CompTIA A+

What is the CompTIA A+ certification?

The CompTIA A+ certification is an entry-level IT credential offered by the non-profit Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). It is the first of three certifications in CompTIA’s “core skills” career path, which includes: A+, Network+ and Security+. A+ validates your skills across the core network and endpoint technologies that are required by today’s digital work-from-anywhere environment. The broad, foundational skills it covers and its introductory focus make it the most popular certification among entry-level IT job openings today, and it is an important building block for more advanced IT roles. To learn more about the CompTIA A+ certification, watch our podcast with Infosec Skills author Mike Meyers.

1.2 million

# of A+ holders

$56,000

Avg. U.S. salary

1+ years

Recommended experience

A+ exam objectives

Earning your CompTIA A+ certification requires passing two Cores Series exams (220-1101 and 220-1102), which were both updated in April 2022. The old versions of the exams (220-1001 and 220-1002) officially retire in October 2022. Together, the Core 1 and Core 2 exams cover 9 objectives, or domains, including:

  • Mobile devices

    Covers the configuration of laptops and other mobile devices as well as the support applications necessary for user connectivity.

  • Networking

    Covers the various types of networks and connections, including TCP/IP, WI-FI and SOHO.

  • Hardware

    Covers the identification, use, and connection of hardware devices and supporting components.

  • Virtualization and cloud computing

    Covers cloud computing concepts and the set-up of client-side virtualization.

  • Hardware & network troubleshooting

    Covers basic troubleshooting for device and network issues.

  • Operating systems

    Covers the installation, configuration, support and troubleshooting of Windows OS, Mac OS, Chrome OS, Android and Linux.

  • Security

    Covers the identification of basic security vulnerabilities and their remediation across devices and network connections.

  • Software troubleshooting

    Covers basic troubleshooting for operating systems on both PC and mobile devices, including security issues.

  • Operational procedures

    Covers basic best practices for safety, communication, professionalism, and environmental impact.

Learn more about the A+ domains.

 

Why should I get the A+ certification?

The A+ certification is a great place to launch your IT career — it appears in more tech support job listings than any other IT credential. Many new A+ holders go into help desk roles to launch their IT and security careers, explains CompTIA’s Director of Products Patrick Lane.

These types of jobs “are a great place to start,” Lane says. “You will be talking to your customers all the time, learning all the ins and outs, and supporting devices and people.”

The A+ certification, along with time spent working the help desk, is an excellent way to build a strong foundation of skills for more advanced, specialized IT and security roles.

How do I get started on the A+?

People come to IT careers from a variety of avenues. While some are just out of school and new to the professional landscape, others are making a career change. Infosec Skills Author Jason Dion says “a lot of people try to jump in at a very high level when they don’t have any experience or certifications and then they get frustrated because no one wants to hire them.”

“Employers are looking for people with experience, certifications, and degrees,” he continues. “You have to start with some IT experience as early as you can, within your study path.” The A+ certification demonstrates you have experience with key technologies and resultingly, provides a leg up over candidates who don’t have it.

 

CompTIA A+ exam FAQs

The CompTIA A+ certification is aimed at entry-level IT professionals and was last updated in April 2022. You must pass two exams to earn your certification: 220-1101 (Core 1) and 220-1102 (Core 2). Here’s what you should know about the current A+ exams:

  • What is the A+ exam outline and structure?
    • Each of the two A+ exams required for certification have a maximum of 90 questions and test-takers have 90 minutes to complete each exam. For A+ 220-1101, the passing score is 675/900 and for A+ 220-1102, the passing score is 700/900.

      Both exams include two types of questions: performance-based questions, which involve performing a task or solving a problem, and traditional questions, which include multiple-choice, drag-and-drop and fill-in-the-blank.

      For more information, read our articles on the:

  • How hard is the A+ exam?
    • Like most certification exams, the degree of difficulty for A+ test-takers will vary from person to person. CompTIA recommends that test takers have 9 to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field, but even with that experience, you will likely need to dedicate time and effort to study for the exam.

      The passing scores are 675/900 for the first exam (220-1101) and 700/900 for the second exam (220-1102).

  • How do you take the A+ exam?
    • You can take the A+ exam at a Pearson VUE testing center or OnVUE, which is the online proctoring service for Pearson VUE.

      To register for either an in-person or online exam, you’ll need to go to the CompTIA website, create an account and purchase an exam voucher. (To take both of the required exams, you’ll need to purchase two vouchers.) From there, you can schedule your exam and all exam details will be shared with you via that account. If you’re taking the in-person test, you will need to bring two forms of identification.

      More information can be found on the Pearson VUE CompTIA page.

  • How much does the A+ exam cost?
    • The CompTIA A+ certification costs vary based on location. Prices outlined below are for EACH of the 2 exams required for certification:

      • USA: $239 USD
      • Australia: $323 AUD
      • Emerging Market: $134 USDe
      • Euro: 344 EURO
      • Great Britain: 142 GBP
      • Japan: 27,257 JPY
      • South Africa: 1,835 ZAR

      The most up-to-date pricing for CompTIA exams can be found on the CompTIA website.

  • How to pass the A+ exam?
    • To pass the first (220-1101) of two CompTIA A+ exams, you must earn 675 points out of a total of 900 points. For the second exam (220-1102), you must earn 700 points out of a total of 900 points. Each exam has 90 questions.

