Interested in certification? Then you’ve probably heard about CompTIA and its certifications. What is the value of CompTIA certifications? The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is essentially a member organization that promotes competences and standards in the IT industry. As most CompTIA literature states, “CompTIA is a global trade association representing the business interests of the information technology industry.”
While CompTIA provides research, networking and partnering opportunities for its members globally, it is the area of certification that CompTIA attracts more attention from IT professionals. Through vendor-neutral certification programs CompTIA develops human resource standards for guiding practitioners in the IT industry.
The concept of developing vendor neutral benchmarks is founded on the recognition that technology lasts much longer than vendor products. And a solid vendor-neutral technology foundation will always help IT professionals in today’s multi-vendor world. In fact sponsors of vendor certifications acknowledge this view by building in CompTIA’s vendor-neutral certifications into their certification paths.
In assessing value and certifications, which CompTIA certifications stand out?
A+ is one of the most popular certifications in the IT industry and is CompTIA’s top certification. A+ is massively popular worldwide as it validates skills and knowledge in technical support covering competencies over products from leading manufacturers including IBM, Intel, Microsoft, HP and Lotus. It confirms the competence of individuals with at least 500 hours of hands-on experience in computer service. Records indicate that over 500,000 individuals have achieved the A+ certification.
Predictably certification programs developed by Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Novell and Certiport all recognize A+. For example, A+ certification, coupled with either CompTIA’s Network+ or Server+ certification, can be used as an elective for Microsoft's MCSA certification.
You become A+ certified by passing two exams - the A+ Core Hardware exam and the A+ OS Technologies exam. A+ was updated in 2001 and again in 2003 Presently A+ candidates can mix and match 2001 and 2003 exams to earn CompTIA’s A+ certification. However the Mix and Match grace period ends on the September 30th, 2004.
It’s easy to understand why A+ is so popular. The exams cover the key areas of tech support, one of the busiest areas of IT: installation, configuration, diagnosing, preventive maintenance and basic networking. In addition, A+ offers newcomers the opportunity to acquire solid foundational hardware and software skills that are valued for entry-level jobs.
Network+ is CompTIA’s second biggest certification behind A+ in terms of interest and number of certified individuals. Interested in acquiring and or validating fundamental networking skills and knowledge? Then you should consider Network+. CompTIA recommends Network+ for IT professionals with nine months experience in network support or administration and unlike the A+ it is achieved by passing one conventional format exam.
“A Network+ certification demonstrates your technical abilities in networking administration and support, and validates your knowledge of media and topologies, protocols and standards, network implementation, and network support”.
The dynamic nature of the Networking world is obvious for all to see. In the huge multi-vendor world of network systems, products and manufacturers, Network+ gives the individual a solid vendor-neutral foundation to successfully grow in any of these areas of networking. It is certainly the most popular certification designed to validate knowledge and skills in the fundamentals of networking.
Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, Compaq, Lotus and 3Com have all recognized Network+ as part of their certification tracks.
Network+ was first introduced in 1997 and updated in January 2002. Although there are no prerequisites for this certification, CompTIA recommends that you possess the A+ certification. As industry trends indicate more growth and developments in networking, Network+ is expected to continue to grow in value.
Businesses and organizations are accepting the fact that project management has its own qualifications and skills. There is a growing need to prevent waste and reduce risks associated with IT projects. “CompTIA IT Project+ is the first IT industry project management certification to be designed by IT people for IT people”.
IT Project+ certification is a vendor-neutral credential recognized worldwide for the management of IT projects. The IT Project+ was transferred from the Gartner Institute to CompTIA in February 2001, and upgraded in November 2003.
The IT Project+ designation is achieved by passing one conventional format exam that covers "best practices in project management methods and processes, critical business knowledge and important interpersonal skills." In view of the interactive and communicative nature of project management, IT project+ focuses on people skills much more than the usual technical certification programs. Soft skills incorporated include “conflict resolution, negotiation, communication, team building/leadership and setting and mapping expectations”.
IT Project+ has no prerequisites and is recommended for individuals with at least 12 months practical project management experience. It is also a core requirement for the Novell MCNE certification.
IT Project+ is a program that should grow in relevance considering the premium being placed on soft skills and management in the IT industry.
