easy.
In general, however, it seems that the CompTIA A+ and Security+ certifications are among the toughest. How easy or difficult depends on your skills and whether you have previous knowledge.
As for the easiest solution, opinions vary here as well, with some saying the CompTIA Network+ certification is the easiest and others saying otherwise.
Instead of thinking about what is hardest or easiest, focus on achieving A+ certification and progress to others as needed. They are not so difficult that you will never pass them.
How do you study for CompTIA certifications?
There are many CompTIA certification exam learning resources that can help you better prepare. Online videos, course materials, books, and practice exams. One particular platform, ExamCompass, has been particularly popular with CompTIA certification candidates.
You must use a combination of these resources to best prepare for the exam. So don’t limit yourself to simple video lessons or reading material. Together, these should help you do well on the CompTIA certification path.
What are the CompTIA Certification Programs?
CompTIA certifications are grouped by skill. Currently, CompTIA certifications fall into four areas: core, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and additional professional certifications.
- Core Certifications: Designed to build fundamental core competencies, CompTIA offers four core certifications:
- IT Fundamentals+ (a pre-career certification focused on the IT fundamentals framework),
- CompTIA A+ (with a focus on user support and device connectivity),
- CompTIA Network+ (targets core system connections with endpoint devices) and
- CompTIA Security+ (focuses on entry-level cybersecurity skills).
- Infrastructure certifications: In addition to the Network+ certificate, you will find three infrastructure certifications:
- CompTIA Server+ (focuses on issues related to server support and management),
- CompTIA Cloud+ (includes hybrid cloud, virtual machine management and network storage resource provisioning) and
- CompTIA Linux+ (focuses on the administration and management of Linux operating systems).
- Cybersecurity Certifications: CompTIA offers three cybersecurity credentials:
- CompTIA CySA+ (CySA stands for Cyber Security Analyst and is aimed at IT security behavior analysts),
- CASP+ (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner; focuses on professionals who design and implement security solutions) and
- CompTIA PenTest+ (Penetration Testing, aimed at professionals performing penetration and vulnerability testing).
- Additional Professional Certifications: This category includes several credentials that do not readily fit into any of the CompTIA career paths above, including CompTIA Project+, CompTIA CTT+, and CompTIA Cloud Essentials.
CompTIA Core Certifications
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ is ideal for beginners with a basic understanding of PC functionality and compatibility, familiarity with technology topics such as hardware fundamentals, software installation, security risks and prevention, and basic networking skills.
It is also ideal as a career planning or development tool for people starting their IT career or looking to make a career change. A single exam is required to earn the certificate.
CompTIA introduced a new IT Fundamentals+ exam (exam FC0-U61) in September 2018. This new exam focuses on computer fundamentals, database usage, software development, and IT infrastructure.
The CompTIA A+ certification has been described as “the entry ritual for IT technicians” and with good reason. This certification is for individuals who want to pursue a career as a helpdesk, support, service center, or network engineer.
It covers PC and laptop hardware, software installation, and configuration of computer and mobile operating systems.
A+ also tests a candidate’s understanding of fundamental networking, troubleshooting, and security skills that serve as stepping stones to CompTIA networking or security certifications, or those offered by other organizations.
These new exams provide an additional focus on operational process competency and fundamental safety issues. Candidates must pass the Core 1 (exam 220-1001) and Core 2 (exam 220-1002) exams.
The Core 1 exam targets virtualization, cloud computing, mobile devices, hardware, networking technology, and troubleshooting.
The Core 2 exams focus on installing and configuring operating systems, troubleshooting software, operational procedures, and security.
Many IT professionals start with the A+ certification. Although the A+ certification is recommended, if you have the experience and do not have a need for the A+ certification, you can go directly to the CompTIA Network+ certification.
It is aimed at professionals with at least nine months of networking experience. A candidate must be familiar with network technologies, media, topologies, security, installation and configuration, and troubleshooting of common wired and wireless network devices.
Recommended or required by Dell, HP, and Intel, the Network+ certification is also an accepted entry-level certification for the Apple Consultants Network.
The Network+ credential conforms to the ISO 17024 standard and, like the A+, is recognized by the US Department of Defense. A single exam is required to earn certification.
CompTIA Security+ includes network security concepts, threats and vulnerabilities, access control, identity management, cryptography, and much more.
Although CompTIA does not mandate any prerequisites, the organization recommends that Cert candidates earn the Network+ credential and have at least two years of security-focused IT administration experience.
To earn Security+ certification, candidates must pass exam SY0-501.
The CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI certification is designed for Linux network administrators with at least 12 months of Linux administration experience.
This experience should cover installation, package management, GNU and Unix commands, shells, scripting, security, and more. The A+ and Network+ certifications are recommended as a preamble to this certification but are not mandatory.
Candidates must pass two exams (LX0-103 and LX0-104) to earn this qualification. Exams must be taken in sequential order and candidates must pass exam LX0-103 before attempting LX0-104.
In 2018, CompTIA began testing a new beta exam (XK1-004). The beta exam offering ended on October 22, 2018. New exams generally follow beta exam tests, so interested candidates should check the Linux+ website for updates.
As the cloud computing market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, CompTIA Cloud+ certification keeps pace.
