CompTIA A+ Certification: An Overview
Among the certifications available for computer service technicians is the A+ credential. This certification is sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a non-profit trade association that issues professional certifications for the information technology (IT) industry, certifies entry-level knowledge in PC hardware and software skills in tech support or computer servicing.
CompTIA A+: About the Certification
First issued in 1993, the CompTIA A+ certification is one of the oldest and most widely-recognized credentials in IT, with over a million people worldwide who have already earned it. CompTIA A+ has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) since 2008 as meeting the ISO/IEC 17024 (Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons) standard and is approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to fulfill the requirements of Directive 8570.01-M (Information Assurance Workforce Improvement Program).
CompTIA’s A+ is vendor-neutral and is designed to certify the competency of entry-level PC computer service professionals in installing, maintaining, customizing and operating personal computers. In order to receive CompTIA A+ certification, a candidate must pass both the CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 exams that, together, cover maintenance of PCs, mobile devices, laptops, operating systems and printers.
The A+ exam has been updated five times, in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and most recently in 2015. In fact, CompTIA examinations expire every three years: this is in order to be in line with the requirements of the US-focused ANSI and the internationally-oriented ISO, who want to make sure that certification holders stay up-to-date and are tested on the latest issues and technologies. With this mind, although CompTIA has not made any official announcements about their new A+ exam version yet, the 901 and 902 exams will soon be replaced with the 1001 and 1002 that are expected to be released in January 2019. The current exam, however, is still valid and testers will be able to take it for the next few months.
When the CompTIA A+ 220-901 & 902 Series released in 2015, the following topics were added:
- Expanded coverage of mobile devices and operating systems
- More security problem-solving
- Fundamental cloud concepts
- Significant increase in troubleshooting
As Teresa Sears, the CompTIA A+ product manager, puts it: “Previous versions of the CompTIA A+ certification included troubleshooting, but the 900 series places special emphasis on the ability to solve problems. The domains of each of the two exams build up to the troubleshooting domain. Not only do certification candidates have to install and configure, they have to identify the source of any problems and resolve them – regardless of whether the problem is related to the device, the data connection or the application.” For more details and the current exam description, testers can view the CompTIA A+ 900 FAQ page. (See Sources.)
The new version will focus more on today’s technology, including virtualization and cloud computing, as well as covering more in-depth security topics and operational procedures. The figure below shows how CompTIA A+ exam objectives have changed through the years and how they are expected to change in 2019.
CompTIA A+ 220-901
It covers PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware and network connectivity issues. The passing score is 675 (on a scale of 900).
CompTIA A+ 220-902
It covers installing and configuring operating systems. It also addresses security, the fundamentals of cloud computing and operational procedures. The passing score is 700 (on a scale of 900).
The time limit for each A+ exam is 90 minutes.
Exams 220-901 and 220-902 contain a maximum 90 performance-based questions each.
A+ test vouchers cost $211 USD and must be purchased and used to schedule and sit for the exam on or before the expiration date of the test, which will be done at the Pearson VUE website.
Getting A+ Certified
Are you ready to be certified? In order to achieve a CompTIA A+, one of the industry’s most influential certifications, a candidate will need to have nine to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field to meet the criteria for examination and then must pass two exams. Currently, the two exams are the 220-901 and 220-902, which should be available through the Summer of 2019.
If, instead, you are looking for ways to renew a previously earned certifications, there are a few options. The CompTIA CertMaster CE A+ course (launched April 10, 2017) is a self-paced e-learning course that provides an efficient way to renew your certification automatically. To be eligible, a candidate must have an active A+ CE certification by passing exams from the 800-series or earlier. The price is $129 USD.
Otherwise, a professional can consider other Continuing Education (CE) activities. For instance, they can enroll in a college course or complete an American Council on Education (ACE) course; they will earn and receive 10 CEUs for each three to four credit-hour class. Otherwise, they can participate in a training course, a live webinar or a conference and earn 1 CEU for each hour they attend. Over a three-year period, 20 CEUs are required.
Recently, 1 CEU was available for attending the CompTIA 2018 Partner Summit – Getting Ready for the Next Generation of CompTIA A+, which took place on July 9. And on July 11, the agenda had participants meet face to face with the CompTIA Teams to know more on how A+ is going to evolve. There was also an instructor training session on IT fundamentals and A+. If you missed this opportunity, then you might want to consider attending the CompTIA 2019 Partner Summit, which will be held August 6-8 at the Bellagio Las Vegas.
Note that to earn the CEUs, “at least 50 percent of the activity content must relate to one or more exam objectives for the certification you’re renewing.” When ready to submit your activity for CEUs, professionals should use the assessment tool that is necessary for certification renewal. CE fees must be paid annually ($25 USD) or all at once ($75 USD) prior to submitting the CEUs.
What’s more, A+ certified IT practitioners can fully renew their certifications by passing the following CompTIA exams: Server+ or Linux+.
CompTIA Learning and Training: Helpful Resources
The CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Certification Study Guides are available for complete coverage of the objectives and content of topics listed on the syllabus. To prepare to take the exams, CompTIA also offers CertMaster Practice A+ Training, a knowledge assessment and certification training companion tool and the eBook that covers all the latest A+ exam objectives. In addition, it offers practice questions to get a glimpse of what kind of questions will appear on the test.
