CompTIA certification exams being beefed up

The updated entry-level exam will test more on IT security, interpersonal skills

The entry-level CompTIA A+ IT certification exams are bring updated to help ensure that future IT workers have a broader background in basic IT security and improved interpersonal communications skills with IT users.


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In an announcement yesterday, The Computing Technology Industry Association Inc. (CompTIA) said it will update its A+ IT skills certification exams by the third quarter of the year.

“There will be a higher degree of security-related material in the exam than there had been previously,” said Steven Ostrowski, a spokesman for the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based group. The changes are based user feedback are partly in response to increased IT security needs at companies and the fact that help desk staffers are handling more security issues than before, he said.

For the first time, the A+ exams will also highlight “soft skills,” allowing exam takers to show how they assist users with IT problems. Writing and verbal skills will be part of the exam, according to the group.

The CompTIA A+ exam will also offer customized versions for workers who want to specialize in one of three IT job categories — IT technician, remote support/help desk worker or depot technician. The idea behind the separate tests is to give exam takers an opportunity to show skills in the specific field they are pursuing, Ostrowski said.

Nearly 700,000 IT workers in some 190 countries hold CompTIA A+ certification, according to the group. The last major update to the A+ certification exams was in 2003.

Jim Prevo, CIO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. in Waterbury, Vt., said that at his company, A+ certification is “not particularly important. We have had a few of our people train for and take the exams as a way of ensuring they have better skills, and it would be of interest to see that on a resume for an entry-level candidate. But overall, it isn’t overly significant in the scheme of IT issues.”

Charlie Jones, vice president of operations for employment consulting and outsourcing vendor Yoh Services LLC in Philadelphia, said that while updating the A+ exam makes sense, it’s unlikely to have a significant effect on enterprise IT hiring because it is an entry-level certification.

“The certifications that we see to be most valuable are more centered around Microsoft [products] or IBM, Sun and Oracle,” Jones said. Those kinds of certifications, “coupled with actual hands-on experience, we’ve seen to be more valuable than just A+ certification.

“What industry is looking for is the expertise, the knowledge base and then the certification,” he said. “When you’re talking about A+ certification, it’s a good starting point.”