The CompTIA A+ certification is an entry-level qualification in the information technology (IT) industry. Issued by IT association CompTIA, the A+ certification is widely accepted as an industry standard certification often used to kickstart a career in IT.
The certification is composed of two exams in the Core Series—the 220-1001 and 220-1002—which cost $232 each, as of February 2021. Having it on your resume can boost your competitiveness for entry-level IT jobs—over 90 percent of employers reported that IT certifications are a good predictor of employee success, a survey conducted by CompTIA found.
The CompTIA A+ certification is widely recognized as the go-to certification for an entry-level position in IT. Jobs that you may get with an A+ certification under your belt include:
Service desk analyst
Technical support specialist
Associate network engineer
Desktop support administrator
System support specialist
Help desk specialist
Keep in mind that many titles can differ slightly depending on the employer and specific job description.
A CompTIA A+ certification can set you up for an entry-level position in the IT sector. That means you can expect to earn around $63,638 a year, which was the average salary for an entry-level IT professional in April 2021, according to Glassdoor .
Keep in mind that this number might change depending on where you’re located—IT jobs in large cities might pay more than those in smaller towns to adjust for cost of living, for example. Other factors, like your education level and previous experience, can also influence your salary.
The exam for the certification combines multiple choice questions and performance-based questions. The exam broadly tests your knowledge of various IT basics in categories including hardware, software, networking, operating systems, and security. More specifically, this means:
Operating systems: Configuration for operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and SaaS
Data: Understanding basic data practices—backing up, recovering, storing, and managing data
Security: Various aspects of security, including physical security, WiFi security, and protection against malware
Hardware and devices: Supporting laptops, mobile devices and IoT devices
Infrastructure and networking: Understanding basic IT infrastructure and networking concepts like Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
Help desk: Troubleshooting service and support issues
There are several ways you can prepare for the CompTIA A+ exam. Community colleges in your area might offer preparatory courses. Self-study—learning through online videos or books without an instructor—can also work. Others opt to take online, instructor led-courses or get professional certificates—qualifications you can earn to show your professional competence in a field. Whatever method you choose, CompTIA recommends dedicating 120 hours to prepare for the test.
So how should you go about finding a training program?
CompTIA offers several resources, including books, instructor-led online courses, and training programs that allow you to progress at your own pace. The CertMaster Learn for A+, for example, includes lessons, practice questions, and a practice exam. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, with five courses that cover the entry-level fields of IT, incorporates hands-on projects that simulate real-world scenarios.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the two.
What you need to know: A standalone certificate by itself, the Google IT Support Professional Certificate also prepares learners for the CompTIA A+ exam by covering more than 85 percent of exam topics.
Price: $39 a month subscription, with a free trial week (subject to change). The exam is not included, but learners receive a 20 percent discount on the exam.
Total time: 3-6 months
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate helped give me the confidence to apply for IT roles. I don't have the traditional instructional background in the field but my hands-on learning and what I've gained from the Google program propelled me forward.
- Stevenson Benoit, Google IT Support Professional Certificate graduate
What you need to know: The CertMaster Learn includes 40 hours of content, including lessons, practice questions, and a simulation exam. The program includes achievement badges and a calendar to help keep you on track.
Price: $329. The exam is not included.
Total time: 40 hours
If you’ve passed the exam, take some steps to ensure the certification is visible to key players. Add it to your resume and LinkedIn, and if you’re already in a related career, inform your employer. And it’ll be worth looking at other entry-level IT certifications—keeping an eye on what other certifications are out there can help you make decisions today on what you’d like your future career to look like.
1. Glassdoor. "Information Technology Entry Level Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/information-technology-entry-level-salary-SRCH_KO0,34.htm." Accessed on March 25, 2021.