CompTIA’s A+ vs Cisco’s IT Essentials

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CompTIA’s A+ certification was one of the biggest reasons why CompTIA succeeded and expanded. And A+ has been a very well-reputed and demanded certification for a long time. And the new updates and changes to it will only make it stronger.

On the other hand, not many of you have heard of a certification called “IT Essentials”. This certification is actually not only one, but two. IT Essentials I and II have been part of the Cisco Networking Academy Program. Until sometime ago, IT Essentials certifications were called HP IT Essentials. Hewlett-Packard (HP) was a partner with Cisco in creating this certification track. And I believe that it was HP who created it first and embedded it into Cisco’s Networking Academy Program and few months ago Cisco kind of got independence with it.

CompTIA’s A+ is now divided into 4 exams. These exams are:

1. CompTIA A+ Essentials

CompTIA A+ Essentials covers the basic computer hardware and operating systems and skills like installation, building, upgrading, repairing, configuring, troubleshooting, optimizing, diagnosing and preventive maintenance, with additional elements of security and soft skills. The Essentials Exam validates the basic skills needed by any entry-level service technician regardless of job environment.

2. CompTIA A+ 220-602
The CompTIA A+ 220-602 exam is targeted for individuals who work or intend to work in a mobile or corporate technical environment with a high level of face-to-face client interaction like Enterprise Technician, IT Administrator, Field Service Technician, PC Technician.Ideally, the CompTIA A+ 220-602 candidate has already passed the CompTIA A+ Essentials examination. Candidates who pass both CompTIA A+ Essentials and exam 220-602 will be CompTIA A+ certified with the IT Technician designation.

3. CompTIA A+ 220-603

The CompTIA A+ 220-603 examination is people working in a remote-based work environment where client interaction, client training, operating system and connectivity issues are emphasized. For example people like Remote Support Technician, Help

Desk Technician, Call Center Technician will benefit from this certification. CompTIA A+ 220-603 candidate must have passed the CompTIA A+ Essentials examination. Candidates who pass both CompTIA A+ Essentials and exam 220-603 exams will be CompTIA A+ certified with the Remote Support Technician designation.

4. CompTIA A+ 220-604
The CompTIA A+ 220-604 examination is for people working in settings with where hardware related activities are emphasized. Example job roles include: Depot Technician, Bench Technician. CompTIA A+ 220-604 candidate also must have passed the CompTIA A+ Essentials examination. Candidates who pass both CompTIA A+ Essentials and exam220-604 exams will be CompTIA A+ certified with the Depot Technician designation.

A+ has evolved to cover wide range of needs and the secret of its success and spreading is that it is vendor neutral. Covering more areas in security, A+ certification would benefit the people new to computers to start a career in IT, and people who already have this information to validate their knowledge and get certified in it.

With the increasing number of training centers offering A+ courses, and these courses being affordable the only point to be taken against A+ is the exam price. CompTIA’s exams have always been expensive as compared to other certification paths like Microsoft or even Cisco.

IT Essentials

IT Essentials, as I have mentioned before, is divided into two parts:

1. IT Essentials I: PC Hardware and Software

This 70-hour, hands-on, lab-oriented course introduces students to information technology and data communications. The course stresses laboratory safety and working effectively in a group environment. Students learn how to build a computer and install different versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system. This course helps students prepare for exciting career opportunities in computer technology. The course focuses on building a computer and installation of the motherboard, disk drives, CD-ROM drives, and video cards, installing and managing Windows operating systems, adding peripherals and multimedia capabilities, demonstrating knowledge of local-area network architecture, networking protocols, the OSI reference model, and TCP/IP utilities, connecting computers to LANs and to the Internet. In addition to basic networking concepts, the functions and configurations of a network are also covered. Cisco in their brochure say ‘IT Essentials I: PC Hardware and Software prepares students for the industry-recognized CompTIA A+ certification exam.’

2. IT Essentials II: Network Operating Systems

IT Essentials II: Network Operating Systems is an intensive introduction to multiuser, multitasking network operating systems. This course, which is also a 70-hour one, is mostly hands-on, lab-oriented course is designed to provide an overview of network operating systems, with specific focus on the characteristics of Linux and Windows operating systems. This course will be a stepping stone to help prepare students for challenging careers—for example, as skilled hardware and network operating system professionals. This course focuses on configuring network services, including basic network security and troubleshooting, using fundamental command-line features of the Linux and Windows Server environments, including file system navigation, file permissions, the vi text editor, command shells, and basic networking, exploring GUI features such as Applications Manager, Text Editor, printing, and mail, and performing basic administrative tasks in Windows. And Cisco says in the brochure ‘IT Essentials II: Network Operating Systems, along with the Fundamentals of UNIX course, will help prepare students for the CompTIA Linux+ certification exam.’

These statements from Cisco gives us the indication that they created this certification path not to challenge CompTIA in their homeland, A+, but to incorporate courses for starters and not become concerned with the CCxAs and CCxPs alone. This is a good approach, especially with the focus on networking in the IT Essentials courses, to cover a big slice of the communities in the whole world; IT career seekers.

Lots of people are changing careers to IT. And still there is a great shortage that is evolving not only in the developing countries but also in the North America and Western Europe. Information technology has become the center of our lives and as the users increase, people on the other side of the math (IT specialists) have to increase.

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