Linux is here to stay. Linux is proven on the server realm and is making significant inroads in the desktop market. Linux+ is designed to certify professionals who can install, configure, manage, network, and troubleshoot Linux-based desktops and servers. “The Linux+ certification validates technical competency and provides a broad awareness of Linux operating systems. Those holding Linux+ certification demonstrate critical knowledge of installation, operation, administration and troubleshooting services”.
Linux+ was introduced in September 2001 and CompTIA recently announced that the Linux+ certification would undergo a major revision in late 2004.
According to Yvonne Keith, CompTIA Linux+ certification program manager. "The revised exam is designed to build Linux capabilities for today's job tasks, and to prepare individuals for success as they train for and earn more advanced vendor-neutral and vendor-specific Linux certifications."
There are no prerequisites for this certification and it is seen as an entry-level certification. However, CompTIA recommends that you possess the A+ and Network+ certifications. With the strong and ever-increasing demand for Linux, Linux+ certification is an acknowledged starting point for network and system administrators with an interest in Linux expertise. The Linux+ designation is achieved by passing one conventional format exam.
The ever-present menace of hackers, viruses, spammers and other IT related threats have brought IT security to center stage. This in turn intensifies market demand for security professionals. CompTIA’s Security+ certification attempts to address this need by covering the fundamentals of information security.
Security+ is one of CompTIA’s newest certifications – it was introduced in 2002 - and is also one of the most popular. Organizations are realizing that since security is not an option, IT staff must be equipped with security skills. Technologies and policies alone are not enough to stop hackers and decrease costs associated with security incidents. In fact studies indicate that human error and not technology is the major cause of security breaches and threats in the workplace.
Security+ is recommended for network and security administrators, especially those who have two years on-the-job networking experience, with an emphasis on security. It is achieved by passing one conventional exam that covers security knowledge such as “communication security, infrastructure security, cryptography, access control, authentication, external attack and operational and organization security”.
To underscore its relevance, Security+ is an elective or prerequisite to advanced certifications from Microsoft and IBM. It may also serve as a launch pad to more advanced security certifications such as ISC2’s CISSP and Cisco’s CCSP.
CompTIA's other certifications may not be as well recognized as those listed in this article, but they still hold great value to those interested in the areas covered. These are: CDIA+ (Electronic document imaging systems), CTT+ (Certified Technical Trainer), e-Biz+ (electronic business), HTI+ (Home Technology Integrator), i-Net+ (Internet and Web protocols, management and technologies) and Server+ (Server support and proficiency).
CompTIA doesn’t have the marketing dollars of Cisco, Novell, Oracle, Sun and Microsoft because unlike these big players in the certification market, CompTIA has no hardware or software product it sells. But don’t let that fool you. CompTIA is no pushover in the global certification market. As highlighted in this article, CompTIA credentials focus on market areas of high demand and growth. In the case of foundation level certification, CompTIA leads others follow.
The credibility of CompTIA certifications is further enhanced by the fact it’s a member organization of credible IT organizations, not just one vendor behind the development of these certifications.
As technology changes CompTIA upgrades its certifications to keep up with the latest technologies and techniques. However, once a person achieves the CompTIA certification, the certification will not expire.
Which CompTIA certification?
The value of CompTIA certification is not in doubt. The questions are: Is CompTIA certification for me? Which CompTIA certifications interest you? Which area(s) of IT interest you?
Some certifications are more popular than others, but it isn’t wise to choose simply based on popularity. What is your need? Have you set your benchmarks? What do you want to achieve?
Each CompTIA certification has its target audience. Even though most tend to be for entry-level candidates CompTIA usually recommends some level of experience and or certification.
But CompTIA certifications are not for beginners only. If you need fundamental skills in a specific area of IT, does CompTIA address your need? How solid are you in the fundamentals? Very often we skip the fundamentals to save money and time. And of course this approach usually backfires and costs even more by hindering career growth.
Furthermore, understand what certification can do for you and what you need to do for yourself. (http://www,jidaw.com/realistic.html). Acquiring the certification is one thing. How do you translate this to career growth? Get real value by developing your soft skills and managing your IT career with a success-driven attitude.
Basics, Depth of Knowledge and Value
The message of CompTIA, top certifications and value is simple: Recognize that basic fundamental knowledge and skills are a necessity for sustainable career growth. It’s about removing vendor limitations and using the basics to ensure depth of knowledge. Look beyond titles.
Appreciate the value of being strong in the fundamentals and put this to play as you grow in your career. It works all the time!