This certification is for IT professionals with two to three years of storage, networking, or data center management experience.
A single exam, CV0-002, is required. It tests candidates’ knowledge of cloud technologies, hybrid and multi-cloud solutions, cloud markets, and the integration of cloud-based technology solutions into system operations.
CompTIA Server+ is intended for server administrators with 18 to 24 months of experience in server hardware and software technologies, and A+ certification is recommended.
Server+ entitlement is recommended or required by HP, Intel, and Lenovo for their server engineers. It is also recognized by Microsoft and the US Department of Defense (DoD).
A single exam, SK0-004, is required to earn this credential.
CompTIA Cybersecurity Certifications
CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
As cybercrime increases, so will the need for highly skilled information security analysts.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an expected 28 percent growth for information security analysts between 2016 and 2026, the fastest growth rate for any occupation.
One of the more recent additions to the CompTIA certification portfolio is the Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification. The CySA+ certification was specifically designed to meet the ever-growing need for experienced, qualified information security analysts.
CySA+ credential holders are well versed in using system threat detection tools, as well as using data and behavioral analytics to protect applications and systems from risks, threats, and other vulnerabilities.
CySA+ certification holders are not only able to monitor network behavior, but also analyze results and develop solutions to better protect against Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), intruders, malware, and the like.
CompTIA describes CySA+ as a bridge certificate between the Security+ certificate (which requires two years of experience) and the master-level Advanced Security Practitioner Certification (CASP), which requires 10 years of experience. To earn a CySA+, candidates must pass a performance-based exam.
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner+ (CASP+)
While CompTIA no longer uses the “master” designation, the coveted CASP+ certification is certainly a master-level certificate. Aimed at practitioners, CASP is the only performance-based, hands-on certification currently available from CompTIA.
This certification is aimed at experienced IT security professionals who plan, design, and implement security solutions in a corporate environment.
Although there are no explicit prerequisites for this certification, it’s a good idea to earn the Network+ and Security+ certifications before taking the CASP exam.
You should also have 10 years of IT administration experience and at least five years of technical security experience (this will earn you the spot of this certification as a “master” certification).
The newest member of the CompTIA certification family is the CompTIA PenTest+. PenTest+ is an intermediate-level credential designed to complement the CySA+.
While CySA+ is defensive in nature (with a focus on threat detection and response), the PenTest+ credential is offensive and focuses on using penetration testing to identify and manage network vulnerabilities across multiple spectrums.
There are no mandatory requirements, but Network+ and Security+ (or equivalent skills) are highly recommended, along with at least two years of information security experience.
Candidates pursuing the cybersecurity career path may take the PenTest+ or CySA+ certification in any order.
The audit was released in July 2018 and focuses on communicating and reporting findings, analyzing data, conducting penetration tests and scans, and scheduling assessments. The exam also tests a candidate’s knowledge of legal and compliance requirements.
Additional Professional Certifications
Focused solely on project management, the CompTIA Project+ certification is ideal for project managers who are familiar with project lifecycles from planning to completion and are able to complete a project on time and under budget.
Project managers interested in this certification should have at least one year of project management experience leading small to medium-sized projects.
Project+ certification requires candidates to pass a multiple-choice exam, PK0-004.
CompTIA Cloud Essentials
The CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification is designed for individuals who understand the business aspects of cloud computing and how to move from on-premises to cloud storage.
In addition, they should be aware of the effects, risks, and consequences of implementing a cloud-based solution. A single exam is required to earn the certificate.
The CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification is perfect for anyone interested in technical training. It includes vendor-agnostic trainer skills such as preparation, presentation, communication, facilitation, and assessment.
Adobe, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Microsoft, and Ricoh recommend CTT+ to their trainers and accept it in place of their own internal trainer certifications.
Two exams are required for CTT+ certification: CompTIA CTT+ Essentials (TK0-201) and either CTT+ Classroom Performance Trainer (TK0-202) or CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer (TK0-203).
The CTT+ Classroom Performance Trainer and the CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer are performance-based exams.
In this case, you must submit a video or recording of your classroom (or virtual classroom sessions) and fill out a form documenting your training preparation, delivery, and student assessments.
Is the CompTIA A+ certification worth it?
One of the compelling characteristics of the CompTIA certification programs is that they are widely recognized on a global scale. Employers pay attention to how you score in terms of domain knowledge.
The exams aren’t a problem, so it shows a commitment to learning and growth. They can even make a career for you as some of these certifications are entry-level.
There have been numerous instances where individuals have moved from being unemployed to working in high-paying jobs thanks to the efforts they have made to obtain certification.
It will prepare you well for a career in IT, no doubt about that.
Other compelling reasons to choose CompTIA certifications include:
- Regularly updated according to the latest developments
- Strict topic coverage
- Flexibility in exam scheduling and study
- Completely web based
CompTIA certifications can accelerate your IT career (Conclusion)
The best CompTIA certifications can really help you start or advance a career in IT. Typically, individuals are happy to choose 2 or 3 CompTIA certifications to become an invaluable addition to any IT team.
If you want to advance your career and keep up to date with the latest IT developments, a CompTIA certification is definitely worth it. Take a course, prepare as above and pass the exams.