CompTIA Certification: The Definitive Guide

CompTIA provides a comprehensive certification program for IT professionals interested in learning basic computer related skills.  They also provide advanced IT certifications to enable you to validate your ability to function effectively in IT related fields. To help professionals achieve these objectives, CompTIA offers learning and certification programs that cover; hardware, software, network and security. Learning about these subject matters is made possible through the CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and its other certification programs.

An Introduction to CompTIA

The need for a body that tests the ability of career IT professionals with the aim of validating proven skills through the issuance of certificates led to the creation of CompTIA. The Computer Technology Industry Association was created in 1982, as a non-profit trade association to issue professional certifications.

Its role as a non-profit certification association means that its certificates are vendor-neutral and participants learn the tenets of computing without having to focus on particular services or products developed by any vendor. CompTIA has largely fulfilled its objectives, and today it boasts of approximately 2000 certified members and 3000 partners across the globe making it one of the revered certifications in the field of information technology.

Is a CompTIA Certification for You?

On a more personal note, choosing the path of validating one’s skill sets and knowledge through certifications is a concept professionals struggle with. This is due to the belief that shelling out cash in order to receive a certificate for what you already know sounds counterproductive. Here, an attempt will be made to challenge these beliefs, outline the advantages of a CompTIA certification and explore the different certification programs currently offered under its umbrella.

Scrutinizing the Benefits of a CompTIA Certification

There are many benefits both IT professionals and employers can seek to gain from pursuing a CompTIA certification. The following paragraphs will cover how it takes individuals and organizations to the next level.

The Benefits to Individuals and IT Professionals

  • Makes a Great First Impression—starting a career or advancing in one that is as highly competitive as the IT sector could be trying to most individuals. Therefore, the fact that 96% of HR managers view certifications as a screening criterion is one major reason to pursue one. Including a CompTIA certificate in your CV creates a positive impression in the minds of prospective employers.
  • Helps in Negotiations—CompTIA certifications validate your abilities to provide solutions to IT problems, thereby showcasing the knowledge that most organizations want. Certified professionals/IT consultants can negotiate for higher wages or a larger pay-off using their certificate as a point of reference.
  • Provides the Foundation for Growth—CompTIA certified professionals are more likely to advance in their chosen careers than their colleagues without one. Also, the global recognition attached to CompTIA certificates mean that they can be used as prerequisites when pursuing advanced vendor-specific certifications.

The Benefits to Business Organizations

  • Validate the Skills of Your IT Team—implementing processes or solutions in IT comes with rules, regulations and policies which must be considered to be on the good side of the law. The knowledge certified professionals attain by participating in certification programs ensure that a business’s IT infrastructure is built according to set specifications.
  • Increases Employee Performance—an IDC report discovered that certified employees are more professional and accomplish more than non-certified staff. Therefore the ROI for businesses that hire certified employees or encourage staff to become certified is unquantifiable.
  • Increases Chances of Winning Bids—firms that acquire their business through bidding of proposals can increase their chances of acquiring more projects with a certified team. Government organizations and large corporations are more likely to hire business with certified team members than others without any form of certification.


CompTIA Certification Program Overview

CompTIA certification programs cut across four clear cut levels interested IT professionals and beginners can consider taking part in. These levels range from its entry level certification programs to an expert level. Across these levels, individuals can pursue a beginner or expert level certificate in cloud computing, mobility, network, security etc. So here are the levels CompTIA offers:

  • CompTIA Basic: this is CompTIA’s fundamental programs geared towards teaching participants the basics of hardware, software, operating systems and other foundation topics in IT. It was designed for students and individuals looking to kick –start a career in IT.
  • CompTIA Professional: the professional certification programs take things a little further by testing a candidate’s ability to configure and deploy solutions for cloud, network and security infrastructures.
  • CompTIA Mastery: this is an advanced certification program tasked with assessing an engineer, IT pro or security specialist’s ability to apply critical thinking in providing solutions to complex security problems.
  • CompTIA Specialist: the specialist program is also an advanced certification that validates a candidate’s ability to employ his or her understanding of enterprise content management and cloud computing to help a business meet its objectives.

These are the levels of certifications CompTIA offers. This guide provides information on each of the programs offered under the above mentioned levels.

