Have you ever heard the phrase: “A goal without a plan is just a wish?” Essentially, it means that we all desire certain things in life, but to make them a reality we have put in the work. If you’re looking to break into the technology field and pursue an IT career, mapping out a strategy can save you time, money and lots of effort. And oftentimes, getting an IT certification is just the first step. Stackable certifications allow you to (pardon the pun) stack the odds in your favor by validating a specific sequence of skills you possess to advance your IT career. How do CompTIA Stackable Certifications work? Well, it all depends on your goals. Let’s take a closer look.
What Are CompTIA Stackable Certifications?
Many of us first get our foot into the world of technology with one of the fundamental, core IT certifications that provide a baseline of knowledge. Some examples of these core IT certifications include CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+), CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+. Other providers like Microsoft, Cisco and Google provide options as well.
But, how do you decide when it’s time to get another IT certification? And which certification will propel you to the next level? CompTIA Stackable Certifications are combinations of CompTIA IT certifications that follow two career pathways: CompTIA Infrastructure Career Pathway and the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway.
Within each pathway, stackable IT certifications are categorized by experience level:
- Specialist: Early-career IT professionals with 0-2 years of experience
- Professional: Mid-level IT professionals with 2-5 years of experience
- Expert: Established IT professionals with more than 5 years of experience
Which IT Certification Should I Get?
The next IT certification you choose to pursue all depends on where you are in your career and where you want to go. Let’s take a look at a few of the CompTIA Stackable Certifications that you could pursue.
CompTIA Systems Support Specialist
Earning both CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Linux+ gives you the stackable certification CompTIA Systems Support Specialist (CSSS). This designation resides in the CompTIA Infrastructure Career Pathway and is for IT pros with less than 2 years of experience.
The CSSS stackable certification validates your skills as a systems support specialist responsible for all aspects of help desk support and technical assistance. These specialists have demonstrated the ability to address a variety of user issues, including troubleshooting, software, hardware and networks.
Top job titles for CSSS-certified IT pros include the following:
CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist
Earning CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ – known in some circles as the CompTIA trifecta – gives you the stackable certification CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (CSIS). This designation resides in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway for IT pros who are just starting a career in IT security.
The CSIS certification validates your knowledge and the skills required to support hardware and software systems, as well as the ability to protect an organization’s assets from internal and external threats.
Top job titles for CSIS-certified IT pros include the following:
- Junior IT specialist
- Field service engineer
- Network engineer
CompTIA Cloud Admin Professional
Earning both CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Cloud+ gives you the stackable certification CompTIA Cloud Admin Professional (CCAP). This designation also resides in the CompTIA Infrastructure Career Pathway for IT pros who have been promoted out of an entry-level position and have a few years of experience.
The CCAP certification validates your skills as a cloud admin professional to help an organization maximize the business opportunities that the cloud creates.
Top job titles for CCAP-certified IT pros include the following:
- Lead sales engineer
- Network systems engineer cloud
- IT specialist
CompTIA Network Security Professional
Earning CompTIA Security+, CompTIA PenTest+ and CompTIA CySA+ gives you the stackable certification CompTIA Network Security Professional (CNSP). This designation resides in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway for experienced IT pros.
The CNSP certification validates the knowledge and skills required to monitor networks for threats or unauthorized users as well as analyze security risks and develop response procedures.
Top job titles for CNSP-certified IT pros include the following:
CompTIA Security Infrastructure Expert
Add CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) to CompTIA Network Security Professional (CNSP), and you get CompTIA Security Infrastructure Expert (CSIE). This designation resides in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway for expert-level IT professionals.
CSIE certifies that individuals have the knowledge and skills required to effectively manage and lead information security infrastructure and projects in a global organization.
Top job titles for CSIE-certified IT pros include the following:
These are just a few examples of how stacking CompTIA certifications can hone your skillset for a specific type of IT career. Check out all the CompTIA Stackable Certifications to pinpoint your final destination and plan how you’ll get there.
Impact on Salary and Career Path
There’s no question that as you advance from specialist to professional and ultimately to expert, you’ll start to make more money. And the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report found that IT pros who have multiple certifications make more money. On average, North American IT pro salaries increased by 2% for each additional IT certification earned. Let’s take a look at a few IT job titles to illustrate how gaining more knowledge and skills directly translates into an increase in your IT salary.
Desktop Support Technician
With a CompTIA A+ certification, you would be qualified for jobs like desktop support technician. Job postings shared by Acclaim show annual salaries around $40,000. Because geography is one of the main factors in salary differentiation, a desktop support technician in Tallahassee, FL, might make $33,000, whereas one in San Diego, CA, might make $53,000.
IT Support Engineer
When you add CompTIA Linux+ to CompTIA A+ to earn the stackable certification CompTIA Systems Support Specialist (CSSS), you qualify for a more advanced role such as IT support engineer. According to Acclaim, a Level I IT support engineer can make $74,000 annually in Akron, Ohio and up to $108,000 annually in California.
By climbing the ranks and adding a third IT certification, your salary will likely be six figures. Cybersecurity analyst is a mid-level IT position that requires the skills of a CompTIA Network Security Professional (CNSP) – the stackable certification that includes CompTIA Security+, CompTIA PenTest+ and CompTIA CySA+. Acclaim shows cybersecurity analyst job postings from $102,000 in Arlington, VA, to $200,000 in Colorado Springs, CO. Remember there are a lot of factors that play into IT salaries, including experience level and industry. Getting stackable certifications to validate your experience can prove to employers you have what it takes for these more advanced IT jobs.
Regulatory Compliance Specialist
When you’ve reached the “expert” level, jobs like regulatory compliance specialist are within reach. This position requires the skills and knowledge of a CompTIA Security Infrastructure Expert (CSIE), which is validated by CompTIA Security+, CompTIA PenTest+, CompTIA CySA+ and CompTIA CASP+. Tech companies in need of a senior-level regulatory compliance specialist are willing to pay in the mid-six figures, and in some locations this number even breaks $200,000, according to the job postings compiled by Acclaim.
If you know what you’re good at, where your passion lies and where you want to be, what are you waiting for? Consider CompTIA Stackable Certifications as your guide to getting there. Start stacking the odds in your favor today.
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