CompTIA Network+ certification is a widely recognized credential for network technicians. The vendor-neutral qualification helps IT workers demonstrate a basic understanding of networking technology and break into entry-level roles in network installation and maintenance.
The company's name is an acronym for the Computing Technology Industry Association, a non-profit trade association founded in 1982. The organization uses Pearson VUE testing centers for certification exams and its A+, Network + and Security+ certifications were accredited by the American National Standards Institute as of April, 2007.
Network+ certification debuted in 1999, and the exam has been updated in 2002, 2005, and 2009. The most current version, featuring 2012 objectives, was launched in late 2011. The topic objectives range from network software and hardware to local area network and wide area network protocols.
The CompTIA Network+ program recommends professionals first attain the CompTIA A+ certification to attain basic technical knowledge and nine months of networking job experience prior to taking the CompTIA Network+ certification program.
Training for the CompTIA Network+ certification can be done in the traditional classroom setting in educational outlets located nationwide, or through an online virtual classroom program.
CompTIA offers an online study program, called CertMaster, aimed at helping students with training and prepping for the certification examination process. There is a free trial version available.
The breadth of Network+ training ranges from:
- Gaining an understanding of protocols and standards
- Troubleshooting specific network issues:
- Changing IP address schemes
- Administrating network devices like load balancers, DNS servers, VPN setups and content filters
Training typically crosses into the network security arena given network specialists are often part of the first line of network defense in detecting security-related issues such as malware, viruses and hacking intrusions. Training on wireless and remote networking systems, an increasingly expected skill in light of the growing mobility of businesses and their employees, is another recommended element in network certification.
The broad-based skills of a network professional are a main reason CompTIA recommends, but does not require, attaining entry-level certifications prior to the Network+ certification. For example, for those aiming to work at network administrators, CompTIA advises attaining the Linux+ Powered by LPI for those who have a full year of job experience and CompTIA Server+ for those having nearly two years of hands-on network knowledge, in addition to the early-mentioned A+ certification. With those certifications a network specialist can move into the roles of server technician, systems administration, Internet systems administrator and field support technician.
Network+ certification exam
Once training has been completed the next certification program step is a 90-minute CompTIA Network+ examination, which costs $269 in the U.S. and features a maximum of 100 questions.
The CompTIA Network+ examination has six areas of concentration:
- Network technologies (20 percent of exam)
- Network media and topologies (20 percent)
- Network management (20 percent)
- Network device knowledge (17 percent)
- Network tool questions (12 percent)
- Network security (11 percent)
The Network+ examination is one of four CompTIA exams that incorporate performance-based questions (PBQs) in addition to multiple choice format questions. PBQs, which are typically given at the start of the exam, assess an individual's capability in solving network problems in a simulated environment. Students are allocated a specific timeframe to answer PBQs, but unlike the multiple-choice portion of the test, students cannot see the exam clock and determine time remaining. CompTIA provides students with the ability to download examples of exam questions prior to taking actual exams in order to understand the testing approach.
Network+ in the workplace
Initially CompTIA certifications were lifetime certifications, but that changed as of January, 2010. CompTIA professionals certified after January 2011 must now renew their certifications every three years. There is a provision that allows certified professionals to substitute a specific amount of documented job hours in lieu of re-taking the certification exam.
CompTIA also provides certified professionals continuing education courses and programs to help keep network skills updated given the ever-changing technologies and advancements in network systems.
"Do Computer Networking Professionals Make a Lot of Money?" GlobalPost, December 2014, http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/computer-networking-professionals-make-lot-money-29836.html
"CompTIA Certifications," CompTIA, December 2014, http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications.aspx
"CompTIA Network+ Certification Exam Objectives: N10-004," CompTIA, 2008, http://certification.comptia.org/docs/default-source/exam-objectives/CompTIA_Network_Objectives_N10-004.pdf
"Performance-Based Questions Explained," CompTIA, December 2014, http://certification.comptia.org/Training/testingcenters/performance-based-questions-explained