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CompTIA Certification


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The 6 Best CompTIA Certification Programs

Posted in CompTIA Certification
CompTIA Certification

The IT industry is one of the most rapidly evolving and competitive markets in the world. Even niches - hardware, networking, and cybersecurity - are subject to new developments and changes frequently. To stay abreast of all the changes and remain a desirable candidate in your career, certifications are important and go a long way in keeping you sharp.

If you’d like to receive this IT certification, you’ll have to pick one suited to your experience level and expectations. Fortunately, several IT certifications exist that cater to a wide variety of skill levels. One of the most popular IT certification providers is CompTIA

Here, we’re going to go over 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 non-profit organization that has been offering rigorous , industry-leading Information Technology certifications for nearly 4 decades. Their goal is to develop a capable workforce and a reliable work ethic for the IT industry.

CompTIA certification programs are globally recognized and cater to professionals, beginners, and everybody in-between. It also offers education specific IT niches, like hardware support, networking, and system security.

Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Worth It?

One of the compelling features of CompTIA certification programs is that they are widely recognized on a global level. Employers do pay attention to it to see how you fare as far as the domain knowledge is concerned. The exams are no slouch, so it shows a dedication to learning and growth. 

They can even make a career for you, as some of these certifications are entry level. There have been numerous cases where individuals have gone from being unemployed to working at high paying jobs thanks to the effort they put in to obtain a certification. It does prepare you well for a career in IT, of that there is no doubt.

Other compelling reasons to opt for CompTIA certifications are:

  • Regularly updated according to the latest developments
  • Rigorous topic coverage
  • Flexibility in examination scheduling and learning
  • Fully web-based


Which CompTIA Certification Should You Pick First?

It is recommended to start with the CompTIA A+ before proceeding to any of the other certifications. In fact, the CompTIA A+ certification is a prerequisite to some certifications.

There’s a certain CompTIA certification hierarchy, with A+ being the starting point. Professionals often consider Network+ and Security+ as the next steps. Following this, you can take either the infrastructure pathway (Server+, Linux+ or Cloud+) or the cybersecurity pathway (PenTest+, CASP+ and CySA+).

CompTIA has discussed this in detail as well, so you may want to read their post to learn more about the CompTIA certification path. 

Which CompTIA Certifications are Valuable?

There is no specific rubric by which to compare the value of various CompTIA courses, as it depends on what you’re seeking to get out of your learning.

However, the core CompTIA A+ certification is almost mandatory, as it lays the groundwork for future certifications. From that perspective, CompTIA A+ certification could be considered the most valuable. Any future certifications can then be decided on depending on the specific career track you’re aiming for.

Does CompTIA Project+ Expire?

No, the CompTIA Project+ certification does not expire, and neither does the CompTIA Server+ certification. Once you’ve received the certification, it’s good for life!

Which CompTIA Certification is the Hardest/Easiest? 

This is entirely subjective. Many have said that the CompTIA A+ certification is difficult, while some have said that it is quite easy. Generally speaking, however, it appears that the CompTIA A+ and Security+ certifications are among the hardest. How easy or difficult will depend on your capabilities and whether you have prior experience.

As for the easiest, here too are opinions divided, with some saying that CompTIA Network+ certification is the easiest, and others saying otherwise.

Rather than think about which is the hardest or easiest, focus on acing the A+ certification, and proceed to others as required. They are not so hard that you will not pass them ever.

How Do You Study for CompTIA Certifications?

There are lots of learning resources for CompTIA certification exams to help you better prepare. Online videos, course material, books and practice exams. One particular platform, ExamCompass, has been particularly popular among CompTIA certification candidates.

You’ll need to use a combination of these resources to best prepare for the exam, so don’t limit yourself by sticking to simply video lessons or reading material. Combined, this should help you get do well along the CompTIA certification path.

 

The 6 Best CompTIA Certifications

As of October 2020, CompTIA offers a number of certifications divided into 5 groups: core, cybersecurity, infrastructure, data analytics, and additional professional. 