It is important also to peruse the exam objectives to make sure to cover all test topics. For self-learners, there is the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, Ninth Edition (Exams 220-901 & 220-902) that is a good source. (Note: Testers can also already access the A+ NEW Core Objectives (English) for the Core 1 (2201001) and Core 2 (220-1002) exams, the newest tests that are coming soon.)
However, a lot more A+ sources are available on the web for students looking for study aids. Both InfoSec Institute and Intense School are a CompTIA Learning Alliance Partner, which allows them to deliver the “Official” CompTIA A+ training and certification classes. To date, many students have taken InfoSec Institute’s authorized CompTIA A+ online course and CompTIA A+ Boot Camp, or the Intense School’s CompTIA A+ Boot Camp, a five-day accelerated, in-depth course that is structured to teach students the important and necessary tools for successful computer technician careers.
Is the A+ Certification Worth the Effort?
The answer is yes, because the A+ certification is recognized worldwide and, most importantly, meets IT workforce needs. As Intense School says: “For those seeking employment this certification is a key benchmark for employers looking for the best and brightest technicians available.”
The CompTIA A+ certifies skills in entry-level PC technology, so this a must-have cert for those who want to find a job in tech support or servicing (troubleshooting and repairing) computers, says Allan Hoffman, Monster Tech Jobs Expert. What’s more, this cert can lead to higher-paying, more complex jobs.
Students can also benefit from attempting this certification, as there are colleges that accept certifications toward credit hours. For example, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) accepts the CompTIA A+ industry-standard certification for college credits towards lower-level classes, such as the Fundamentals of Computer Troubleshooting (3 Credits, CMIT 202).
Who Should Earn the A+ Cert?
According to CompTIA, “A+ is the preferred qualifying credential for technical support and IT operational roles. It is about much more than PC repair.” For the most part, those who earn the A+ cert will be better prepared to set up the computer architecture (able to do installation and configuration), manage hardware and software, conduct operating system optimization and solve computer-related issues when working in technical support positions.
Popular jobs include:
- Technical Support Specialist
- Field Service Technician
- IT Support Technician
- Server Hardware and Software Technician
- IT Support Administrator
- Desktop Operating System Support
CompTIA A+: Career and Salary
According to CompTIA: “IT professionals with certifications on their resume command better jobs, earn higher salaries and have more doors open to new multi-industry opportunities.”
For those exploring technology as a career field, the CompTIA A+ certification might be right credential to prepare to apply for jobs as a computer technician, technical support representative, help desk specialist, printer repair technician and other similar roles. A+, for example, is required for Dell, Intel and HP service technicians to enhance their ability to perform tasks such as installation, configuration, diagnosing, preventive maintenance and basic networking. Also, companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, CompuCom and Ricoh recognize the CompTIA A+ certification. What’s more, the credential is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) under Information Assurance Technical (IAT) Level 1.
According to PayScale, the average salary for certified CompTIA A+ Service Technicians is $58,000. InfoSec Institute’s resources page on the average salary for a CompTIA A+ also mentions that the average salary for a professional with A+ certification can reach $74,186, albeit with differences by city, job roles and years of experience. The potential salary for an A+ certificate holder in Washington, DC, for example, is $104,506, and a certified IT manager can reach a yearly salary of $128,478.
As “more than 23,500 job postings in 2016 required applicants to have CompTIA A+ certification,” clearly, CompTIA professional certifications, such as A+, set job candidates apart in a competitive and constantly growing job market.
The A+ credential is among the Best Computer Hardware Certifications 2018. This is due to the fact that it covers many basic principles of computing and is suitable for professionals who are looking for a certification to get their entry-level IT job or that would like to give their career a boost. So if working with technology sounds interesting and you’re fancying a computer technician career, then the CompTIA A+ designation might be the right choice as one of the best-recognized credentials for tech support personnel.
CompTIA A+, CompTIA, Inc.
CompTIA A+, CompTIA Authorized Partners
CompTIA A+ Boot Camp, Intense School
CompTIA A+ Training Boot Camp, InfoSec Institute
CompTIA A+ Online Training, InfoSec Institute
A+ Certification, ITCareerFinder
A+ Certification, Monster Tech Jobs Expert (Allan Hoffman)
The New A+ [220-901 & 902], CompTIA Authorized Partners
One in a million: CompTIA A+ passes certification milestone, CertMag Staff
CompTIA: Tech skills gap growing, various factors, Channelnomics (Jessica Meek)
5 Things You Didn’t Know About CompTIA A+, CompTIA, Inc. (Teresa Sears)
Best Help Desk Certifications 2018, Business News Daily (Ed Tittel and Mary Kyle)
What Jobs Require CompTIA A+ Certification?, Houston Chronicle (Alan Hughes)
How much does the A+ Certification cost?, CompTIA, Inc.
Average A+ Salary in 2018, InfoSec Resources
Need a Job? These In-Demand CompTIA Certifications May Help You Get There, CompTIA (Amy L. Hamblin)