Is the ITCA Worth It?
The world of Information Technology and Information Services (IT/IS) can be a scary one for someone on the outside. For newcomers to the IT job market, it can feel like there's no way to get experience without already having it. For information technology students, the weird words, tough concepts, and tricky mathematics can make learning about technology a nightmare. If only someone would just lay out the basic requirements and expectations for any entry-level job in the IT world and make an exam to test you on it so you know if you're ready or not.
Good news! Someone went and did just that. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) developed the entry-level ITCA or Information Technology Certified Associate certification. Its job is to check if the person who earns it has the necessary fundamental skills to be a valuable addition to an IT team. It's a new certification, and earning it can be tricky and even expensive, though. Read on and find out if the ITCA is worth it for you and your IT career.
What is ISACA's ITCA?
The ITCA stands for Information Technology Certified Associate. It's an entry-level certification from ISACA that verifies the candidate's comfort with what ISACA calls the five essential IT-related job domains: Computing, Networks and Infrastructure, Cybersecurity, Software Development, and Data Science. ISACA is a professional organization that information systems professionals all over the world join to share their expertise and ideas as they define job standards and knowledge expectations. ISACA maintains many certifications. Some rank among the world's most advanced and well-respected IT certifications — and the ITCA is one of their most recent additions.
The ITCA is actually one certification that includes five smaller sub-certifications or badges. The five job domains that ISACA identifies as fundamental for any IT position are five separate badges you have to study for and take a test about on your way to earning the ITCA. The ITCA itself doesn't require any exam – you just apply and show that you've earned each of the five badges and your ITCA certification is issued to you.
The ITCA was recognized earlier this year in a worldwide technology education showcase as a finalist in both the Badging/Credentialing and New Product or Service categories. Companies are quickly recognizing the ITCA as a certification that promises that a first-time applicant or a brand-new hire has all their knowledge bases covered and understands how to actually perform basic tasks for any junior IT position.
What Does the ITCA Exam from ISACA Test?
In order to earn the ITCA certification and digital badge, you must pass the exam for each of the five ITCA Badges. The five ITCA exams each have 2-4 domains that will be on the test:
ITCA Badge 1: Computing Fundamentals
Domain 1: Networking, Virtualization and Security
Domain 2: Computing Concepts
ITCA Badge 2: Networks and Infrastructure Fundamentals
Domain 1: Network Architecture and Components
Domain 2: Connections and Layers
Domain 3: Language of Networking
Domain 4: Network Infrastructure
ITCA Badge 3: Cybersecurity Fundamentals
Domain 1: Threat landscape
Domain 2: Securing Assets
Domain 3: Information Security Fundamentals
Domain 4: Security Operations and Response
ITCA Badge 4: Software Development Fundamentals
Domain 1: Software Development
Domain 2: Software Development Lifecycle
Domain 3: Software Languages
ITCA Badge 5: Data Science Fundamentals
Domain 1: Data Science Concepts
Domain 2: Data Management
Domain 3: Data Science Process
All of the ITCA badge exams will test you on your knowledge of the IT domain as well as check your real-world, practical ability to perform basic tasks related to those domains. All five ITCA badge exams are two hours long and have exam questions that are either knowledge-based (multiple choice) or performance-based.
How much does the ITCA Exam Cost?
The total cost of the ITCA certification is only $25, which you pay to ISACA once you've taken and passed each of the five domain badge exams. But $25 is not all you'll pay along the way to earning the certification, so don't think of it as your final cost for earning the ITCA. For ISACA members, each of the ITCA exams costs $120, or $150 for non-members. Since there are five exams, your end cost for all the exams necessary to earn the ITCA is $600 if you're an ISACA member or $750 if you're not a member. Becoming an ISACA member costs $135 annually and $10 when you apply.
ISACA also offers a study guide, self-paced course, and additional practice labs for each ITCA exam which are optional. Each study guide costs $60 for members and $65 for non-members. The self-paced courses for each ITCA exam cost $350 (members cost) or $450 (non-members). The additional practice labs cost $300 for ISACA members and $400 for non-members. That means that if you were to buy all the study resources for each ITCA exam (which you don’t have to do!) and take all five exams and pay for your application, the ITCA would cost you $4,175 if you're an ISACA member and $5,450 if you're not.