These are our pick of the 6 best CompTIA certification programs that are popular now:

1. CompTIA A+

CompTIA A+

 

Certification Type: Core

Experience Level: Entry

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification which has served as the starting point for many shooting for a lucrative career in IT. The certification is recognized globally for hiring candidates who focus on end-point management and technical support.

Although an entry-level IT certification, the A+ certification from CompTIA requires candidates to successfully pass an examination that features both practical and performance-based questions, and theoretical/preferential multiple choice questions.

The certification is fairly strict, requiring CompTIA A+ candidates to successfully pass two examinations - Core 1 (220-1001) and Core 2 (220-1002) - that cover a comprehensive range of IT and management topics, including:

  • Basic IT infrastructure and networking support
  • Best practices for change management, documentation, and scripting
  • Client-based and cloud-based software administration
  • Fundamental security skills for IT support
  • Implementing basic data backup and recovery methods
  • Multi-device configuration and setup
  • Operating system configuration for a range of devices
  • Troubleshooting and resolving core IT service and support issues

A CompTIA A+ certified candidate is considered a proven problem-solver with all the basic skills required to deal with standard issues pertaining to IT, such as infrastructure support, security and cloud management. 

So is the CompTIA A+ worth it? Absolutely, especially if you’re looking to proceed with the CompTIA certifications list.

Skills assessed:

  • Hardware & Network Troubleshooting
  • Mobile Devices
  • Networking
  • Operating Systems
  • Operational Procedures
  • Security
  • Software Troubleshooting
  • Virtualization & Cloud Computing

Suitable for:

  • Associate Network Engineers
  • Data Support Technicians
  • Desktop Support Administrators
  • End-User Computing Technicians
  • Field Service Technicians
  • Help Desk Technicians
  • Service Desk Analysts
  • System Support Specialists
  • Technical Support Specialists

Exam details

Course Code

220-1001 (Core 1); 220-1002 (Core 2)

Duration

90 minutes for each exam

Languages

English, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai

Passing Score

675 out of 900 (Core 1); 700 out of 900 (Core 2)

Prerequisites

Minimum 9 months of field or lab experience

Assessment

90 questions for each exam, which are drag-and-drop, multiple-choice (and multi-response), and performance-based

Validity

3 years

Price

$226 per exam

 

2. CompTIA Network+

CompTIA Network+

Certification Type: Core

Experience Level: Entry-level

The next entry, the CompTIA Network+, is a beginner-friendly IT certification meant for candidates interested in assuming IT support roles. Network+ certified professionals are trained to install, configure, maintain, manage and troubleshoot basic network infrastructures. Among their skills are:

  • Analyzing and identifying the pros and cons of the existing network configuration(s)
  • Configuring and managing various network devices
  • Creating virtualized networks
  • Developing and implementing fully functional computer networks
  • Fixing network issues
  • Segmenting network traffic using routers, switches, etc. to create resilient networks

The CompTIA Network+ certification builds on top of the CompTIA A+ certification. The certification covers next-to-basic computer networking skills. Additionally, CompTIA recommends candidates to have at least a 9-month experience in academic training or network administration or network support.

Skills learned:

  • IT Infrastructure
  • Network Operations
  • Network Security
  • Network Troubleshooting & Tools
  • Networking Concepts

Best for:

  • Computer Technicians
  • Help Desk Technicians
  • IS Consultants
  • Junior Network Administrators
  • Junior System Engineers
  • Network Analysts
  • Network Field Engineers
  • Network Field Technicians
  • Network Support Specialists
  • System Engineers

Exam details

Course Code

N10-007 (Retires June 2022), N10-008

Duration

90 minutes

Languages

English, Japanese, German, Portuguese and Spanish

Passing Score

720 out of 900

Prerequisites

CompTIA A+ certification (Recommended), Minimum of 9 months of experience in networking. (Recommended)

Assessment

90 questions which are drag-and-drop, multiple-choice (and multi-response), and performance-based

Validity

3 years

Price

$329

 

3. CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+

Certification Type: Core

Experience Level: Entry-level

The CompTIA Security+ certification is designed for candidates looking to embark on an IT career focusing on network security. It validates a candidate for the compulsory foundational skills required to perform core IT security tasks.

