Logical IT Certification Progression



  • I see tons of questions over the years from people relatively new to IT (students or people in their first few years in the field or trying to get in from a related field like bench services) and wondering what certs to get and when. What makes sense, what works for them, etc.

    The best guidance here is, of course, everyone has a different goal and path and finding one that makes sense both for where you are and where you want to go is more important than following any preset list of certifications, skills or education. Plain and simple, every career is unique. But my goal here is to provide a kind of starting point for thinking about IT certifications and which ones make sense for "everyone" and when.

    • CompTIA A+ The cert that everyone not yet in IT talks about and yet none should get. Seriously. This is the famously terrible cert that teaches you nothing useful and, as it turns out, isn't even a cert for the IT field at all. It's "the" go to cert for the world of bench services. What is bench services, you ask? You see them everywhere. That's the Main St. local hometown computer store installing MS Office for your grandmother. It's Geek Squad removing malware from a laptop. It's Fry's upgrading your hard drive. Basically if consumers get services from it or you have them opening the case on your desktop or you ever "drop off" your hardware with them (or they take it back to the "office" with them to work on), it is bench services. These are not functions inside business infrastructure like IT is. It's a closely related field, but is not considered IT and no amount of skills or experience on bench services will likely get you anywhere in IT. The mindset and skillset do not really overlap. If your goal is IT, don't even think about the CompTIA A+.
    • CompTIA Network+ Often called the Net+, this is the actual entry level cert for generic IT. It's a very basic cert and it only covers things that pretty much anyone in any part of IT (or really, even just home power users) should know. The Network+ covers very useful knowledge and anyone ready to work in any IT arena should have little problem flying through the material. If you are new to IT, interesting in learning more about IT, just want to understand networking better or what to gauge your progress, this cert is an excellent place to start. It is very much the entry level IT certification and the only really generic one in the industry that is widely known or accepted. I would encourage anyone, even middle school and high school students, who think that they might want to look into IT down the road to get this cert as early as possible as it will help to open many doors and establish a good foundation for learning other things. Start here.
    • CompTIA Server+ This is the A+ equivalent, but for IT staff. The same types of knowledge that the A+ covers for bench workers, the Server+ covers for IT. It's designed to help you understand server hardware and basics. Not everyone needs this, but easily 50% of IT fields will benefit well from it and it always looks good on a resume. So consider this as a second (or even first) step in your certification path. It should be very easy and if it is not, it was that much more important to cover the material. If your goal is database work, programming or similar it might not be useful to you. But even systems and helpdesk workers would benefit from knowing how the hardware that they support works.
    • Industry Specific Certs Once you are past the Network+ and maybe the Server+, your "generic entry point to IT" is over. Now you need to focus on getting certs that make sense for the next step in your career. This is never the same for everyone. Some common examples might be a Cisco CCNA for someone moving into networking. The MCP or MCSA for someone looking at Windows Server careers. The RHCSA for those looking to go into Linux Administration. The list is practically endless. You need to find the cert(s) that make sense for what you want to do with the next stage of your career.
    • CompTIA Security+ Once you have established a good set of appropriate industry specific certifications you can then reasonably consider the Security+ exam. This exam is not one designed to make you a security professional in any way. This is a cert that shows a basic level of security thinking and security mindedness as a "tack on" to your other qualifications. If you are a Microsoft Administrator, for example, this would help to show that you are one that understands basic security and is prepared to think about it more deeply. Think of the Security+ as "enhancing" your other certs, not being a thing on its own. Getting the Security+ without getting other certs first would be essentially pointless as it gives you no skill set on its own.

    Beyond this basic format to starting your path to certification, you are on your own. There are many certifications in the field and as you progress you will go farther and farther from any predetermined or established path. But at least we can provide you a solid starting point for getting your feet wet and in the door of your earliest career opportunities.



  • I agree with this 100% as someone who went the A+, Net +, MCSA track. A+ didn't teach me anything useful. It was a test just to get a piece of paper to help me get a job. Unfortunately, many IT companies require A+ or at least look at it like it should be a requirement.

    Net+ is just basic networking knowledge and yes anyone in IT should know the material on there. Even HelpDesk techs could benefit from understanding networking. I feel like there are some desktop techs who don't really understand what a firewall, switch, or router really is. They would benefit greatly from Net+. While I believe Network+ was a decent certification, I would take CCENT if I had to do it over. The material is similiar and it gives you the option to continue to the CCNA track. CCENT is cisco focused, but most of it is learning networking that works the same with any device.

    I never took Server+ or Security+. After taking A+ and Net+ I really wasn't too impressed with CompTIA.



  • @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Unfortunately, many IT companies require A+ or at least look at it like it should be a requirement.

