CompTIA Certification


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6 Best CompTIA Certification Programs (and 4 Popular Alternatives)

Posted in CompTIA Certification
CompTIA Certification

IT is one of the rapidly evolving and competitive markets in the world. There are several niches to it. Hardware, networking, and cybersecurity are just some of them. One of the best ways to start working or advance in these IT-based profiles is with certifications.

There are several providers of IT certifications available out there. One of the most popular IT certification providers is CompTIA.

What is CompTIA?

Founded in 1982, CompTIA has been offering industry-leading, rigorous information technology certifications for almost 4 decades now. CompTIA is a non-profit organization with the aim of developing an excellent workforce and work atmosphere for the IT industry.

CompTIA is a globally recognized IT certifications provider that offers vendor-neutral certifications for professionals, beginners, and everybody in-between in various IT niches like hardware support, networking, and system security.

6 Best CompTIA Certifications

As of October 2020, CompTIA offers a total of 23 certifications that are divided into 4 groups, Core, Cybersecurity, Infrastructure, and Additional Professional. These are our pick of the 6 best CompTIA certification programs that are the rage now:

1. CompTIA A+

Certification Type: Core
Experience Level: Entry

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification. Since its inception, it has served as the starting point for many shooting a lucrative career in the field of IT for many. The certification is recognized globally for hiring candidates for dealing with end-point management and technical support.

Although being an entry-level IT certification, the A+ certification from CompTIA requires candidates to successfully champion the examination featuring both practical, performance-based questions and theoretical/preferential MCQs.

To ensure a stringent assessment, the CompTIA A+ certification requires 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, and
  • Troubleshooting and resolving core IT service and support issues.

A CompTIA A+ certified candidate is a proven problem-solver with all the basic skills required to deal with standard issues pertaining to all spheres of IT, may it be infrastructure support or IT security, or cloud management.

Skills assessed:

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

Best 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, and
  • Technical Support Specialists.

Exam Details:

Code:

  1. 220-1001 [Core 1]
  2. 220-1002 [Core 2]

Duration: 90 minutes for each examination

Languages Supported: English, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.

Passing Score:

  1. 675 (out of 900) [Core 1]
  2. 700 (out of 900) [Core 2]

Prerequisite(s):

  • Minimum 9 months of field or lab experience.

Price: $226 for each examination
Total Questions: 90 for each examination
Type of Questions: Drag-and-drop, multiple-choice (and multi-response), and performance-based
Validity: 3 years

2. CompTIA Network+

Certification Type: Core
Experience Level: Entry-level

The next entry on our list of the most sought after CompTIA certifications is Network+. CompTIA Network+ is a beginner-friendly IT certification meant for candidates interested in assuming IT support roles.

Network+ certified professionals are competent in installing, configuring, maintaining, managing, and troubleshooting basic network infrastructures. They can:

  • Analyze and identify the pros and cons of the existing network configuration(s).
  • Configure and manage various network devices.
  • Create virtualized networks.
  • Develop and implement fully functional computer networks.
  • Fix network issues.
  • Segment 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, and
  • System Engineers.

Exam Details:

Code: N10-007
Duration: 90 minutes
Languages Supported: English, Japanese, and German (Portuguese and Spanish coming soon!)
Passing Score: 720 (out of 900)
Prerequisite(s):

  • CompTIA A+ certification. [Recommended]
  • Minimum of 9 months of experience in networking. [Recommended]

Price: $329
Total Questions: 90
Type of Questions: Drag-and-drop, multiple-choice (and multi-response), and performance-based.
Validity: 3 years

3. CompTIA Security+

Certification Type: Core
Experience Level: Entry-level

CompTIA Security+ certification is designed for candidates looking to embark on an IT career focusing on network security. The globally recognized IT certification 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 uplift an aspirant’s worth 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 Security+ certification focuses on the recent trends and techniques in:

  • Intrusion detection,
  • Risk mitigation,
  • Risk management, and
  • Threat management.

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

P.S. - The latest revision to the CompTIA Security+ certification exam is made in November 2020.

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, and
  • Systems Administrators.

Exam Details:

Code: SY0-601

Duration: 90 minutes

Languages Supported: English and Japanese

Passing score: 750 (out of 900)

Prerequisite(s):

  • CompTIA Network+ certification.
  • Minimum of 2 years experience in IT administration with a focus on security.

Price: $349

Total Questions: 90

Type of Questions: Multiple-choice and performance-based

Validity: 3 years

4. 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, vulnerability management, and:

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

The CompTIA PenTest+ exam features a combination of both hands-on, performance-based, practical questions and MCQs.

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.

Upon the successful completion of the CompTIA PenTest+ certification, a professional is able to test different devices in different environments, may it be 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, and
  • Vulnerability Testers.

Exam Details:

Code: PT0-001
Duration: 165 minutes
Languages Supported: English and Japanese
Passing Score: 750 (out of 900)

Prerequisite(s):

  • Equivalent knowledge to or the Network+/Security+ certification.
  • Minimum 3 years of experience in information security or some other related field.

Price: $359
Total Questions: 85
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice and performance-based
Validity: 3 years

5. CompTIA CASP+

Certification Type: Cybersecurity
Experience Level: Advanced

CASP refers to CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner. It is one of the most popular CompTIA certifications among IT security professionals. The cybersecurity certification focuses on cybersecurity practitioner skills and assesses a candidate for an advanced-level ability in:

  • Enterprise security,
  • Managing risk and forecasting, and
  • Risk analysis.

