Much like the coding boot camps of today, when the first version of CompTIA A+ launched in 1993, it represented a stamp of approval on a set of skills desperately needed in the IT workforce. Since then, A+ has grown to become the de-facto industry standard for new and aspiring IT technical support professionals. And though it’s sometimes hidden among the significant and needed attention given to the shortage of application development and coding skills, there is a continued gap in the availability of those skilled in supporting modern computing environments.
The latest update to the CompTIA A+ certification reflects the rapid pace of change in the IT industry and the current skill-sets needed to support those changes. It launched Dec 15.
Android and Linux and OS X, oh my!
From programmable thermostats and self-driving cars to the relatively mundane fitness tracker and smartphone, we are awash in Internet-connected devices. For a technical support professional this has required a shift in mindset – from managing and troubleshooting a single computer to supporting a user and their ability to access needed data from multiple devices. As the industrial Internet and the Internet of Things accelerates this trend, IT service and support organizations face the challenge of supporting a great number of increasingly diverse devices.
The CompTIA A+ 900 series answers this challenge by establishing new table-stakes for the entry-level IT support professional. While Microsoft Windows remains a dominant player in the enterprise computing environment, it’s not the only operating system found in businesses and homes. So, in addition to Windows, CompTIA A+ now also tests on knowledge of and skills in Apple OS X, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. Wearables, tablets and smartphones are covered alongside the ubiquitous laptop. And managing mobile devices – the hardware, the data and the connections – is an increased point of emphasis.
Security is everyone’s job.
Once believed to be the domain of the IT security specialist, there’s growing awareness that IT security is a responsibility shared by all – from the end-user in accounting to the CEO. IT professionals, especially those in help desk and technical support roles, carry the burden of being on the front lines in the battle against unauthorized intrusions.
The new CompTIA A+ recognizes the critical role IT tech support plays in protecting an organization’s digital assets. Reviewing the 900 series objectives reveals a security domain weighted at 22 percent of the 902 exam – identical to the weighting on the 800 series exam.
But domain weightings only tell part of the story. An increased emphasis on applying security-related knowledge is reflected in the depth of objectives tested. For example, candidates are asked more frequently to deploy and use security best practices rather than simply describe or identify them.
In addition to greater knowledge depth, the breadth of the security domain has been expanded to reflect the increased attack surface of a typical organization, along with the resources and tools that have arisen to protect it. Security concerns are included in the security domain and reflected throughout the two exams. In fact, eight of the nine total A+ certification domains now have an objective or sub-objective containing a security consideration.
You want to keep my phone for how long?!
As smartphones and other personal computing devices have risen in popularity, so has our reliance on them as communication tools, entertainment sources and life organizers. With this reliance comes a reluctance to give them up for any length of time. Combined with an expectation for instant gratification that’s been fed by immediate access to information from anywhere, we’ve grown accustomed to speedy and accurate problem resolution whenever issues arise.
This means technical difficulties are no longer an excuse. Because of this, the new CompTIA A+ places troubleshooting center stage. Troubleshooting was present in previous versions of the A+ certification, but the 900 series places special emphasis on the ability to solve problems with the domains of each exam building to the ultimate troubleshooting domain. Not only do certification candidates have to install and configure, they have to identify the source of a problem and resolve it – regardless of whether the problem is related to the device, the data connection or the application.
There is a certain amount of variation in the job role responsibilities of a technical support specialist. It varies from organization to organization depending on the IT resources the business needs to thrive. As organizations build out the best architectures for supporting their goals – with strategies that likely include cloud- and software-defined approaches – the complexity associated with managing those environments also increases. The new CompTIA A+ opens the door to understanding modern computing infrastructures and offers a launching pad to a satisfying career in IT.
The New A+ 900 Series in Summation
- Security: Supporting and securing access to data by properly using authentication, access control and encryption for an organization.
- Networking: Applying core concepts and protocols such as IPv4, IPv6, DHCP and subnet mask to set up and support wired and wireless networks.
- Operating Systems: Working with mobile, server and traditional operating systems, from Android and iOS to Windows and Linux.
- IT Operations: Utilizing the basics of virtualization, cloud computing and desktop imaging and deployment to support today’s IT infrastructures.
- Troubleshooting: Following and using decision trees for diagnosing, resolving and documenting common hardware and software issues across a variety of devices.
- Technical Support: Applying principles of customer service to help resolve IT issues.
Download the new objectives now!
Teresa Sears is the CompTIA A+ product manager.