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Big headlines herald big changes for CompTIA

The certification industry giant is making waves with a trio of major announcements.

It's been a busy start to the month of May for CompTIA, the IT industry advocacy and education organization headquartered outside of Chicago. CompTIA was the center of attention in three big news stories this week — and at least two of these stories signal significant change for the group known for its robust vendor-neutral certification program.

Let's take a look at everything that was announced, and what it all likely means.

Security+ Exam Update

The first headline of the week was not a shocker, as CompTIA had made it known that an update to its Security+ certification exam was scheduled for release at the beginning of May. As expected, the new Security+ exam (exam SY0-401) was announced on May 1.

CompTIA has released exam objectives for the new exam, but here is a capsule summary of the changes:

• More content covering common protocols and services
• Greater focus on risk management and mitigation
• New content on mobile security and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
• More emphasis on scenario-based objectives and performance-based exam questions

The English version of the new Security+ exam is now live, while work is still being done to create the German and Japanese versions of the exam for release later this year. The previous Security+ exam (exam SY0-301) will remain available until the end of December, and will then be retired.

The release of the new Security+ exam isbig news for CompTIA's certification program, but it pales in comparison to the two announcements which would follow.

CompTIA Buys TechAmerica

If you are like me, you may have seen this recent headline and thought to yourself, "CompTIA bought who now?" Don't be mistaken, however, this acquisition is a big deal, primarily due to the expanded influence over public policy it will give CompTIA.

TechAmerica is a high-profile information and communications technology advocacy group that has decades of experience interacting with multiple levels and branches of government, the Washington power brokers in particular. By bringing TechAmerica under its umbrella, CompTIA has greatly enhanced its ability to influence policy decisions involving key IT industry issues such as hiring, international trade, and government procurement.

The financial terms of the acquisition haven't been disclosed, but the fact that CompTIA is keeping its identity (TechAmerica will be folded into CompTIA's branding and existing leadership team) signifies that it will maintain its current positioning in the industry, with the added benefit of having TechAmerica's well-established advocacy force in its toolkit.

The mention of "toolkits" is a good segue into Headline No. 3, which revealed CompTIA's significant new training endeavor, a product that might ruffle the feathers of some of its existing partners.

Introducing CompTIA CertMaster

Right on the heels of the TechAmerica acquisition story was a press release announcing CompTIA's new online learning solution, called CertMaster, which was revealed at the ASTD 2014 conference in Washington, D.C.

CompTIA is marketing CertMaster as "a revolutionary learning solution with deep foundations in brain science and research in neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and game studies." According to CompTIA, CertMaster has been designed to be accessible by consumers, but can also be deployed in schools, businesses, and government training facilities. General availability to CertMaster is scheduled to launch in June 2014, and will include browser-enabled access, as well as apps for Android and iOS devices.

The CertMaster announcement is the most intriguing CompTIA development of the week, more so for the questions it doesn't answer.
First, an online search for "CertMaster" generates several unique results, which makes it difficult to know if CompTIA has partnered with an existing company, or has developed its own home-cooked solution. Regardless, CertMaster represents the most ambitious certification training offering that CompTIA has developed in-house.

The larger question raised by this announcement is, what does this mean for CompTIA's existing training and education partners? These companies, approved and registered through the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program, couldn't be blamed for feeling like they've just had a shot whistle over their bow. CertMaster appears to be a direct competitor in the certification training marketplace, which will likely not sit well with many of CompTIA's current authorized partners.

It will be interesting to see what response CompTIA's authorized partners will have in the days leading up to CertMaster's release.

Summary

If spring time is the traditional season of renewal, CompTIA has fully embraced it. The acquisition of TechAmerica and the upcoming release of CertMaster are two significant changes for the IT advocacy and education group. It will be interesting to see if 2014 holds any more big announcements from CompTIA.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Axline is a freelance technical writer and knowledge management specialist based in Edmonton, Canada. His work has appeared in titles by Que Publishing, and on many tech blogs and websites.