CompTIA Certification Levels and the corresponding Certificate Programs

All the certification options offered by CompTIA are arranged under these four basic levels, and career-oriented professionals can climb the ladder from entry-level to specialty in your chosen field.

CompTIA Basic Certification

The Basic level certification touches on the fundamentals of information technology. It provides students and interested parties with a glimpse into the tech world and also creates a pathway for those interested in advancing their IT careers.

CompTIA IT Fundamentals—this certificate examination is centered on foundational IT concepts and participants would have to study concepts such as the different computer components, installing software, establishing network connectivity and preventing security risks.

Examinations—there are two exams available to participants and they include:

  • FC0-U51 and
  • FC0-Z51—which would no longer be available after the 31st of July 2017.

These examinations consist of 75 multiple choice questions and candidates have 60 minutes to complete assigned tasks. The certificate has no validity period and can be used as a stepping stone in pursuing more advanced IT certifications through CompTIA and other IT certification bodies.

Costs–$115 USD


CompTIA Professional Level Certifications

The professional level certifications validates your skill and ability to troubleshoot IT problems and it comes with certain requirements for candidates interested in the program as well as other certified pros looking to renew. The following certificates are under the professional level:

CompTIA A+ —this certification program was created to provide system and software engineers, IT pros and technicians with an avenue to validate their ability to solve common hardware and software issues businesses face. It is a more advanced certification program that builds on your knowledge of IT fundamentals.

Examinations—candidates interested in participating in the CompTIA A+ program will have to read up on topics such as; adopting mobile and cloud technologies in a business setting, PC and mobile hardware coupled with the networks and software apps that make them work. Exams include:

  • CompTIA A+ 220-901 and
  • CompTIA A+ 220-902

These exams consist of 90 multiple choice questions which must be answered in 90 minutes. This certificate is valid for 3 years and candidates interested in renewing it must follow up and retrain on the evolving technologies related to the CompTIA A+.

Cost—$205 USD


CompTIA Cloud+—the CompTIA Cloud+ certification focuses on cloud computing and tests a candidate’s ability to implement and maintain cloud infrastructures for a business. Therefore, it validates a cloud architect, system engineer and the average IT manager’s ability to provide solutions within a cloud environment. As a professional certification program, interested candidates must have acquired some knowledge of the fundamentals of cloud computing.

Examinations—successfully passing the exams associated with this program means you will have to study the following subject matters; virtualization, cloud models, cloud infrastructure, resource management and implementing cloud solutions in business environments. CompTIA also recommends a 24 to 36-month work experience acquired from working in a data center. The exam to pass is:

  • CV0-001

The exam consists of 100 questions which must be completed in 90 minutes. The certificate expires in three years and to recertify, interested candidates will have to participate in activities relating to CompTIA Cloud+.


CompTIA CSA+—the CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst certification program was designed as vendor-neutral certification which applies analytics to improve the IT security of a business organization. The entire process tests your ability to detect cyber threats and deploy preventive measures to combat diverse cybersecurity threats. The program was developed as a means for IT security experts to validate their abilities to manage cyber threats.

Examination—candidates interested in the program will have to add to their knowledge on combating malware and other persistent threats by reading up on how to configure use cybersecurity tools. Added topics to cover includes, performing data analysis, distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks and the tenets of identifying and accurately interpreting risks. Having 3 or 4 years’ experience in implementing IT security measures will also be an added advantage for prospective candidates. The exam to take is:

  • CS0-001

The exam consists of 85 questions which must be covered in 165 minutes. The questions are all multiple choice with no lab work. The certificate expires in 3 years and to recertify, you must have added 60 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to your account. Pursuing relevant experiences under the CompTIA umbrella gets you CEU points.

Cost—$320 USD


CompTIA Linux+ —as its name aptly suggests, the CompTIA Linux+ certificate is centered on the Linux operating system due to its relevance in powering today’s IT infrastructures. The certification program was created to provide IT pros with a recognized certificate that confirms one’s understanding of the Linux ecosystem and its use as the primary operating systems for a business’s IT environment.

Examinations—the exams associated with this certification focus on topics such as; handling tasks on the Linux OS, your understanding of Linux commands and your ability to install and configure the OS to help workstations and networking systems function successfully. The exams interested candidates will have to sit include:

  • LX0-103
  • LX0-104

Candidates will have to answer 60 questions for each paper within a 180 minute time frame. Interestingly, the certification lasts for a life-time and holders do not need to recertify.