Being a beginner-friendly certification doesn’t mean that Security+ is strictly meant for newcomers. It can also serve as a complementary certification for professionals working with networking-based profiles. Having a robust skillset in both networking and network security can significantly boost an aspirant’s desirability in the IT job market.

Although focusing mainly on network security, the CompTIA Security+ also certifies that the candidate is skilled in handling tasks based on access control, network infrastructure, and organizational security. The latest revision to the CompTIA Security+ certification exam was made in November 2020.

The Security+ certification focuses on recent trends and techniques in:

  • Intrusion detection
  • Risk mitigation
  • Risk management
  • Threat management

The CompTIA Security+ certification exam not only involves multiple choice questions but also hands-on, practical questions that aim to assess decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Skills assessed:

  • Architecture & Design
  • Cryptography & PKI (Public Key Infrastructure)
  • Identity & Access Management
  • Risk Management
  • Technologies & Tools
  • Threats, Attacks & Vulnerabilities

Best for:

  • Junior IT Auditors
  • Network Administrators
  • Penetration Testers
  • Security Administrators
  • Security Consultants
  • Security Engineers
  • Security Specialists
  • Systems Administrators

Exam details

Course Code

SY0-601

Duration

90 minutes

Languages

English, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and Portuguese

Passing Score

750 out of 900

Prerequisites

CompTIA CompTIA Network+ certification, minimum of 2 years experience in IT administration with a focus on security

Assessment

90 questions which are multiple-choice and performance-based

Validity

3 years

Price

$349

 

4. CompTIA PenTest+

CompTIA PenTest+

Certification Type: Cybersecurity

Experience Level: Intermediate

Designed for cybersecurity professionals with a focus on penetration testing and vulnerability management, the CompTIA PenTest+ certification assesses a candidate’s ability in penetration testing and vulnerability management. It also focuses on:

  • Customizing assessment frameworks
  • Best communication practices
  • Enhancing the resilience of the network against security attacks and threats
  • Finding and reporting security vulnerabilities
  • Vulnerability assessment

In addition to the technical skills required to catch up with challenging pentest and vulnerability management scenarios, the pentesting certification also ensures that the candidate has ample management skills to make the information exchange easier among teams and professionals. The CompTIA PenTest+ exam features a combination of both hands-on, performance-based, practical questions and multiple choice questions.

Upon successful completion of the CompTIA PenTest+ certification, a professional will be able to test different devices in different environments, whether cloud, mobile, or servers.

Skills assessed:

  • Attacks & Exploits
  • Information Gathering & Vulnerability Identification
  • Penetration Testing Tools
  • Planning & Scoping
  • Reporting & Communication

Best for:

  • Application Security Managers
  • Network Security Analysts
  • Penetration Testers
  • Security Analysts
  • Vulnerability Assessment Analysts
  • Vulnerability Testers

Exam details

Course Code

PT0-002

Duration

165 minutes

Languages

English and Japanese

Passing Score

750 out of 900

Prerequisites

Knowledge equivalent to the Network+/Security+ certifications, minimum 3 years of experience in information security or some other related field

Assessment

85 questions which are multiple-choice and performance-based

Validity

3 years

Price

$359

 

5. CompTIA CASP+

CompTIA CASP+

Certification Type: Cybersecurity

Experience Level: Advanced

The CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner, or CompTIA CASP+, is a certification that trains cybersecurity skills. It is one of the most popular CompTIA certifications among IT security professionals that assesses a candidate for advanced-level abilities in:

  • Enterprise security
  • Managing risk and forecasting
  • Risk analysis

Enterprise security refers to the ability to secure organizations, of all sizes, against cybersecurity threats. CompTIA CASP+ certified professionals often need to come up with cybersecurity solutions, and their implementation plans. CompTIA CASP+ certification is ISO 17024 certified and approved by the US DoD for meeting the 8140/8570.01-M requirements.

The CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner certification is meant for professionals who wish to keep their feet wet in this field, rather than being fully involved in a strictly managing related paradigm.

Skills assessed:

  • Enterprise Security Architecture and Operations
  • Research, Development & Collaboration
  • Risk Management
  • Technical Integration of Enterprise Security

Best for:

  • Application Security Engineers
  • Security Architects
  • Security Engineers
  • Technical Lead Analysts

Exam details

Course Code

CAS-003 (Retires April 2022), CAS-004

Duration

165 minutes

Languages

English and Japanese

Passing Score

No passing score, only pass or fail

Prerequisites

Minimum of 10 years experience in IT administration, including a minimum experience of 5 years in IT security (hands-on technical)

Assessment

90 questions which are multiple-choice and performance-based

Validity

3 years

Price

$452

 

6. CompTIA Server+

CompTIA Server+

Certification Type: Infrastructure

Experience Level: Intermediate

The CompTIA Server+ certification is one of the rare server certifications that covers a comprehensive range of popular server platforms. Having this certification guarantees that the holder is well-equipped with the skills and knowledge required to develop, maintain, support, and troubleshoot various server software and hardware technologies.

Candidates are required to have at least 18 months of experience working in IT prior to taking the CompTIA Server+ certification examination. Having the CompTIA A+ certification is also recommended.

CompTIA Server+ certified professionals typically aim for working in cloud environments and data centres, although they can work in any environment. The CompTIA Server+ certification examination assesses a candidate for:

  • Security
  • Storage
  • Troubleshooting
  • Virtualization of servers

In a nutshell, the CompTIA Server+ certification assures a candidate possesses all the necessary skills to assume the role of a server administrator.

Skills learned:

  • Disaster Recovery
  • Networking
  • Security
  • Server Architecture
  • Server Administrations
  • Storage
  • Troubleshooting

Best for:

  • IT Technicians
  • Server Administrators
  • Server Support Technicians
  • Server Technicians
  • Storage Administrators

Exam details

Course Code

SK0-004 (Retires January 2022), SK0-005

Duration

90 minutes

Languages

English, Simplified Chinese and Japanese

Passing Score

750 out of 900

Prerequisites

CompTIA A+ certification, 18 to 24 months of work experience in IT

Assessment

100 questions which are multiple-choice

Validity

3 years

Price

$329

 

The 4 Best CompTIA Alternatives 

If you would rather opt for a certification provide from somewhere other than CompTIA, but still want to have a similar certification, then the following 4 are some of the best CompTIA certification alternatives:

1. Cisco CCNA

Cisco CCNA

Certification Type: Infrastructure

Experience Level: Intermediate

Offered By: Cisco

The newly reorganized Cisco CCNA certification is a globally recognized, comprehensive certification in Cisco-based solutions. The latest rendition to the certification, which came out in 2020, combines all the previous CCNA certifications into one comprehensive package.

CCNA or Cisco Certification Network Associate is an associate-level IT certification that focuses on technologies and tools required to implement and administer computer networks and IT infrastructure.

CCNA is a suitable replacement for the CompTIA Server+ and Network+ certifications. The Cisco CCNA certification assesses a candidate’s ability in:

  • Automation and programmability
  • IP connectivity
  • IP services
  • Network access
  • Network fundamentals
  • Security fundamentals

There are several ways of preparing for the Cisco certification examinations. You can rely on the courses and learning material offered by Cisco or prepare on your own using books, online tutorials, practical experience, etc. or use a combination of the two methodologies.

Cisco even offers a tailor-made course for CCNA aspirants. It goes by the name of Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions. This is a comprehensive course that delves into every topic required for championing the CCNA certification.

You can also join the Cisco Learning Network, opt for the CCNA Preparation Bundle, take instructor-led training classes, and get access to Cisco Press self-study resources to prepare for the certification examination. Although no prerequisite is demanded by the CCNA certification, a typical CCNA candidate must have:

  • A robust understanding of networking basics
  • At least 1-year experience in implementing and administering Cisco solutions
  • The knowledge of basic IP addressing

Candidates ready to take the exam must first register at Pearson Vue as the exam will be conducted at one of the Pearson Vue exam centres.