What Experience Do You Need for the ISACA ITCA Certification?
Unlike many of their other certifications, ISACA allows you to earn the ITCA without any documentation of job experience. Certifications from ISACA tend to certify a person in a particular job position, so ISACA requires that applicants prove they’ve been working in the field. But not with the ITCA: you don't need any formal experience before taking it. That said, taking a CompTIA course like ITF+ can't hurt.
There are five different exams to take before you can earn the ITCA certification, though, so you don't want to go in blind. The first ITCA badge is Computing Fundamentals. In order to pass this, you'll want experience with the concepts of networking, virtualization, and security as well as an understanding of what computing actually is and the math of how it works. For the second ITCA badge, Networks and Infrastructure, you should have an understanding of networking architecture and operations. You should have experience with physical and wireless connectivity, as well as the most commonly used network services and protocols.
The third ITCA badge, Cybersecurity Fundamentals, will require that you understand very basic cybersecurity practices and concepts. Physical security and logical security measures should be familiar to you as well as controls, operations, risk assessments, and threat analysis. The fourth ITCA badge is Software Development. For that exam, you'll want a good understanding of the theories of software and have some experience in actually coding in programming languages. Last, the ITCA's Data Science exam will test your knowledge of structure, analysis, management, and governance. So you'll want experience with data collection, classifying data, and communicating the results of pulls and queries.
Who Should Take the ITCA from ISACA?
The ITCA is a great certification for students of IT, for newcomers to the career field or anyone who's trying to get their first job in IT, and even for non-IT professionals who need a better understanding of the technology or the career, or both.
Is ITCA Worth it for IT Students?
The ITCA is an expensive certification, and that can be restrictive for many IT students. If you're an IT student and you think that $750 is too much to pay for a certification before you're even being paid, that's a fair thing to think. But by paying to take the exams and then earning the ITCA, you're earning a document that tells any future employers that you could start tomorrow and you wouldn't just have an education on the topic, but you'd know how to actually do the job. The ITCA is worth it for many IT students who want to make sure they're qualified for their first jobs.
Is ISACA's ITCA Worth it for New IT Professionals?
If you are brand new to your first IT job and you're feeling like you're in over your head, the ITCA is a perfect certification that you can use to round out your experience so you're nailing everything about your job. Plenty of people get their first job and discover there's a part of their experience or education that was lacking.
Since the ITCA represents the fundamentals for any IT job, it's a well-rounded and accessible way to prove to yourself and your boss that you know the theory and practice of your new job. The ITCA is worth it for brand new IT professionals who need a way to show they know the breadth of their new job's expectations.
Is ITCA Worth it for a non-IT Professional?
There are plenty of positions in a company that wouldn't normally get IT training but need it because their jobs have them working with IT professionals on a regular basis. For example, HR managers might need to better understand the job expectations of their new hires, or Directors of Training need to administer an entry-level education to everyone who begins work at a company but they don't know anything about computers. The ITCA is worth it to non-IT professionals like those because it is an entry-level exposure to all the fundamentals of any IT job.
Is the ITCA from ISACA Worth It?
The ITCA can be expensive, and it won't be worth it for everyone. But certifications are an excellent way to prove that your resume and your grades aren't all you have to show for your IT knowledge and familiarity. With a certification, you assure future employers that you're a safe bet because you're committed, knowledgeable and experienced in the job you're taking.
Using ITCA to Learn Skills
The ITCA is a great certification to earn if you need to learn the basic skills that any job in IT would need to know. What ISACA did was essentially create a list of all the knowledge and skills you should have on the first day of work, no matter what IT job you have. So all you have to do is get your hands on that list and practice each thing on it until you feel ready to do it professionally. You can learn the skills any IT professional would need with the ITCA, and many IT professionals who are happily working in the industry have used it as a study guide.
Using ITCA to Validate Skills
Certifications aren't just about learning everything in a list though – they're also valuable tools to prove that you know the skills a job needs. The ITCA is a good thing to study for IT professionals who aren't ready to take the exams, but it's even more valuable for IT professionals who are. If you're applying for a new IT position, a promotion, or your first job and you want to prove that you've got what it takes, the ITCA can validate your skills and help you earn that job.