    71252593.jpg



  • @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I never took Server+ or Security+. After taking A+ and Net+ I really wasn't too impressed with CompTIA.

    None of them are great. Network+ is their best, I feel. Server+ was okay, very light, though. Security+ was decent. Linux+ was terrible. A+ actually made me dumber.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I never took Server+ or Security+. After taking A+ and Net+ I really wasn't too impressed with CompTIA.

    None of them are great. Network+ is their best, I feel. Server+ was okay, very light, though. Security+ was decent. Linux+ was terrible. A+ actually made me dumber.

    When I took A+ there was still questions on IRQ numbers and Windows 3.1. Strangely enough this was in 2004, there should have updated the test a looong time ago.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Unfortunately, many IT companies require A+ or at least look at it like it should be a requirement.

    71252593.jpg

    Yeah not really IT companies, but companies that hire IT.



  • @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I never took Server+ or Security+. After taking A+ and Net+ I really wasn't too impressed with CompTIA.

    None of them are great. Network+ is their best, I feel. Server+ was okay, very light, though. Security+ was decent. Linux+ was terrible. A+ actually made me dumber.

    When I took A+ there was still questions on IRQ numbers and Windows 3.1. Strangely enough this was in 2004, there should have updated the test a looong time ago.

    You should have seen what the test looked like in the 1990s! It was insane. As if the people at CompTIA had never seen computers. Clearly made by people who had never worked with computers before.



  • I have never taken any of the CompTIA tests. I started with the MCSA NT 4.0 back in 94-95. The network portions I thought, at the time, did a pretty decent job of teaching you networking. There was a surprising (again for me) amount of coverage over inter operation with Linux back then, today that would be much less surprising.



  • @Dashrender said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I have never taken any of the CompTIA tests. I started with the MCSA NT 4.0 back in 94-95. The network portions I thought, at the time, did a pretty decent job of teaching you networking.

    They removed that networking requirement when the Network+ was released.



  • The only certs I ever had were for Novell Netware 4.5... big help now, lol.

    I looked at getting an A+ while in college, and went "That's even more useless than the piece of paper I'm getting from school."



  • @travisdh1 said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    The only certs I ever had were for Novell Netware 4.5... big help now, lol.

    I looked at getting an A+ while in college, and went "That's even more useless than the piece of paper I'm getting from school."

    Ha I saw that they had questions dealing with printers and I decided I wanted nothing to do with it.



  • @stacksofplates said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @travisdh1 said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    The only certs I ever had were for Novell Netware 4.5... big help now, lol.

    I looked at getting an A+ while in college, and went "That's even more useless than the piece of paper I'm getting from school."

    Ha I saw that they had questions dealing with printers and I decided I wanted nothing to do with it.

    Red Hat's old admin cert was all printers, too. I never took them seriously.



  • My A+ book (bought early-mid 00's) was like 1200 pages long, had pinouts of all 240 pins on ddr and other 'stuff only hw design engineers need to know' in there. I tried memorizing all that, then took the test and was like 'wtf did i waste dozens of hours studying for'. Took like 20 minutes and i think i got nearly all questions right.



  • @momurda said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    My A+ book (bought early-mid 00's) was like 1200 pages long, had pinouts of all 240 pins on ddr and other 'stuff only hw design engineers need to know' in there. I tried memorizing all that, then took the test and was like 'wtf did i waste dozens of hours studying for'. Took like 20 minutes and i think i got nearly all questions right.

    THey haven't invented DDR yet when I took mine. I'm surprised that DDR is even in it now. Are they that up to date?



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Dashrender said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I have never taken any of the CompTIA tests. I started with the MCSA NT 4.0 back in 94-95. The network portions I thought, at the time, did a pretty decent job of teaching you networking.

    They removed that networking requirement when the Network+ was released.

    I was wondering about that.



  • yeah, even the MS tests back in the mid 90's had things that would rarely if ever been seen.

    I recall thumbing through the A+ books in the late 90's.. I was like "really? I need to learn pinouts - seems ridiculous" and I dropped the book and walked away.



  • @Dashrender said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    yeah, even the MS tests back in the mid 90's had things that would rarely if ever been seen.

    I recall thumbing through the A+ books in the late 90's.. I was like "really? I need to learn pinouts - seems ridiculous" and I dropped the book and walked away.

    Yeah that was annoying learning pinouts...



  • Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.



  • @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    Kids today have no idea how hard IT was in general. It was freaking HARD back in the day! No Google, hardware never worked, just installing an OS could take a week.



  • @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    I remember 0 IRQs now even though I had to know them for the test lol.



  • @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    I remember 0 IRQs now even though I had to know them for the test lol.

    Oh yeah, totally useless. Never needed them back then either. I've been in IT since 1989 and that's never been useful, not once.