Exam syllabus:

  • Automation and Programmability (10%)
  • IP Connectivity (25%)
  • IP Services (10%)
  • Network Access (20%)
  • Network Fundamentals (20%)
  • Security Fundamentals (15%)

Skills learned:

  • Cisco ASA Firewalls
  • Multicasting: IPv4 and IPv6
  • Network Engineering
  • Network Routing and Switching
  • Operational Support
  • Routing Protocols

Best for:

  • Network Analysts
  • Network Consultants
  • Network Security Engineers
  • Network Security Managers
  • Systems Administrators
  • Unified Communications Engineer
  • VoIP Engineers

Exam details

Course Code

200-301 CCNA

Duration

120 minutes

Languages

English and Japanese

Passing Score

849 out of 1000

Prerequisites

None

Assessment

120 questions

Validity

3 years

Price

$255

 

2. GSEC (GIAC Security Essentials)

GSEC GIAC Security Essentials

Certification Type: Core

Experience Level: Intermediate

Offered By: GIAC

The Global Information Assurance Certification or GIAC is a reputed, globally recognized name when it comes to offering cybersecurity and information security certifications. Among their rich certification offerings is the GSEC or GIAC Security Essentials certification.

GSEC is a fitting alternative to the CompTIA Security+ certification. The certification covers the fundamentals of information security and some intermediate concepts related to the same. GSEC certified individuals are suitable to assume roles requiring active IT security management. The certification assesses a candidate for ability in:

  • Access control and password management
  • Cryptography
  • Defensible network architecture
  • Linux security and concerned security tools and utilities
  • Network security
  • Networking protocols
  • Pentesting
  • Risk management
  • Securing Windows
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Web communications security

All GIAC certification exams are proctored and web-based. There are two options when opting for the GSEC examination:

  • Remote proctoring via ProctorU, or
  • On-site proctoring via PearsonVUE

Once you’ve paid the fee for the GSEC examination you’ll be notified for certification attempt activation. You must take it on or before 120 days from the date of the examination activation.

Candidates can either prepare on their own for clearing the GSEC certification examination or enrol for relevant courses offered by training providers or a combination of the two.

Skills assessed:

  • Cryptography
  • Endpoint Security
  • Incident Handling and Response
  • Linux and Windows Security
  • Penetration Testing
  • Securing Network Services
  • Virtualization and Cloud Security

Best for:

  • Auditors
  • Forensic Analysts,
  • Information Security beginners with a background in information systems and networking
  • IT Engineers/Supervisors
  • Operations personnel
  • Penetration Testers
  • Security Administrators
  • Security Managers
  • Security professionals

Exam details

Course Code

GSEC

Duration

5 hours

Languages

English

Passing Score

73%

Prerequisites

None

Assessment

180 questions which are multiple-choice

Validity

4 years

Price

$399 or $499 (See website)

 

3. MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals

MTA Windows Operating System Fundamentals

Certification Type: Core

Experience Level: Entry-level

Offered By: Microsoft Learn

MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals certification is a great alternative to the CompTIA A+ certification. The MTA certifications are a good way to get started in IT. The MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals assures that candidates have all the required skills and knowledge to set up, manage, troubleshoot, and update Windows in professional settings.

In order to receive the MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals, candidates need to take and pass the Windows Operating System Fundamentals exam by Microsoft Learn. As the name suggests, it gauges a candidate’s ability in working with the latest Windows version. Microsoft Learn offers two ways to prepare for the exam:

  1. Online-Free: Free-to-use resources, called Learning Paths, are relevant for the examination
  2. Instructor-led: A paid 3-day MTA Training course that covers the entire syllabus of Exam 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals

Many aspirants usually complete a few MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) certifications to complete MCSE and other intermediate- and advanced-level IT certifications from Microsoft. The Windows Operating System Fundamentals exam is available in 12 languages.

