Wednesday, August 13th, 2008...3:19 pm

CompTIA Breakaway: Certification Changes on the Way

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Robin Fred
The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

There was a lot to learn at this year’s CompTIA Breakaway Conference in Orlando - from certification news to teaching strategies.  I was fortunate enough to attend and present QTL ideas on building a foundation for high school students seeking IT careers.  But I was most fortunate because it was a chance to hear from teachers from across the country - all of whom brought interesting ideas to the table.

I’ll be writing in this space about what other participants had to say.  But this blog post will focus on certifications - what’s new with A+ and Network+, and what other certifications may be on the horizon for your students. Here’s a brief presentation on certifications if you’d rather see the highlights in that format.

First, the big news.  Both A+ and Network+ will be updated during 2009.  The Network+ exams are due around the first of the year.  We may be able to share those objectives in the near future, but for now I can tell you the certification exam itself is likely to be “much harder” (quoting CompTIA managers there).

As home and workplace networks become more complex, networking professionals have to have a broader set of ever-more-complex skills.  The certification will reflect that, incorporating new content ranging from additional wireless and WiMAX to application-enabled devices, RFID, IPv6, and virtualization.  Fiber optic, MANs and WANs, bandwidth sharing, network applications and “green tech” will be included.  In short, it’ll be a higher-level and theoretically more valuable certification.

The good news for students is that the current Net+ exam will be available to E2C members through June or possibly July of 2009.  If you have students preparing for certification, encourage them not to wait. (And if you’re not an E2C school, you should consider joining!   North Carolina has a statewide agreement with CompTIA that makes it free for high schools; otherwise, it’s $195 per school and qualifies you for free teacher vouchers, discounted student vouchers and a lot more.)

The A+ exams will change later in 2009.  They’re just gathering their subject matter experts to begin talking about content and structure, and anticipate new exams around August 2009.  Again, CompTIA is taking care of educational institutions and their resource providers (like us) by extending the current exams through the 2009-10 school year.  But we may see the new objectives by next spring or summer.  According to A+ product manager Miles Jobgen, you can expect to see Vista content on the exams; seeing much Linux is a long shot, but the committee members will make the call on all of that.

Miles also reported good news for those who have or are preparing for A+ certification.  CompTIA surveys of 3,500 IT employers indicate the certification is still highly valued across the board, and in both the IT industry itself and others that employ IT professionals (banks, hospitals, schools, government… everyone).  What’s more, hiring managers paint a promising picture about jobs:  46% report they’ve added staff this year; more than half expect to do so next year and two thirds say they’ll be hiring over the next five years.  A+, Network+, and Security+ are the hottest basic certifications right now.  Wireless and RFID are among the skills that may become increasingly valuable.

A+ is a valuable certification, and our Computer Engineering curriculum is aligned with the A+ objectives.  You CAN prepare your students for it.  See a previous blog post for tips on ways to do that, from E2C’s Alan Rowland, and watch this space for advice from other leading teachers I met at Breakaway.

Looking down the road, Security+ is the fastest growing certification… up 67% over 2007.  As the threats continue to grow, companies and the government will be looking for home-grown experts to protect their assets.  Convergence+ and DHTI+ are among the other up-and-coming certifications your students may want to consider as they continue their education.  Look for growing demand for people who know how to network our lives - from laptops to cell phones to media servers to air conditioning and security systems to automotive computers.

I’ve put together a brief presentation about all of this, if you’d like to watch or share it.

Next week: some great teaching ideas from across the country.


  • Thanks, Robin. This was some great information. Is there any word on the A+ exam’s new level of difficulty?

  • It’s hard to say at this point because the SME teams are just beginning their work. But the feeling seems to be that they want to retain the rigor of the certification in order to make sure it remains valuable to employers. And as you know, converging technology means everything’s getting a bit more complex and computer techs just really have to know more. So my best guess would be that it will remain about the same or if anything get a LITTLE tougher…

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