by James Gross, Senior Technical Instructor at LeaderQuest
Have you ever wondered how the data you use every single day gets from its source to you?
Do you use social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat?
Does connecting people and adding value to their lives with technology intrigue you?
If so, do you know where to start on the journey to being the expert that builds the networks that connect people globally?
As a senior technical instructor here at LeaderQuest, I know first-hand the many paths to becoming a “network engineer.” When you begin to explore this as a career path, you will begin hearing about a lot of IT certifications, specifically the CompTIA Network+ certification.
This blog will be the first of many that will walk you through the process of attaining this foundational CompTIA networking certification.
What is CompTIA?
CompTIA is the Computer Technology Industry Association. They provide professional certifications that test and verify your understanding of information technology concepts. As a vendor-neutral IT certification, the information you need to know to master the exam and become certified is applicable across many vendor’s product lines. The certifications offered by CompTIA, such as A+, Network+, and Security+, cover most aspects of IT and prove to employers that you have the background to be considered for an IT job.
What is the Network+ IT Certification?
As this post is the first of many dealing with the Network+ exam, let’s talk about what it is all about. For starters, it is a foundational exam. This means that understanding the core concepts will allow you to find an entry-level IT job. It also sets you up for success with Cisco’s Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification training, Juniper’s Juniper Networks Certified Associate – Junos (JNCA-Junos) certification, and more. You will have to take an exam that will have up to 90 questions and get a minimum score of 720 out of 900. The certification exam must be completed in 90 minutes. It will consist of a mix of performance-based (simulations) and multiple-choice questions. The exam is challenging but not so difficult that it can’t be attained by most people.
As a bonus, the certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and it shows compliance with the International Standard Organization (ISO) 17024. Why is that important? If you want to work for certain governmental organizations, they will want you to continually develop your knowledge and skill sets. ANSI/ISO certification and compliance require that the certificate holder maintains continuing education units (CEUs). As a compliant certification, you will need to maintain thirty (30) CEUs over a three (3) year period after becoming CompTIA Network+ certified.
What Knowledge Does the Network+ Certification Cover?
Since I am guessing that attaining your CompTIA Network+ certification might very well be your first certification experience, we will look at the domains that are covered by Network+. One thing you will likely encounter on just about every IT certification exam is the concept of domains. Most certifications break down the knowledge you need into basic categories, called domains. The information is further broken down into subdomains. If you understand the domain information, you will likely pass the exam. So pay particular attention to not only the domains but the subdomains as well.
Here is what you will learn for the current CompTIA Network+ exam, N10-006:
- Domain 1.0 – Network Architecture: this will cover about 20 or so of the questions you see (22%)
- Domain 2.0 – Network Operations: this will cover another 20 or so questions on the exam (20%)
- Domain 3.0 – Network Security: this will cover less than 20 questions (18%)
- Domain 4.0 – Troubleshooting: this will cover at least 20 questions (24%)
- Domain 5.0 – Industry Standards, Practices, and Network Theory: this will cover 15 or so questions covering a variety of concepts (16%)
Each domain covers quite a bit of information that you must master to score a pass on the exam. Does CompTIA expect you to be an expert? No. They expect you to understand and identify core networking concepts that employers are looking for.
What Can the Network+ IT Certification Do For You?
Now, what can the certification do for you, the person just starting on their networking journey? Potentially quite a bit. Instead of pulling out some of the marketing material that CompTIA provides, I will simply give you a real-life example…my own.
My journey to becoming an IT professional began when I retired from the USAF. For roughly 16 years I was the unofficial “computer guy” wherever I went, whether stateside or overseas. When I retired, there weren’t that many jobs for my specialty available, so my wife suggested that I do something that I was naturally good at…IT. Of course, having no training or professional experience, my job prospects were severely limited. To overcome that limitation, I started looking for ways to prop the hiring door open. The fast way to get those doors open what to show potential employers that I had at least the basic knowledge they were looking for. So, like many before and since, I signed up for classes through LeaderQuest.
I went to six weeks of rigorous training, covering PC technician (A+), networking (Network+), IT security (Security+), and Windows 7 (MCSA: Windows 7). At the end of my third week of training, I took the two A+ exams and attained my CompTIA A+ certification. Then, approximately a month after that, I sat for and passed the Network+ and Security+ exams. All those exams were challenging, even though I had followed technology for almost twenty years and had a decent baseline of knowledge due to my military service.
After the holiday hiring lull, I was able to make connections, through LeaderQuest, with Level 3 Communications and several other companies. Due to my IT certifications, I was able to land many interviews.
Most people will tell you that getting the foot in the door is vital. But you also need to be able to convey what you know to those who are looking to hire you. The training I received, which was essential for passing the Network+ exam, gave me the proper foundation to talk about how networks interconnect people locally, nationally, and globally. That ability, plus my certifications, landed me a job with Level 3 Communications, ultimately ending up in the Network Operations Center (NOC). If you don’t know what a NOC (pronounced like ‘knock’) is, let me just say that it is the Holy Grail for networking professionals.
Long story short…without IT certifications, it is unlikely that my résumé would have garnered any real attention from employers. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interview with the companies that I did. The opportunities that were opened to me gave me a start in IT and have allowed me to take care of my family’s needs and lead me to a fulfilling career. Just like they will for you.