The CompTIA A+ certification is designed to help you land an entry-level position in IT by ensuring you know the basics of working with hardware, networks, and computer systems.
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.
Here's a quick look at the basics:
The CompTIA A+ is composed of two exams in the Core Series—the 220-1001 and 220-1002.
Each exam costs $232 in the US, as of October 2021, with a total cost of $464.
The exams will test your knowledge of operating systems, data, security, networking, hardware, and help desk services.
There are several training programs that will prepare you for the CompTIA A+ exams, including the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, and the CompTIA CertMaster Learn for A+ Core 1.
The CompTIA A+ certification is widely recognized as the go-to certification for an entry-level position in IT. Here are a few entry-level jobs that often call for the CompTIA A+ certification, and their average US salaries (according to October 2021 data from Glassdoor).
Help desk analyst: $44,436
IT technician: $46,744
Help desk specialist: $44,586
Technical support specialist: $48,836
Desktop support administrator: $50,903
System support specialist: $54,997
Associate network engineer: $67,162
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. Expect questions to cover the following domains:
Mobile devices: Installing and configuring laptops and mobile devices
Networking: Types of networks and connections (TCP/IP, wifi, SOHO, etc.)
Hardware: Identifying, using, and connecting devices and hardware components
Virtualization and cloud computing: Comparing cloud concepts and setting up client-side virtualization
Hardware and network troubleshooting: Solving issues with devices and networks
Operating systems: Installing and configuring Windows OS, and understanding Mac OS, Linux, and mobile OS
Security: Identifying and protecting against vulnerabilities in both devices and networks
Software troubleshooting: Resolving issues with applications on PC and mobile devices, including security support
Operational procedures: Best practices for safety, sustainability, communication, and professionalism
There are several ways you can prepare for the CompTIA A+ exam:
Online, instructor led-courses can prepare you for the exam.
Community colleges in your area might offer preparatory courses.
Self-study—learning through online videos or books without an instructor—can also work.
Whatever method you choose, CompTIA recommends dedicating 120 hours to prepare for the test.
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, is an online course that 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 two segments with 40 hours of content each, including lessons, practice questions, and a simulation exam. The program includes achievement badges and a calendar to help keep you on track.
Price: $329 per session or $639 for series. The exam is not included but can be bundled with training at a discount.
Total time: 80 hours+
CompTIA offers two separate entry-level certifications, the CompTIA A+, and the CompTIA IT Fundamentals, or ITF+. They’re slightly different. The CompTIA A+ is billed as a certification that will test you on the knowledge needed to land an entry-level IT job. The ITF+, on the other hand, is designed for students and professionals who want to see if IT is a right career fit for them. The ITF+ exam is also used by non-IT professionals who want a broad introduction to the field.
If you’re still on the fence about whether you’d like a job in IT, getting the ITF+ can be a good way to test the waters. If you know you want to commit to IT work and are ready to gain job-ready skills, the A+ certification is probably a better path.
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.
For many IT professionals, the CompTIA A+ is the first of many certifications earned over the course of their careers. Since the A+ certification is fairly general, you may choose to move into an IT specialization, like networking, cybersecurity, or cloud computing. CompTIA offers more advanced certifications in these fields, as do many other reputable organizations. Take a look at this IT certification roadmap to inspire your next career goal.
CompTIA A+ certification exam vouchers cost $232 per exam, or $464 in total. Each exam attempt requires a new voucher. Training or exam prep may cost extra, depending on how you choose to prepare. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate, which aligns with the objectives covered by the exam, costs $39 per month, and you can learn at your own pace.
You can take the certification exams either online or in person at a Pearson VUE test center. Testing from home means you can schedule your exam when it’s most convenient for you. You’ll need a quiet, enclosed, and private space, as well as a device with a webcam and a strong internet connection. If you choose to take your test in person, you can do so at one of thousands of testing locations around the world. Remember to bring two forms of identification with you, and leave all other personal belongings at home or in your car.
The amount of time it takes to earn your certification will depend on how many of the exam objectives you’re already familiar with. If you have some experience in IT, you may only need a few days to review the materials. If you’re just getting started in this field, it could take you a few weeks or a few months to prepare, depending on how much time you dedicate to learning.
Earning an entry-level IT certification like the CompTIA A+ can show recruiters and hiring managers that you have the right skills for a job in IT. A certification like this can be particularly valuable when you’re just starting out and lack related work experience.
Your A+ certification will be valid for three years from the date you pass your exam. Every three years, you’ll have the opportunity to extend it for another three years by attending a CompTIA training course, earning another qualified certification, or completing 20 continuing education units.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.