I have been reading allot of forum posts debating the value of CompTIA's A+ and Network+ certifications so I wanted to add my two cents. Anyways, I have been in IT since 1995 and have done just about everything in the IT field. I started my career during the time of the Great Paper Certification Crisis of the late 90's. Like many people, I have plenty horror stories of MCSEs who couldn't properly diagnose simple problems. This turned me off of certification completely for many years! I never had anyone ask me if I was certified or not and never gave certification a second thought...until one of my friends challenged me to put my money where my mouth is. He taunted me with the old "If certifications are so easy to get you should have no trouble getting them." I accepted the challenge and have successfully passed both A+(2007) and Network+(2005/2007), and in the process have developed a new found respect for both of those certifications.
The new A+ objectives are very relevant to today's workforce and someone who passes these two exams would make an excellent addition to any business. The best new topics, in my opinion are the soft skills such as communication skills, professionalism, safety and IT environmental issues. In today's business world, these four things will have an increasing impact on how the IT department operates. It is good to see this reflected in a industry standard certification. In fact, my biggest issue with the A+ exams was these four topics should have a higher importance!
Network+ is also an excellent exam. It covers a wide range of topics including Windows, Netware, Linux, Unix and Apple networking in addition to the theory and troubleshooting techniques. Unlike many of the forum posts I read, I thought the inclusion of such a wide variety of Network Operating Systems a wise move on CompTIA's part. I have only ever had to network Windows PCs so it was good to see that the Network+ exam was truly vendor neutral, and contains questions on just about anything you are likely to see in the field. Network+ was last updated in 2005 and refreshed in 2007. I feel Comptia needs to update Network+ to be more like the A+ exam. There was very little emphasis on soft skills and I feel that the Network+ exam should include topics on network documentation and maybe expanding on the topology topic to include simple network design questions.
CompTIA does not make A+ mandatory to write the Network+ exam. Saying that, I think you should write A+ first. Microsoft allows you to use your A+ and Network+ certifications as your elective for your MCSA. This shows the value Microsoft perceives in attaining these certifications!
I also like the fact that these certifications do not expire. I do however think that CompTIA should try and include some sort of continuing education to ensure that you remain relevant. Weather it includes additional certifications or reading journals or attending classes.
I will continue to post my certification journey on my blog so stay tuned! Next stop Vista or maybe my CCNA!