The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a leading provider of IT certifications in the United States and across the globe. It is a non-profit organization that offers vendor-neutral certification to anyone who wants to step into the world of IT, regardless of their prior experience and skill level.
The information technology industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2021, it is expected to reach $5 trillion in revenue. Every IT sector is evolving, whether it be data management, cybersecurity, hardware, software development, emerging technologies, or another branch entirely. It is no wonder then that so many individuals are interested in getting a job in this industry. It promises high salaries, stable employment, and growth opportunities.
MyComputerCareer offers a range of programs that include different types of certifications. These programs include CompTIA certifications as well. The ultimate guide to CompTIA certification in 2021 will provide you with everything you need to know about how to obtain one or more of these highly sought-after IT credentials.
A Cert for Everyone
To get your foot through the door of IT and start building a career, you don’t need to have a degree in computer science. All you need is a love for software or hardware (or both), the ability to solve problems and think critically, and dedication to the craft. If you work hard, there’s no reason why you can’t climb the ladder of IT relatively quickly.
But what is CompTIA certification?
CompTIA certs are divided into several categories based on the type of technical skills they develop. They range from entry-level exams to those meant for highly-experienced professionals.
Core Skills Certification
The Core Skills program is geared towards IT beginners. Trainees in these courses will learn the basics of the most relevant IT branches, such as networking, cloud computing, operating systems, computer hardware, software, and more.
The Core Skills group includes four exams:
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ – As its name suggests, the Fundamentals+ exam focuses on IT’s most elementary concepts: network connectivity, operating systems, typical software applications, and best practices in web browsing and security.
This certification training is highly recommended if you have very little to no knowledge about computers and if you’re not even 100% sure you’d enjoy a career in IT. It will slowly introduce you to the world of tech so you can decide whether you like it or not.
- CompTIA A+ – The IT “rite of passage,” the A+ entry-level certification is one of the most common certs obtained by IT beginners. It covers topics a lot more in-depth than Fundamentals+ and offers you a high likelihood of employment in an entry-level position after you complete it. Through learning for the A+, you will cover topics such as software, hardware, visualization, and cloud computing, operational procedures, networking and security basics, and more.
- CompTIA Network+ – While the first two options are ideal for absolute beginners, Network+ requires at least nine months of experience working as an IT professional. It is focused on networks, including their configuration, management, and troubleshooting. It also includes essential network security protocols and standards.
- CompTIA Security+ – Similarly to Network+, the Security+ CompTIA certification also requires a bit of work experience or IT knowledge. This exam is perfect for those who want to work in cybersecurity and identify and respond to security threats, monitor and secure virtual environments, assess security protocols of an organization, recommend improvements, etc. The US Department of Defense recognizes the Security+ – you should have no trouble finding employment in this branch once you complete this training course.
Infrastructure in IT refers to the framework that keeps an organization afloat. Large businesses especially require IT professionals to maintain their data centers and network operations. Without meticulous organization and established procedures, a company can easily get lost in its data, networks, and duties related to them.
These three exams belong in the Infrastructure group:
- CompTIA Cloud+ – In recent years, more than 90% of businesses have moved to some storage for their data. CompTIA centered its Cloud+ exam around cloud markets, technologies, hybrid and multi-cloud solutions, and similar to meet the demand for IT professionals who can work on cloud systems.
- CompTIA Server+ – Exam objectives for this certification are server virtualization, storage, and security. This cert is recommended for server administrators with at least 18 months of experience and preferably an A+ CompTIA certification. It is also recognized by the US Department of Defense, much like the Security+.
- CompTIA Linux+ – Linux is an operating system utilized in cybersecurity, emerging tech, cloud computing, DevOps, and server configuration. The Linux+ training teaches you everything you need to know about this versatile operating system. It is meant for network administrators who have at least 12 months of experience in Linux administration.
Cyber Security Certification
One branch of IT that is developing at breakneck speed is cybersecurity. In 2020, at least 1001 reported data breaches occurred in the United States. The career of an IT security professional is highly coveted and not the easiest to obtain.
If you wish to acquire advanced certification in this field, then you should consider the following:
- CompTIA CySA+ (CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst) – CySA+ improves your existing cybersecurity knowledge and prepares you for facing a variety of advanced security threats. This security certification helps you learn more about threat-detection tools and how behavioral and data analytics are used in system security and protection against cyber threats.