Cost—$200 USD


CompTIA Mobility+—the rise in the use of mobile devices in business settings as well as by customers in conducting transactions has made mobility an integral part of every business environment. And acquiring CompTIA’s mobility certification highlights your knowledge of existing and emerging mobile technologies. The certificate was created for anyone interested in developing a responsive mobile ecosystem.

Examination—the entire examination process tests your knowledge of how versatile mobile devices can be integrated into an IT environment. Therefore, interested candidates will have to read up and practice on understanding the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends and how they will be deployed by businesses. Other topics include; mobile device management, troubleshooting and security. The exam to sit includes:

  • MB0-001—it is important to note that this exam will be retired on the 15th of December 2017.

The exam is made up of 100 multiple-choice which must be completed in 90 minutes. The certificate which is to be retired at the end of the year retains its Good-For-Life (GFL) status and needs no recertification.

Cost—$294 USD


CompTIA Network+—this certification program focuses on assessing an individual’s understanding of networks, your ability to configure, troubleshoot and manage both wired and wireless networks. It is also important to note that it is vendor-neutral thereby validating your ability to work with the different network systems and products offered by established IT service firms.

Examinations—the CompTIA network+ exam was developed to test your ability to resolve the common issues both wired and wireless networks bring up when configuring and managing them. The questions asked also take a broader viewer by touching on virtualization, cloud computing, mobility and the role networks play in getting them to function in a business’s IT environment. The exam to take is:

  • N10-006

It is a 90 minute examination which consists of 90 questions cut across the aforementioned topics. The CompTIA Network+ certificate is valid for only 3 years and you will need to participate in CompTIA networking related activities and collect a total of 30 CEU points to qualify for recertification.

Cost–$294 USD


CompTIA Project+—the CompTIA Project+ certification falls in line with CompTIA’s goal of providing technicians, regardless of their professional field, with a way to validate their abilities to function in the corporate world. The certification program highlights an individual’s ability to initiate, plan and manage a project from start to finish. This means it is a relevant certification for IT pros, technicians, business administrators, constructors and anyone involved with executing a project.

Examination—as a project management program, participants will be asked questions on initiating a project, the steps to planning the project, managing time, communication and the interpersonal skills needed to run projects. It also touches on the use of technology as a means to simplify project management tasks. The exam to take is:

  • PK0-003

There are 100 questions and candidates must answer them within 90 minutes. The CompTIA Project+ is good for life, which means there is no need for recertification.

Cost—$294 USD


CompTIA Security+ –the CompTIA Security+ certification is basically a foundational program that gives its participants an insight into IT security and what it takes to assess and manage risk. More importantly, this certification is recognized by other bodies that offer more advanced certification programs in IT security and can therefore serve as an intermediary certification in courses where prerequisites are needed.

CompTIA security certification would help IT pros, technicians, engineers and tech security personnel advance in their career.

Examinations—there are currently two exams participants must pass to achieve the certification. These exams cover or will cover network security, threat identification, identity management, data security and compliance policies. The exams to take include:

  • SY0-401
  • SY0-501—exams will commence on the 4th of October 2017

SYO-401 consists of 90 questions which must be answered within 90 minutes. The certificate is valid for only 3 years and interested candidates can recertify by acquiring 50 CEU points through participating in related CompTIA activities.

Cost—$320 USD


CompTIA Server+—this certification program was designed for IT pros, systems engineers and technicians whose primary job is to manage the health of IT servers, networks and the ecosystem they keep functioning. Participants are tested on their ability to work effectively with diverse sever equipment within a business organization regardless of its size.

Examinations—as a vendor-neutral certificate, the exam is heavily tilted towards your understanding of server architecture—for this remains constant across all vendors—, administration activities, storage, security, risk mitigation and data recovery. Candidates who successfully pass the exam listed below can also use this certificate to pursue a more advanced vendor-based server certification.

  • SKO-004

The exam consists of 90 questions and candidates have 90 minutes to answer them. It is also important to note that this certificate is good for life and can get you started in developing your career in server management.

Cost—$294 USD


CompTIA Specialty Level Certifications

The certificates in this level were created with one thing in mind; giving IT professionals who pursue careers in specialized IT niches a way to validate their abilities. The certification programs here include; CompTIA CDIA+, Cloud Essentials and CompTIA CTT+.