Enterprise security refers to the ability to secure organizations, of all sizes, against cybersecurity threats. The CompTIA CASP+ certification is an advanced IT certification that assures that the holder possesses advanced know-how - knowledge, and skills - of computer security.

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 8140/8570.01-M requirements.

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner certification is meant for professionals who wish to keep their feet wet in the warm waters of technology rather than being fully immersed in the strictly managing 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, and
  • Technical Lead Analysts.

Exam Details:

Code: CAS-003
Duration: 165 minutes
Languages Supported: English and Japanese
Passing Score: No passing score, only pass or fail.
Prerequisite(s): Minimum of 10 years experience in IT administration, including a minimum experience of 5 years in IT security (hands-on technical).
Price: $452
Total Questions: 90
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice and performance-based
Validity: 3 years

6. CompTIA Server+

Certification Type: Infrastructure
Experience Level: Intermediate

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 all 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, and
  • Virtualization of servers.

To conclude, 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, and
  • Storage Administrators.

Exam Details:

Code: SK0-004
Duration: 90 minutes
Languages Supported: English, Chinese (Simplified), and Japanese.
Passing score: 750 (out of 900)
Prerequisite(s):

  • CompTIA A+ certification.
  • Working experience of 18 to 24 months in IT.

Price: $329
Total Questions: 100
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
Validity: 3 years

Best 4 Alternatives to CompTIA Certifications

If for any reason you don’t wish to opt for a CompTIA Certification but still want to have a similar certification then these 4 best CompTIA certification alternatives are what you’ve been looking for:

1. 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 is an apt 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, and
  • Security fundamentals.

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.

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, go for the 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, and
  • 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, and
  • VoIP Engineers.

Exam Details:

Code: 200-301 CCNA
Duration: 120 minutes
Languages Supported: English and Japanese
Passing score: 849 (out of 1000)
Prerequisite(s): None
Price: $255
Total Questions: 120 questions
Type of Questions: N/A
Validity: 3 years

2. GSEC (GIAC Security Essentials)

Certification Type: Core
Experience Level: Intermediate
Offered By: GIAC

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 offering list of certifications 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, and
  • 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 successfully 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 & networking,
  • IT Engineers/Supervisors,
  • Operations personnel,
  • Penetration Testers,
  • Security Administrators,
  • Security Managers, and
  • Security professionals.

Exam Details:

Code: GSEC
Duration: 5 hours
Languages Supported: English
Passing score: 73%
Prerequisite(s): None

Price:

  • $399 (Per voucher for on-site proctored exams. Available only for groups with at least 10 individuals.)
  • $499

Total Questions: 180
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
Validity: 4 years

3. MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals

Certification Type: Core
Experience Level: Entry-level
Offered By: Microsoft Learn

MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals is a great alternative to the CompTIA A+ certification. The MTA certifications are great to get started in the world of 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 bag 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, which is presently Windows 10. 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 bag the 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, and
  • Technical Support Specialists.

Exam Details:

Code: Exam 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals
Duration: 45 minutes
Languages Supported: Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish, and Spanish (Mexico)

Passing score: 700 (out of 1001)
Prerequisite(s):

  • Fundamental Windows knowledge.
  • Operational ability in Windows 10.

Price: $127
Total Questions: 40 to 60
Type of Questions: Multi-response, multiple-choice
Validity: Lifetime

4. GPEN (GIAC Penetration Tester)

Certification Type: Cybersecurity
Experience Level: Intermediate
Offered By: GIAC

GIAC Penetration Tester or GPEN is a globally recognized IT certification from GIAC. It is a fitting alternative to the CompTIA PenTest+ certification. A GPEN certified candidate has a working ability in:

  • 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, and
  • Implementing a process-oriented pen testing approach with a specific set of desired goals and objectives.

As cybersecurity professionals need to do rigorous operations with a greater degree of the hit-and-trial approach involved, they need to practice in as many as real-world scenarios 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. Thus, it allows them to prepare better 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.
    • Reconnaissance.

Best for:

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

Exam Details:

Code: GPEN
Duration: 180 minutes
Languages Supported: English
Passing score: 75%
Prerequisite(s): None
Price: $1,999
Total Questions: 82 to 115 questions
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice and performance-based.
Validity: 4 years

P.S. - Check out these best penetration testing certifications.

Why do I Need CompTIA Certification?

One of the compelling features of CompTIA certifications is that all of them are vendor-neutral. Also, they are globally accepted. These two things grant a huge boost to CompTIA certification holders. Other compelling reasons to opt for CompTIA certifications are:

  • Offered by a non-profit organization.
  • Regularly updated as per the latest trends.
  • Rigorous topic coverage.
  • Flexibility in examination scheduling and learning.
  • Fully web-based.

Conclusion

CompTIA certifications are the go-to certifications for initiating/advancing a career in IT. Among the various offerings, A+, Network+, Security+, Server+, PenTest+, and CASP+ stands out the most.

Typically, individuals like to opt for 2 or 3 CompTIA certifications to become an invaluable addition to any IT team. So, what are you waiting for? Get CompTIA certified today and take the next step in your IT career with confidence!

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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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