What is Comptia A+ certification? If you’re looking to get into IT and aren’t having any luck, this is the certification most likely to get you in the door. If you’re looking to get work on the technical side and you feel stuck, this certification is a good one to get.
In my first job interview, my interviewer handed me a PC and a memory module and asked me to install it. It took me about a minute and a half. I would expect anyone with an A+ certification to be able to do the same thing.
What Comptia A+ certification covers
Comptia A+ certification covers the fundamentals of computer hardware and enough about operating systems to demonstrate you can get an operating system installed and running properly. It tries to be vendor-neutral. So to the extent that it’s possible, you come out of A+ class equally capable of working on Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo, or anyone else’s equipment. And you’ll know enough about Windows and Mac OS to get a computer that uses either one up and running.
I would expect you to come out of A+ certification knowing what the basic components of a computer are. You’ll understand CPUs and RAM and how to install them. You’ll understand the common ports and what they do. Network cards won’t be a mystery to you and you’ll know where they plug in, and what else can plug in where a network card would go. You’ll be able to perform most upgrades and even do a fair number of repairs.
Building a PC isn’t the main goal of A+, since corporations generally buy off-the-shelf PCs rather than build them. But I would expect someone with A+ certification to have little to no difficulty building a PC from off-the-shelf parts.
Benefits of Comptia A+ certification
Having A+ certification doesn’t make you an expert. But if you’re interviewing for your first IT job and have little experience, having the certification gets you past HR. It demonstrates that you have training or equivalent experience on the fundamentals of computers.
I remember early in my career having a tight deadline to meet, so my then-employer got me some help. They brought in a consultant named Bill. His resume was impressive. He interviewed well enough to get the gig. I needed him to image a room full of computers using a tool called Ghost. It was a straightforward process that required about five steps. I drew up detailed instructions on the whiteboard in the front of the room. Then I got paged to go take care of an emergency. I came back 45 minutes later, expecting him to have about 10 machines done. He had finished three, and two of them were wrong.
If you walk into a job interview with an A+ certification under your belt, you have the benefit of the doubt that you’re not like Bill. Since few people know how to interview for IT jobs, they may give you the A+ orally, but if you passed it once, you can probably handle the questions again when your interviewer asks you what RAM does.
Having A+ certification makes it much more likely you’ll get your first IT job. It also makes you more promotable. A+ is very helpful for a helpdesk role but almost indispensable for desktop support.
How to get A+ certification
To get A+ certification, visit Comptia’s web site to register. The test costs $211, and an A+ certified professional generally can make between $45,000 and $55,000 a year. That should tell you if it’s worth it.
Comptia offers study materials but I recommend poking around online. There are tons of Youtube videos that discuss A+ certification, and lots of study questions. To gauge the usefulness of the study questions, try to avoid collections of questions that ask you a lot of questions about IRQs and floppy drives. Modern operating systems take care of those things for you, so they aren’t on the test anymore.
Having a book can also help. Be sure to get a book that matches the current test version on CompTIA’s site. Out-of-date guides aren’t useless, but there will be information in them that isn’t on current tests. It’s also likely they’ll be missing some information too. An old book that covers MS-DOS can be fun, especially if you’re into retro computing, but it won’t help you get a job.
Everyone has a different way of studying for a certification, but the way that’s always worked for me is going through a good 75-100 study questions every night. When you’re able to answer 90% of the study questions correctly, you’re in good shape for the test.
What is Comptia A+ certification and do you need it?
Strictly speaking, you should be able to find an IT job with no certifications at all, if you know your stuff. But enough companies require them or list them as desirable that it’s a good idea to have it. I didn’t start getting certifications until I’d been in the industry almost 15 years, and it slowed me down. I remember a guy I worked with in 2005. He and I were more or less peers. He had a couple of years’ experience on me but I could and did do his job just fine. I ran into him eight years later. I had two certifications and he had 10. He advanced a lot more rapidly than I did, and it was mostly because of certifications.
So I recommend getting A+ certification and following up every couple of years with another one to keep your career moving. Here’s my list of best certifications to get.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.