Launch Your IT Career with CompTIA Certifications
CompTIA is one of the most recognized education and training vendors in IT and is considered among the world's top tech industry trade associations. Since 1982, more than 2.2 million people have achieved a certification from CompTIA's large portfolio, which caters to everyone from entry-level IT professionals to seasoned penetration testers.
CompTIA certifications are ideal for professionals new to the IT industry and many of CompTIA's credentials are designed to suit this audience. That said, CompTIA's current portfolio also includes intermediate-to-expert cybersecurity certifications, as well as niche certifications covering technologies like Linux.
"As a security professional and trainer of 20 years I have been fortunate enough to make my way through virtually the entire CompTIA portfolio, having passed A+, Network+, Security+, CySA+ and CASP," says Jeremy Green, lead CompTIA Instructor at Firebrand Training.
"They have been a challenge to achieve at times, but many of the exams have been an enjoyable experience with a real sense of accomplishment.
"With a typical CompTIA certification exam consisting of three to five scenario-based questions and 80-90 multiple-choice questions, they are achievable by anyone with either the right training, preparation, or both."
So which CompTIA certification should you choose? Read on for your complete guide to CompTIA certifications.
Introductory Certs: IT Fundamentals, Cloud Essentials
CompTIA's portfolio begins with IT Fundamentals, an entry-level certification that equips you with basic computer literacy knowledge and skills. Cloud Essentials fills a similar niche, with a focus on basic cloud skills, useful for non-IT roles.
IT Fundamentals is an introductory certification for those with little-to-no knowledge of computers. Most students will find that they can either breeze through IT Fundamentals, or skip it altogether and move straight on to the next certification: CompTIA's hugely popular A+.
Novice Level Certs: A+, Network+
The A+ is an ideal starting point for a career in IT. And if you already have a few months of entry-level experience, then this certification will help fill in any gaps you may have in your knowledge. Focusing on computer hardware, networking, operating system, and security basics, the CompTIA A+ imparts knowledge and skills critical to entry-level IT roles.
This long-running and immensely popular certification is regularly updated, with the 10th version due early 2019. The updated A+ will build and validate knowledge in Windows 10, 3D printers, changes to security, virtualization, and basic scripting with Python, Java and HTML.
Once you achieve A+ certification — or if you are already familiar with the topics it covers — the Network+ is the next step. This certification builds your knowledge of networking, from cable types to routing, IPv4 and IPv6, DNS, DHCP, ARP, and NDP.
"You'll also study how data is sent securely across a network and the internet via VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), cryptography and the ever-popular PKI (Public Key Infrastructure).
"Once you've completed the Network+ certification, you'll possess the foundation of knowledge needed for a network engineer role," adds Jeremy.
Foundational Cybersecurity Knowledge: Security+
Cyber security is crucial for modern businesses and CompTIA has invested heavily in building quality certifications that are sought-after by professionals across the globe. If you're aiming for a career in cyber security or simply want a foundation of IT security knowledge, the Security+ credential should be your next step on CompTIA's certification pathway.
"It's not for the faint-hearted and is a more difficult and demanding certification than the Network+," says Jeremy.
Security+ is a common certification to achieve once A+ and Network+ are completed. Now on its fifth iteration, (SYS-501) the Security+ is a widely accepted and accredited qualification. In the Unites States, the Department of Defense (DoD) lists Security+ as a baseline qualification for most IT-related federal government jobs.
Advanced Cybersecurity Knowledge: CySA+, PenTest+, CASP
Once you've earned Security+ you'll understand the basics of cybersecurity and will be ready to specialise within risk management or penetration testing. As you'd expect there are CompTIA certifications to help you build out those skill sets: CySA+ and Pentest+. Both certifications are great follow-ups to Security+ and are considered intermediate-level credentials.
The CySA+ builds your knowledge of risk management and analysis, and the Pentest+ certification (new for 2018) is designed to test the technical skills required of anyone undertaking a penetration test.
The highest level of security certification that CompTIA maintain is the CASP (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner). This ultimate qualification proves your knowledge as a master of cybersecurity and risk management.
Designed as a competitor to the highly-regarded CISSP certification from (ISC)2, the CASP does not have the same level of industry clout. It is, however, DoD approved and demonstrates you have an in-depth understanding of all things security.
Specialized IT Knowledge: Cloud+, Server+, Linux+, Project+
While core IT skills and cybersecurity account for the bulk of CompTIA's certifications, CompTIA also maintains a grab bag of specialised credentials covering cloud, Linux, project management and server technology.
The following certifications are great routes to build out these additional skillsets, once you've nailed the basics through CompTIA's entry-level certifications or through role-based work. Additional certifications include:
Find the full list of certifications, along with information about their relevant exams and topics covered, on CompTIA's website.
"So, what are you waiting for? There is a CompTIA certification for anyone and has been through the certification process, I without a doubt feel more knowledgeable, confident and qualified as an IT professional with the skills required of a fast-paced and exciting industry!" says Jeremy.