Creative problem solving has always been at the heart of the IT profession. In recent years, though, as the pace of business and the rate of technological change have skyrocketed, IT pros are recognizing the value of building a strong, tested, validated set of skills on which to base that troubleshooting intuition. This is one reason CompTIA certifications have become so popular.
A recent IDC study demonstrates that while any tech-savvy, skilled IT pro may be able to do the job well, the big three basic CompTIA certifications – CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ – set IT pros up to do it better. And active certification holders don’t just take the test, earn the certification and move on. They must renew their certification every three years, ensuring they are keeping their skills up to date.
According to the study:
- IT pros with CompTIA A+ spend half the time that non-certified pros do troubleshooting mobile OS and app issues and significantly less time troubleshooting PC problems.
- IT pros with CompTIA Network+ can configure networks more quickly (50% demonstrating the ability to configure a network within four hours, compared to 32% of non-certified IT staff) and test and validate network solutions more efficiently.
- IT pros with CompTIA Security+ are more likely to perform a number of tasks critical to protecting data, such as penetration tests and risk assessments.
We devised three hypothetical situations demonstrating where a non-CompTIA certified IT pro might run into trouble, each followed by a real-life scenario showing how a skilled IT pro used CompTIA-based knowledge to get the job done right.
Help Desk the Uncertified Way
Our first hypothetical uncertified IT pro is a lifelong home computer enthusiast who has worked the help desk for years, with a solid track record for customer satisfaction. Some days, though, his tickets take a little more time.
For example, it’s been a while since he last swapped out RAM, so he has to search around to remember how. He’s got an old Windows machine at home that he was able to factory reset so he didn’t need to find a copy of the OS to reinstall, but that was a few years ago. He wants to save a customer’s laptop using the same method, but he knows there’s a step he’s forgetting.
Then there’s mobility. He still handles the help desk well, but as mobile connectivity becomes more important, he’s finding this new range of tech issues taking just a bit longer to research and troubleshoot.
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Help Desk the CompTIA A+ Way
Susan Verdin, on-site service desk engineer for Dataprise, is now in a tier 2 tech support role. But even before she had her first IT job, she was CompTIA A+ certified, having earned the certification in high school. On the first day of work in tier 1 support, CompTIA knowledge was fresh in her mind.
There were countless situations throughout Verdin’s early career where CompTIA A+ knowledge came in handy. Knowing system specs and layouts for different computer models made swapping out components easy and lightning fast. And understanding how software interacted with the OS supercharged her troubleshooting skills.
Once, for instance, she came across a machine on which an Adobe product wasn’t working correctly. A user had installed another program to approximate the Adobe functionality but hadn’t actually fixed the foundational issue. Verdin, relying on her CompTIA knowledge to understand what was really going on with the machine, got the program working correctly and the computer running better.
“For anyone wanting to go into the field who doesn’t know where to begin, I recommend getting this certification,” Verdin said. “It will help you to open doors for yourself.”
Networking the Uncertified Way
Our hypothetical uncertified IT network pro took a recent professional step up to networking after succeeding at the help desk level. He taught himself the networking basics and has been relying on his knack for problem solving.
Sometimes, though, he feels like his knowledge is incomplete. He knows that data packets flow through the ethernet cable to the wall, and he’s learning more about routers and switches – but he still finds himself having to tap coworkers to get answers. He knows what commands to enter, but not always why they work. He’s beginning to realize that to stay afloat, he’ll need to do a lot of outside reading.
Computer Networking the CompTIA Network+ Way
When she got her start in IT at the help desk level, Las Vegas-based network professional Heather Anderson would often run into questions that would veer into computer networking territory and fly over her head. That all changed after she earned CompTIA Network+, though, which helped her master the information and move up in the IT world with confidence.
“[Before being Network+ certified] you put stuff together and it works, but you don’t really understand why,” Anderson said. “Not only did [CompTIA Network+] help me better understand the concepts, it made it easier for me. I was just troubleshooting networks before. It helped me have more knowledge of how to build networks.”
This knowledge has not only allowed her to thrive personally, but also makes every team she’s on that much better. With CompTIA Network+, Anderson can speak the lingo with other computer networking pros, so everyone is on the same page about what the problems are and where solutions can be found.
Cybersecurity the Uncertified Way
Our theoretical uncertified IT security pro knows infrastructure like the back of his hand. When he takes a job at a bigger enterprise, though, he finds that the company has a more serious focus on cybersecurity than what he is used to.
He feels like he’s managing it fairly well, but sometimes he receives a confusing report with jargon about penetration testing and vulnerability assessment that he doesn’t understand. That stuff had always been someone else’s job. Now it’s his. With the stakes so high, every day is just a little more nerve-wracking.
Cybersecurity the CompTIA Security+ Way
When he moved to a position managing a vehicle and supply tracking application, though, cybersecurity became top priority. Since working on those servers demanded a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) compliant certification, he got CompTIA Security+. He quickly found the certification was no mere formality. It was essential.
Brady’s first task was running information assurance scans on the server using a vendor-supplied tool. While he had to learn specific commands for the tool, the vendor-neutral knowledge conferred by CompTIA Security+ pointed him in the right direction to identify security risks.
He was constantly referring back to those concepts and acronyms the certification tests on. When finding, downloading and manually installing patches, sometimes on machines not connected to the internet, his CompTIA Security+ training reminded him where to look and what to do.
What could have been a fumbling, maybe even frightening experience without CompTIA Security+ was a snap for Brady – and a positive early-career experience that gave him a strong start to a serious cybersecurity career.
“[CompTIA Security+] is a good foundation,” Brady said. “It lets you dip your toe in the deep end so you’re not sinking.”
CompTIA IT Certifications: A Powerful Tool
These real-life IT pros are at different points in their careers, but each story demonstrates similar, expansive benefits from CompTIA IT certifications:
- Increased confidence in the ability to do the job
- Improved communication with other skilled coworkers
- Mastery of the lingo
- Getting the full picture of how technology works
- Preparing to build more knowledge and grow in an IT career
The numbers send the message, and the real-life stories back it up – CompTIA certifications are helping IT pros do their jobs better.
Validate your IT skills and keep them up to date with a CompTIA certification. Check out the IT Certification Roadmap to see which IT certification is right for you, and then download the exam objectives to get started.
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.