Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) certifications are like building blocks. Each one you pick up deepens your expertise, all while granting you the opportunity to further your career and increase your annual salary. While core certifications can help lay a solid foundation, they also serve as a launching pad for two distinct career pathways: IT infrastructure and cybersecurity. In fact, even the official CompTIA website positions its certifications this way.
Ultimately, there are four core CompTIA certifications to consider before embarking down the two different career paths. From there, additional certifications allow you to become more and more specialized. Today we’ll cover those four core CompTIA certifications and talk more in-depth about the IT infrastructure and cybersecurity pathways (as well as which additional certifications make sense for each pathway). That way you can decide for yourself which CompTIA certifications are right for you.
The Four Core CompTIA Certifications
To give you a better understanding of the difference between each core CompTIA certification, we’ve provided a brief description of each one, along with a list of tasks you’d easily be able to perform once you’re certified.
1. CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)
Think of this as earning your IT training wheels. To be a certified IT professional, you need to be able to handle a variety of tasks, including device setup and standard troubleshooting. When you have the IT Fundamentals certification, you’re able to demonstrate basic computer and IT literacy, which includes an understanding of how to program languages and develop software. Once certified, you’ll specifically be able to:
Identify, compare, and contrast common programs, applications, and operating systems
Recognize various computer hardware components and peripheral devices
Understand basic network designs, sharing and storage, and wireless vs. wired connections
Define basic security threats and know fundamental security best practices
2. CompTIA A+
Considered the gold standard for computer support technicians, the CompTIA A+ certification is recognized internationally and indicates competency with key operating systems like Microsoft, Apple, and others. Although this is considered one of the first certifications for a successful career in IT, once certified you’ll have a strong command of computer technology, networking, and IT security. You’ll also:
Understand the operating system (OS) functionality and troubleshooting methodology
Identify hardware, peripheral, networking, and security components
Know how to perform proper computer safety procedures and best practices
Install, configure, upgrade, and maintain PC workstations, the Windows OS, and SOHO networks
3. CompTIA Security+
Once you have a CompTIA Security+ certification, you’re considered a certified IT Network Security professional (Security+). Now your job entails creating and installing secure networks, setting up controls and security for user accounts, and supporting security on networks. This skillset makes you a valuable asset for a variety of businesses. With this certification, you’ll be able to:
Assess security risks and identify potential threats to hardware, software, and physical location
Conduct risk mitigation for systems, hardware, and peripherals
Implement best practices and procedures for host and OS hardening
Utilize best models for authentication, identity management, and access control
Implement disaster recovery procedures and security contingency plans
4. CompTIA Network+
When you become Network+ certified, you’re immediately acknowledged as a professional Network Technician, which represents yet another important step in your IT career. While you’ll be expected to manage, configure, and troubleshoot basic network infrastructure, with a CompTIA Network+ certification you’ll also:
Use common ports and networking protocols
Understand and apply networking technologies and basic network design principles
Install, configure, and differentiate between common network devices
Install and manage wired and wireless networks, adhering to standards and using modern testing tools
Identify and troubleshoot performance and connectivity issues
The Two Major IT Career Pathways
Hopefully, we’ve helped you answer the question, “Which CompTIA certification is right for me?” Now we’ll also help you choose the right IT career pathway with a brief explanation of the two popular options, as well as the additional certifications you’ll need to have a successful career.
If you’re interested in being an IT pro who can support and manage data center and network operations, then this is the pathway for you. It’s a smart one since organizations are reliant on IT infrastructure experts to keep their businesses running without a hitch. There are a variety of jobs in this field, ranging from a computer support specialist to a security management specialist to a network architect.
Additional certifications include:
CompTIA Linux+: Allows you to leverage Linux for smartphones, servers, and supercomputers for a variety of applications, including cloud, cybersecurity, mobile, and web administration.
CompTIA Server+: Covers all of the big server platforms, giving you the skills to excel in data centers or cloud environments, and ensuring you’re up-to-date on the latest server technologies.
CompTIA Cloud+: Gives you the know-how needed for data center jobs, allowing you to maintain and optimize cloud infrastructure services.
With cyberattacks on the rise, this is another career in great demand, one that offers job security and competitive pay within a multitude of organizations in different industries. This career course is also rewarding simply from the standpoint of protecting valuable info from falling into the hands of hackers. Potential roles include security architect, security administrator, and security software developer.
Additional certifications include:
CompTIA PenTest+: Provides you with the skills needed to handle penetration testing and vulnerability management for cloud and mobile devices, as well as traditional desktops and servers.
CompTIA CySA+: Allows you to apply behavioral analytics to networks and devices to avert, discover, and fight cybersecurity threats.
CompTIA CASP+: Lets you remain firmly rooted in technology (instead of management) since you’re actively working to implement cybersecurity solutions within an organization’s policies and framework.
Which CompTIA Certification Is Right for You?
Hopefully, this post gives you a better understanding of the core CompTIA certifications you need to start a promising IT career, as well as some valuable info about the additional certifications that will allow you to flourish as an IT professional. The bottom line? No matter which certifications you choose to pursue, they’ll give you a leg up in a career pathway that is growing by leaps and bounds today and looks to continue that trend well into the future.
Want more information on the core CompTIA certifications? Visit our IT certifications webpage to learn more about the skills you’ll learn, and the careers you can pursue.