It seems that people love to hate on CompTIA certifications. After all, their certs are entry-level (no on is denying thing). But are they really worthless? Let’s explore.
First, let me give you a quick overview of the CompTIA’s offerings. They started as a computer sales professional organization, but moved into IT certifications. They are the first stop for many people on their IT careers. Here are some of the certs they currently offer:
A+ is a broad certification covering basic principles of, troubleshooting and repair of PCs, laptops, printers, and networking. It provides a foundation of information on the computer industry as well as working in IT. A+, while much maligned, is suited for Help Desk, Desktop Support, and hardware technicians.
Network+ covers- you guessed it- computer networking concepts. Included on that test are switching, routing, WANs and LANs, and my least-favorite networking topic: subnetting. Interestingly, there is a significant amount of crossover material between A+ and Network+ so if you’re taking A+, you might as well knock out Network+ soon after.
Security+ is not a joke. While it’s not the hardest certification CompTIA offers, it’s actually required by just about any DoD job out there. It’s a good way to dip your toe into the vast world of InfoSec.
CASP is Security+’s nasty older brother. It’s actually designed to be equally acceptable to DoD 8570, and some say, easier to get than CISSP. It not very technical, since it’s not vendor specific.
Server+ is aimed at server administrators to help them maintain the hardware and software for (surprise!) servers. It’s gets into technical detail you miss on A+: server architecture, redundant hardware, RAID, and datacenter networking.
I believe that CompTIA certifications are not useless, but in fact may be good for some IT pros to get. Here’s why:
They are a baseline
Because CompTIA’s time on the scene, they have a lot of experience and are trusted by a lot of companies. While they may not be the first in the field, the undoubtedly have the most top-of-mind name recognition. In many cases, CompTIA has become synonymous with IT certification.
While they aren’t particularly hard to get in most cases, CompTIA certifications can indicate that the holder has at least a basic level of knowledge on a subject. For example, go check some job ads for Desktop Support or Help Desk. You’ll see that you can get brownie points for A+, and some even require it.
Some companies require them
Since many IT shops recognize CompTIA’s track record, some have come to adopt them as requirements for candidates and employees. Some companies even advertise and guarantee in contracts that they will retain a certain number of percentage of staff with certifications, including CompTIA’s offerings.
The DoD, as part of the DoD 8750 Directive, requires A+ or Network+ at their IAT level (entry), and it goes up from there. CASP is good up until the 2nd highest engineer level, IASEA II.
They force you to learn
This is the best, and arguably my favorite part about CompTIA certs. They force you to get a baseline of knowledge on a subject that is not tied to a vendor. The process of studying forces you to grasp the concepts behind the questions (that is, unless you decide to cheat- this is how I feel about that). It makes you ask, “Why?” then figure out the answer.
The way I do it, and the way that I believe is most effective, is to start answering questions (Exam Crams are great for this), and then go back and learn not just the right answer, but the technology behind the question. This has helped me immensely, and I think it will help you, too.
They’re easy enough to get
Ok- let be honest here: this point is why people hate on them- well, maybe this and the CE thing. Some IT pros think CompTIA’s stuff is too easy. But I know why: It’s vendor-neutral.
Being vendor-neutral allows these certs to cover the basic technology- as in- TCP/IP, not Cisco’s proprietary protocols. How processors work, not how to troubleshoot Intel socket problems. The ins-and-outs of RAM, server maintenance, and security best practices. I think that for some IT pros, it’s just too unsophisticated.
CompTIA’s exams aren’t tied to a particular version of software, either- like MSCA 2012 R2, which will be outdated when Windows Server 2016 finally drops. VCP6-DCV (VMware’s standard for professionals) will be largely irrelevant by the time vSphere 10 is here. This is great for CompTIA- because you can learn servers and virtualization- but it’s also terrible for you, because you don’t get the technical depth on a product that you will actually use. So I can see both sides of it.
Is a CompTIA certification right for you? It it worth it?
If you’re new to IT work, it might be a good start. You can learn basics, get some momentum, and start building credibility.
If you’re not required to have it, but you want to be forced to learn a certain topic, then they can be handy.
If you’re pinning all your IT hopes and dreams on a cert from CompTIA, your hope might be misplaced.
If you’ve been in IT for 10 years and already have a solid base of knowledge, it may not be for you.
I hope that helps! Thanks for reading.
Do you have a CompTIA certification like me? What do you think? Worth it? Not? Let me know in the comments below.