CompTIA Certified Document Imaging Architect+ (CDIA+)—this certification program was developed for engineers and IT pros interested in taking their knowledge of document imaging and management a step further. To help you accomplish this, CompTIA provides learning materials and an exam to test your abilities and understanding.

Examination—interested candidates will do well to brush up their knowledge on the technologies and practices used in designing, planning and provisioning a digital imaging and content management system. The exam to take:

  • CD0-001

The exam consists of 100 questions which must be answered in 90 minutes. Non-native English speakers can be given an added 30 minutes to cover the exams. The certificate also falls into the ‘good for life’ category.

Cost—$320 USD


CompTIA Cloud Essentials—the integration of cloud computing in most IT environments today means professionals have a lot to gain if they can validate their abilities to manage cloud-based infrastructure. CompTIA Cloud Essentials offers such opportunities to engineers, cloud architects and IT managers pursuing a career in cloud computing.

Examination—recognising the importance of the cloud to businesses, this certificate takes the approach of testing your ability to adopt cloud solutions, troubleshoot issues and deploy cloud solutions for corporate organizations. It is also vendor-neutral and the exam to take is:

  • CLO-001

This exam contains 50 questions and runs for a duration of 60 minutes. The certificate is also good for life with no expiry date.



CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer+ (CTT+)—this certification program was created for individuals interested in specializing as trainers on today’s IT solutions in corporate classrooms. Therefore educators can validate their abilities to use diverse IT tools to teach effectively when the need arises.

Examinations—the exams evaluate your understanding of teaching mediums such as virtual classrooms, labs and training materials.

  • TK0-201
  • TK0-202
  • TK0-203

Cost—TK0-201 costs $294 while the other two exams cost $320 USD.


CompTIA Mastery Level Certification

This is the most advanced certification CompTIA has to offer and the one certificate on offer that is targeted at IT professionals who have had 5 -10 years’ experience working in the field of IT security.

CompTIA Advanced Security Professional (CASP)—the CASP certification takes things a step further by verifying your ability to think critically across a broad spectrum of security disciples and provide solutions for complex security issues. The certificates should be pursued by career oriented IT pros working in the security sector.

Examination—candidates interested in pursuing a CASP certificate must focus on enterprise security, risk management/mitigation and integrating safety measures in an IT environment. It is also advised that prospective candidates have at least 5 years hands-on experience with maintaining security in an IT infrastructure. The exam to take is:

  • CAS-002

The exam consists of 90 questions which must be answered in 165 minutes. The certificate is valid for only 3 years and candidates will need to acquire 75 CEU units to qualify for recertification.

Cost: $426 USD


Training and Practical Materials

Third-parties offer specialized training opportunities to students. Here, training is carried out by educators who have gathered hands-on experience teaching students to pass various IT certification exams which include both vendor-based and vendor-neutral exams. This means you can gain a lot studying for your CompTIA exams with the resources SkillsBuild has to offer.

It should also come as no surprise to learn that a body dedicated solely to providing certification programs also has a dedicated educational system put in place for its prospective students. Paying a visit to the CompTIA website gives you an insight into the learning opportunities on offer to its students. You can either register to receive lectures from certified CompTIA trainers or download learning materials to read at your own pace.


The Salary Advantages of Obtaining a CompTIA Certificate

The role that a good salary plays in the life of an IT professional cannot be overstated. Therefore, successfully completing the following CompTIA certification programs come with the following salary advantages you should take note of:

CompTIA A+: certified A+ professionals can earn $67,000 to $70,000

CompTIA Cloud+: certified cloud professionals can earn $70,000 to $75,000

CompTIA Network+: certified network professionals can earn $70, 000 to $75,000

CompTIA Server+: certified server professionals can earn $80,000 to $85,000

CompTIA Linux+: certified Linux professionals can earns $82,000 to $85,000

CompTIA Security+: certified security professionals can earn $80,000 to $83,000

CompTIA Project+: certified professionals in project management can earn $100,000 to $102,000

CompTIA CDIA: certified specialist with CDIA can earn $120,000 to $150,000

There are many path ways to career success and in the IT industry, successfully obtaining a CompTIA certification is definitely one of them. As of today, over a million IT professionals have chosen CompTIA to advance in their careers, and you too can take advantage of the benefit it offers.