- CompTIA PenTest+ (CompTIA Penetration Testing) – If the CySA+ builds your defensive skills, the PenTest+ builds your offensive skills. Trainees will learn how to use penetration testing to pinpoint network vulnerabilities and manage them. This is a great CompTIA exam to pass and start working in ethical hacking.
- CompTIA CASP+ (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner) – The CASP+ is an advanced certification for master-level professionals. At least ten years of IT administration experience and five years of computer security experience are recommended before you attempt to tackle this certification exam. It will teach you all about encryption, mobile security, blockchain technology, and other highly-specialized security topics.
CompTIA also has a selection of professional certifications that are indirectly related to IT:
- CompTIA Project+ for project management
- CompTIA Cloud Essentials+ for the business end of cloud computing
- CompTIA CTT+ for those who want to become IT trainers and mentors
Where to Start
When faced with such a long list of certifications at your disposal, it is common to wonder where you should start. Which CompTIA cert should you get first?
The answer depends on where you’re at in your IT journey and how much experience and existing knowledge you have. We can easily divide the exams mentioned above into three categories based on the level of knowledge and skill required to pass them.
Have no fear – if you don’t have any IT experience, you don’t have to miss out on CompTIA certs. With some basic knowledge and a bit of studying, you can pass these two exams without any problems:
- CompTIA A+
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals+
The IT Fundamentals+ might not lead you to a job, but the A+ is good enough to land you an entry-level position as a help desk technician, computer support specialist, or similar.
Those who already have at least nine months of experience in the IT industry can choose to upgrade their knowledge based on which IT branch they’d like to work in the most. Intermediate-level certs in CompTIA are:
- CompTIA Security+
- CompTIA Network+
These will allow you to work as a system analyst, administrator, network support engineer, security analyst, cybersecurity specialist, and the like.
Lastly, for some CompTIA training courses, you’ll need at least several years of experience in IT. These courses require extensive practical and theoretical knowledge for job roles such as a server administrator, penetration tester, security engineer, etc.
- CompTIA Linux+
- CompTIA Server+
- CompTIA Cloud+
- CompTIA PenTest+
- CompTIA CySA+
- CompTIA CASP+
Individuals interested in becoming CompTIA credential holders often wonder what type of jobs they can get with these certifications. Are the certs worth it? Can you find employment with any one of these on your resume?
The good news is that you don’t have to worry – a range of sectors is available to you, depending on where your preferences lie and what your certificate is focused on.
You can join 29.8% of CompTIA certification holders in service, support, and help desk technician jobs. The CompTIA A+ should be enough for any of these positions:
- IT specialist
- Field service technician
- Help desk technician
- IT support manager
- Technical support specialist
CompTIA itself declares that 17.4% of their credential holders work as systems analysts. They plan, design, and implement good network foundations for any software system or technology an enterprise might need.
You can opt for a job role such as:
- Solution architect
- Network engineer
- Cloud developer
- Cloud systems administrator
- Cloud architect
- Cloud engineer
- Network administrator
- Systems administrator
- Security administrator
- Systems analyst
- Systems engineer
- Network support specialist, and more.
The certs you should pass for these positions are the Network+, Security+, and Cloud+ exams.
CompTIA is abundant with credentials a hard-working cybersecurity professional should obtain. From intermediate-level Security+ to advanced-level CASP+, CySA+, and PenTest+ – you have the opportunity to hone both defensive and offensive skills a security professional should have. Approximately 16.2% of CompTIA-certified individuals work in cybersecurity.
- Technical lead analyst
- Security architect
- Security engineer
- Chief information security officer (CISO)
- Applications security engineer
- Network security operations
- Vulnerability assessment analyst
- Penetration tester
- Threat intelligence analyst
- Threat hunter
- Security operations center (SOC) analyst
- Cybersecurity analyst
- Application security analyst
Server and Data Management
Every minute of every day, a vast amount of data is gathered by various systems across the world. IT professionals must sort through this data, organize it, and extract the most relevant information. This is where server and data experts come in. The IT field requires the following positions:
- Storage administrator
- Web administrator
- Server support technician
- IT/Server technician
- Server administrator
- Data scientist
- Database administrator
- Linux administrator
Exams such as Linux+ and Server+ will help you get hired in server and data management.