  • I rarely need to worry about Parallel connections or Serial COM mappings.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    I remember 0 IRQs now even though I had to know them for the test lol.

    Oh yeah, totally useless. Never needed them back then either. I've been in IT since 1989 and that's never been useful, not once.

    really? you never had to set a video or sound card? I only learned them as I was setting up cards. Back in the mid 90's we built new PCs yearly (it would have been more often if we could afford it), Granted by the late 90s this wasn't really needed.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    I remember 0 IRQs now even though I had to know them for the test lol.

    Oh yeah, totally useless. Never needed them back then either. I've been in IT since 1989 and that's never been useful, not once.

    I am not as old as some of you guys, but what I remember is the only time you need to touch the IRQs was if there was a conflict with another device. The only way that would happen is if you installed a card, removed it. Then installed a new card and reinstalled the old one.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    Kids today have no idea how hard IT was in general. It was freaking HARD back in the day! No Google, hardware never worked, just installing an OS could take a week.

    Yeah. Don't forget the fun of trying to specify a free BIOS address space via dip switches on a SCSI card. That was really so much fun when they first started coming out with the first "automatic" "choose it's own IRQ/address space" things



  • @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @IRJ said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    I remember 0 IRQs now even though I had to know them for the test lol.

    Oh yeah, totally useless. Never needed them back then either. I've been in IT since 1989 and that's never been useful, not once.

    I am not as old as some of you guys, but what I remember is the only time you need to touch the IRQs was if there was a conflict with another device. The only way that would happen is if you installed a card, removed it. Then installed a new card and reinstalled the old one.

    Yeah, not something that normal people ran into and even less likely for IT people to run into.



  • @travisdh1 said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @scottalanmiller said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    @Brains said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    Haha I took my A+ when we still had to memorize the IRQ Assignments. Kids these days have now idea how much easier that test is now. Still worthless, but at least it taught me all my IRQs when I was 17.

    Kids today have no idea how hard IT was in general. It was freaking HARD back in the day! No Google, hardware never worked, just installing an OS could take a week.

    Yeah. Don't forget the fun of trying to specify a free BIOS address space via dip switches on a SCSI card. That was really so much fun when they first started coming out with the first "automatic" "choose it's own IRQ/address space" things

    Those were the days. And having to memorize the different SCSI connectors.



  • I did A+ I think it was 1998. Back when the test was in two parts, one for software and other for hardware.
    Sadly, I actually didn't pass hardware the first time, I didn't study as much as software side.
    Hardware test definitely covered esoteric things, pinouts, BIOS settings, endless acronyms, etc. I think I still have my small notebook with like 6 pages of acronym definitions from my study books. It was insider knowledge knowing which side of the device the red pin went. 80 pin IDE cables looked amazing with good cable management and nice folds.

    I hate the idea of failing a test question due to not knowing useless fun facts versus actual real world issues and scenarios.

    I just did Net+ only a couple years ago. I feel like the questions were a little more real world but what always gets me with tests are the ways they try to turn them into trick questions. I hate hate hate when they play silly games about "select one or more" and of course they want a precise number. Or trick you with a subtle "not" in the question and you read it too fast to notice, etc. I don't want to fail a test due to trick questions and trickery. Why can't tests just present something real and not try and trick people? They often have questions that could very well be the answer but probably not.

    Example: Name the three primary components of a computer: 1) motherboard, 2) power supply, 3) cpu, 4) ram.
    Um, well all of them are pretty primary, but for a stupid test question I guess they have a sliding scale or something? These kinds of questions are inconsequential, like "oh know, this guy almost thought that ram was slightly more important than power supply! Inconceivable!

    There were some esoteric questions in Net+ like knowing ins and outs of encryption technologies used in specific wireless protocols and which cyphers they used. I feel like this is just fun facts and hardly the kind of stuff people should have memorized for most situations.
    I spent multiple evenings trying to memorize all the 802.x specs. Such a waste, kind of.

    I would like to go down the Microsoft tract into servers and software development I think.



  • I have a Certificate 4 and a Diploma of something to do with websites (it was ages ago... not like 1989 or anything but early 00's) from the local TAFE but no industry certifications (e.g. VMware, MS, RH, Cisco etc).

    I learned a lot of basic knowledge programming languages, databases, multimedia editing (cameras that had floppy disks in them!!!) and some other solid foundational stuff.

    I have done training courses that lead to taking certification exams, but I've opted to not take the exams.



  • @guyinpv said in Logical IT Certification Progression:

    I would like to go down the Microsoft tract into servers and software development I think.

    Microsoft isn't bad, but they do test a certain way. Once you learn their testing thought process, the tests are fairly easy. The first time you take a MS test, it can through you for a loop.