Q & A with CompTIA Product Manager, Teresa Sears
CompTIA’s A+ certification originally debuted in 1993 and since that time more than one million IT professionals have earned their A+ certification. To maintain its relevancy in the market place, CompTIA introduces major revisions with updated course content every 3 years. In doing so, A+ continues to offer the fundamental knowledge that many aspiring IT professionals require to advance in their careers.
For those unfamiliar, CompTIA’s A+ is an entry-level IT certification for PC technicians and Service Desk employees. We had an opportunity to discuss the recently released version of A+ with CompTIA Product Manager, Teresa Sears.
Tell us a bit about what you do every day.
As a Product Manager, I manage the lifecycle of our certifications. CompTIA A+ is updated every three years so my focus changes from year to year. For example, in January we launched the CompTIA A+ Core Series -- our eighth refresh since its initial introduction. So, this year my focus has been on ensuring a successful exam launch. Next year the product management emphasis will shift to researching how the next version of A+ should be modified. And in 2021, we’ll collaborate with the exam development team to build the next update to A+, coming full circle to another launch year in early 2022.
Although the focus changes every year, I am responsible for monitoring certification performance so that the organization can course-correct as needed. I work with industry to drive certification adoption, collaborate with sales to ensure our customers and partners have what they need, and support marketing efforts focused on building awareness of the value of certification.
Let’s talk a bit about the A+ certification. Why did CompTIA feel the time was right to update it?
Part of monitoring the health of the certification is a regular review of the job roles that we certify. While our review includes things like jobs data analysis and research reports, we also engage hundreds of IT professionals in the review and refresh of the A+ certification. What we continue to hear is that the rapid changes in cloud, virtualization, IoT, and cybersecurity impact the technical support role and subsequently the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform on-the-job. As the job role changes, so does A+.
A Service Desk Technician is a much different job than it was 10 or 15 years ago. I assume the new A+ takes that into consideration. What are the major differences or updates?
The A+ Core Series includes updates across the entire set of skills needed by a technical support professional, including:
- More security. There is a general expansion of baseline security topics core to the IT support role. For example, there is an increased emphasis on physical versus logical security concepts and measures. Social engineering – previously condensed with a general security topic in the 900 series – now has its own objective. Malware detection and removal receives greater emphasis with the ability to detect and remove malware specified at a task level, ie, candidates must be able to do, rather than at a knowledge level. Device hardening is expanded beyond just PCs to include computing devices more generally.
- Networking and device connectivity are broadened. Cloud and virtualization now have their own domain. And, as the ability to access data has become core to productivity, troubleshooting connectivity across a myriad of devices receives greater weight in the Core series. For example, endpoint management solutions have been added as have networking protocols to support IoT devices, such as Zigbee and Z-wave.
How long will the old certification stay in market?
The CompTIA A+ 900 series (English language) will retire July 31, 2019. Exam translations in all other languages will retire December 2019. Individuals preparing to take the 900 series must complete both 901 and 902 before retirement. It is not possible to mix versions, so an individual cannot take 901 & 1002 and get certified.
Roughly how many people are A+ certified today? And does CompTIA expect significant growth in that number with this new version?
There are more than one million A+ certified IT professionals today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of technical support specialists is projected to grow 11 percent through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. As organizations make critical technology investments in progressively complex software and end point devices, more support services will be needed to leverage those investments. More needed services will require more skilled IT professionals. That need along with recognition of A+ as the skills standard for technical support professionals will drive continued growth for A+ certified professionals.
Do you still consider the A+ certification the best place to start for someone entering into the IT field?
Yes. CompTIA A+ is listed as a required or preferred credential in thousands of job posts found around the world. It provides validation of the skills needed for success in early career technical support roles. With a focus on problem solving within a technology support context, A+ provides a solid base on which to build a thriving career in IT.
At New Horizons, we’re talking training everyday—and not just with a variety of clients, but with leading vendors—about industry trends and real-life challenges. And because of our close partnership with CompTIA, New Horizons is positioned to help businesses like yours leverage our knowledge experts to discuss strategies, implementation and troubleshooting.
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