Management and Human Resources
IT and human resources or management may not seem like a good fit for the outsider. But specific CompTIA certifications (Cloud Essentials+ and Project+) allow you to work in IT while still having plenty of contact with employees or clients.
- Technical support staff
- Business development manager
- Managed service provider (MSP) personnel
- Manager, director, team leader
- Project team member
- Project coordinator/manager
- Business analyst
Do CompTIA certifications expire?
If you’ve passed a CompTIA certification exam before January 1st, 2011, then you own a Good for Life (GFL) cert. These certificates do not expire, and you don’t have to renew them.
However, the fact remains that the IT industry is continually evolving. You might have passed the A+ fifteen years ago, but your knowledge base is bound to be rusty compared to today. That’s why you might still want to opt for renewing your cert – for getting a CE (Continuing Education) certification alongside your GFL one.
Continuing Education Program
The CE Program was implemented on January 1st, 2011. It established that all CompTIA exams after that date need to be renewed every three years.
To complete recertification, you need to acquire the correct number of CEUs or Continuing Education Units. You can collect these units in various ways – by completing a single activity that carries a large number of CEUs or completing several ones with a smaller CEU count.
The primary renewal options in CompTIA are these:
- Renew with a single activity
A single activity that will renew your exam can be any of the following: passing the latest version of your CompTIA exam (for example, taking the 1001/1002 after you’ve obtained the A+ cert in the 901/902 cycle), earning a higher-level CompTIA certification, completing CompTIA CertMaster CE (a self-paced e-learning course that brings you up to speed and to the current exam objective scope of your certificate), or earning an IT cert independently of CompTIA (such as from Google, Cisco, IBM, etc.).
- Renew with multiple activities
Alternatively, you can complete several different activities to collect enough CEUs for renewal.
You can earn another CompTIA certificate or earn multiple non-CompTIA certificates. Each one of these carries a specific number of CEUs with them, so make sure to check how much you need for recertification and which exams you need to take for that.
You can also earn CEUs by attending a live webinar or conference, completing a training course, or even getting a college degree!
Additionally, participating in IT industry activities, such as teaching or mentoring and creating instructional materials, also counts towards your renewal. So does publishing a relevant book, white paper, article, or blog post.
Gaining relevant work experience is another way you can renew your certification.
Submitting Your Activities
Once you’ve completed the desired activity or activities for renewal, you will have to submit proof of them to CompTIA.
Some activities will be automatically recorded, and your certs will be automatically renewed. This is the case if you pass the latest release of your exam or earn a higher-level certificate.
However, suppose you want to provide your work experience, a webinar or conference, or a book you’ve written to renew your CompTIA cert. In that case, you will have to submit information manually. There is a specific list of documents for each activity that needs to be submitted, so make sure that you check them out in detail on the CompTIA website. When you submit them, CompTIA will add up the number of CEUs you’ve earned.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of IT certifications that CompTIA offers. They belong into three main groups:
- Core Skills (A+, IT Fundamentals+, Network+, Security+)
- Infrastructure Certification (Linux+, Server+, Cloud+)
- Cybersecurity Certification (CySA+, CASP+, PenTest+)
- Additional Certification (Project+, Cloud Essentials+, CTT+)
Depending on your current knowledge and skill level, you can choose from entry-level, intermediate-level, or advanced certifications. You do not need to have any work experience in computer technology to start your CompTIA journey and, subsequently, your IT career.
CompTIA can help you land jobs in cybersecurity, IT infrastructure, support management, data and server management, human resources, and many more branches. You can become an information security specialist, a data analyst, server administrator, and anything else you can imagine.
Upon completing your certification training, you won’t have to renew it for another three years. CompTIA offers a Continuing Education Program, which helps you renew your certs through gathering CEUs – Continuing Education Units – by performing specific IT-related activities. Related work experience, another CompTIA exam, an IT exam unrelated to CompTIA, attending an IT conference, and similar activities all count towards renewal.
MyComputerCareer offers certification programs that include CompTIA exams as well. Reach out to us if you’re interested in getting CompTIA-certified and advancing your IT career. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have on this topic!