Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.
It was the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi (sometimes called Lao Tzu) who is generally believed to have originated the saying about the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step. Everybody who is on a journey, or has reached a destination, started out somewhere, some way.
Many IT career journeys start out with a job in computer support, and many aspiring professionals get that job after becoming certified, or become certified not long after beginning their employment. Sometimes certification provides a training ground where IT support skills are acquired and sharpened. Sometimes certification helps established workers get a raise, or a better position, or even a job with a different employer.
In a way, IT certification itself really got started, or at least became established as a pillar of the IT industry, in the computer support arena. Many of the early credentials offered by pioneering IT certification programs — like those operated by software colossus Microsoft, or IT industry association CompTIA — were intended to build up a workforce of reliably skilled computer support professionals.
We frequently ask survey participants which IT certification is the cornerstone of their professional career. And that includes the certified IT support professionals who responded to our recent Computer Technician Certification Survey. What was the first place they turned to get a computer support certification?
Here's what we learned:
Q: What was the first computer technician certification that you earned?
CompTIA A+ — 39.2 percent
CompTIA Security+ — 10.1 percent
CCNA — 8.9 percent
CompTIA Network+ — 5.1 percent
The clear king of the IT support certification world is the long-lived and widely popular A+ credential offered by CompTIA. A+ is intended specifically for computer technicians, so it's no surprise that, among a large group of certified computer technicians, this is the most common certification career anchor point.
CompTIA also occupies a lot of the runner-up real estate with its Security+ and Network+ credentials. A+, Network+, and Security+ are often grouped together, both on résumés and in IT industry certification circles, so it makes sense that some computer support professionals would start off with Security+ or Network+ and (probably) get A+ later.
The CCNA certification offered by computer networking giant Cisco breaks up CompTIA the block party. Though it addresses proprietary technology, CCNA also covers a lot of core computer networking concepts, and Cisco has a large presence in schools, where the Cisco Networking Academy program filters learners directly toward CCNA certification.
Eagle-eyed mathematicians will likely have detected that our top four credentials are held by a body of survey respondents that, added together, does not represent 100 percent of those surveyed. We had a large contingent of write-in answers, most of which cited now-defunct Microsoft certifications (11.4 percent). (Microsoft has dramatically overhauled its certification program over the past five years.)
The rest of the vote is taken up by small blocks of respondents attached to a handful of credentials including: Apple Certified iOS Technician, Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST) Cybersecurity, CompTIA Server+, Google IT Support Professional, HDI Support Center Analyst, ISACA Information Technology Certified Associate, IBM Certified Support Professional, Hitachi Vantara Installation and Support Specialist, Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate, and mile2 Certified Hardware & Operating Systems Technician.