Skills assessed:

  • Installing and upgrading client systems (15 to 20%)
  • Managing:
    • Applications (15 to 20%),
    • Files and folders (15 to 20%), and
    • Devices (15 to 20%)
  • Understanding the operating system:
    • Configurations (15 to 20%)
    • Maintenance (15 to 20%)

Best for:

  • Administrators
  • Data Support Technicians
  • Desktop Support Administrators
  • Field Service Technicians
  • Help Desk Technicians
  • Service Desk Analysts
  • System Support Specialists
  • Technical Support Specialists

Exam details

Course Code

Exam 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals

Duration

45 minutes

Languages

Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish, and Spanish (Mexico)

Passing Score

700 out of 1001

Prerequisites

Fundamental Windows knowledge, operational ability in Windows 10/11

Assessment

40-60 questions which are multiple-choice and multi-response

Validity

Lifetime

Price

$127

 

4. GPEN (GIAC Penetration Tester)

GPEN GIAC Penetration Tester

Certification Type: Cybersecurity

Experience Level: Intermediate

Offered By: GIAC

The GIAC Penetration Tester certification, or GPEN, is a globally recognized IT certification from GIAC. It is a suitable alternative to the CompTIA PenTest+ certification. A GPEN certified candidate can perform:

  • Comprehensive pentest planning, scoping, and recon
  • Scanning and exploitation
  • Password attacks
  • Post-exploitation and pivoting
  • Webapp pen-testing

Individuals with the GPEN certification are equipped with the ability to leverage penetration testing - with the best practices, techniques, and methodologies in place - to deal with all kinds of cybersecurity and network security tasks. These professionals are capable of:

  • Conducting exploits
  • Engaging in in-depth reconnaissance
  • Implementing a process-oriented pen testing approach with a specific set of desired goals and objectives

As cybersecurity professionals need to perform rigorous operations with a greater degree of the hit-and-trial approach, they need to practice as many real-world scenarios as possible. GIAC offers GPEN aspirants to leverage CyberLive to achieve the aforementioned.

CyberLive testing creates a lab environment that allows candidates to leverage virtual machines to perform actual code and actual programs in real-time. This allows them to better prepare for the GPEN examination.

Skills assessed:

  • Advanced Password Attacks
  • Domain Escalation and Persistence Attacks
  • Exploitation Fundamentals
  • Kerberos Attacks
  • Metasploit Framework
  • Pentest Planning
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Web Application: Injection Attacks and Reconnaissance

Best for:

  • Auditors
  • Ethical Hackers
  • Forensic Specialists
  • Penetration Testers
  • Systems Security personnel
  • Testing personnel (Red Team and Blue Team)

Exam details

Course Code

GPEN

Duration

180 minutes

Languages

English

Passing Score

75%

Prerequisites

None

Assessment

82-115 questions which are multiple-choice and performance-based

Validity

4 years

Price

$1,999

 

There are more such certifications, and we have a guide on the best penetration testing certifications.

CompTIA Certifications Can Fastrack Your IT Career

The best CompTIA certifications can really help you initiate or advance a career in IT. Among the various offerings, A+, Network+, Security+, Server+, PenTest+, and CASP+ stand out the most. Typically, individuals like to opt for 2 or 3 CompTIA certifications to become an invaluable addition to any IT team. 

If you’d like to boost your career and stay up to date on the latest IT developments, then it’s absolutely worth taking a CompTIA certification. Take a course, prepare in the manner described above, and pass those examinations!

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Aditi Jhalani

Aditi Jhalani

Aditi Jhalani, holds years of experience and has a special interest in writing on technical subjects. Not just these, the writer enjoys writing for educational, IT, fashion and numerous other subjects too. She was previously a fashion designer but discovered that penning down her thoughts on paper was far more interesting. She has worked with many prestigious organizations like FabFurnish, IHPL, Toppr, Hackr, Malabar Gold n Diamonds and more in the recent years and produced reader-friendly content. View all posts by the Author

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