      Pass rates vary depending on an individual’s experience, study habits and test-taking strategies. For example, Infosec partners with CompTIA to offer an A+ Boot Camp that comes with an Exam Pass Guarantee. This means if you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, you’ll get a second attempt at no cost to you.

  • How long does the A+ certification last?
    • Your A+ certification is valid for three years from the date of your exam. It needs to be renewed every three years to remain active. A number of activities and training programs that offer continuing education units are available to help you renew.

      For more information, read about the CompTIA A+ renewal process.

  • How do I earn CPEs and renew my A+?
    • To renew your A+ certification, you’ll have to earn continuing education units (CEUs). Over the course of three years, you’ll need to earn a total of 20 and then upload them to your certification account. There are two tracks for renewing your certification: complete a single activity or collect CEUs via multiple activities:

      Renew A+ with a single activity:

      • Complete the CompTIA CertMaster CE
      • Earn a higher-level CompTIA certification
      • Earn an approved non-CompTIA IT industry certification
      • Re-take and pass the latest CompTIA A+ exam

      Renew A+ with multiple activities, including:

      • Attend webinars and conferences
      • Complete courses
      • Create instructional materials
      • Publish blogs, whitepapers or books
      • Teach, mentor or gain work experience

      For the full list of ways to renew your certification, see CompTIA’s website.

      You will also need to pay a continuing education renewal fee. The fee comes out to $25 a year or $75 for the three-year cycle.

Free and self-study A+ materials

Studying for the A+ exam is key to earning a passing grade. Luckily, there are tons of helpful A+ resources. Before you start scouting out the best  A+ training resources, we recommend taking a look at the official outlines for the Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102) exams as they will shed light on what topics you’ll need to study.

 

A+ study guides and A+ books

A number of study guides and books are available to help you prepare for the A+ exam. You can find them at your local library or bookstore, or at online stores. A few of the most popular are:

  • Official CompTIA A+ Core 1 Student Guide (Exam 220-1101) by James Pengelly
  • Official CompTIA A+ Core 2 Student Guide (Exam 220-1102) by James Pengelly
  • CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Mike Myers (McGraw Hill)

To earn any certification, you need three things, says Infosec Skills author Mike Myers. “First, you’re going to need instruction. Second, you’re going to need some type of reference, like a book. Third, you’re going to need practice questions.”

A+ practice exams and simulations

Practice exams are a great way to gauge your exam readiness. There are even free A+ dumps that can be found, although it’s against CompTIA policy to disclose the actual exam questions being used. A few of the most popular A+ practice question options are listed below:

  • CompTIA free A+ practice tests and paid A+ practice tests
  • CompTIA A+ Complete Practice Tests by Audrey O’Shea and Jeff T. Parker (Sybex)
  • CompTIA A+ Practice Questions Exam Cram by David Prowse (Pearson IT Certification)

In addition to these options, many A+ training courses and content include practice questions. For example, Infosec Skills A+ training with Mike Meyers includes a customizable practice exam with more than 200 questions.

Other free A+ training resources

There are a number of other free training materials to help you get started in IT and security and prepare for your A+:

  • Forums like TechExams and Reddit allow you to connect directly with others preparing for the A+.
  • YouTube is another great place to connect with cybersecurity practitioners and learn about the A+ exam. Although most A+ courses cost money, there are numerous free A+ videos available to watch.
  • Webinars can be a great way to learn, like our upcoming A+ exam update webcast with CompTIA and our Getting started in cybersecurity in 2022 webcast with Keatron Evans.

Podcasts like Cyber Work are a also great way to learn about cybersecurity career options.

CompTIA A+ jobs and careers

A+ is the industry standard entry-level certification for people interested in getting into IT careers. If you’re looking for your first industry job, A+ offers a strong foundation for landing new opportunities.

  • What does an A+ certification holder do?
    • The A+ certification demonstrates your skills in core network and endpoint technologies and prepares you for entry-level IT jobs. According to CompTIA, some of the more popular job titles A+ certified people hold include:

      • Help desk technician
      • Desktop support specialist
      • Field service technician
      • Associate network engineer
      • Junior systems administrator
      • System support technician

      If you aspire to a more senior-level, specialized IT position, the A+ certification is an essential stepping stone in your pathway forward. It can be helpful to work backward from your goal and plot out your key certification milestones along the way.

  • Is A+ worth it?
    • Deciding whether or not the A+ certification is right for you is an individual decision and often, it depends upon your career goals. A+ is the preferred certification for technical support and IT operational roles, however, and it appears in more tech support job listings than any other IT credential.

      For entry-level IT pros, the A+ serves as a differentiator from others who haven’t achieved certification. It’s an important indicator for hiring managers that you have a firm grasp of the technologies you will be supporting and it will set you on a path to more senior positions.

  • What is the A+ average salary?
    • CompTIA A+ certification is designed for entry-level professionals. This is reflected in the national average salary data for popular A+ jobs, according to Glassdoor in April 2022:

      • Help desk technician $42,169
      • Desktop support specialist $52,793
      • Field service technician $50,013
      • Associate network engineer $67,162
      • Junior systems administrator $52,624
      • Systems support technician $49,337

      Comparatively, Salary.com has a similar average salary for these positions: $55,998.

      The Dice 2021 Tech Salary Report includes the CompTIA A+ certification among the 17 highest paid IT certifications in the U.S. With an A+, IT professionals can go on to earn an average of $78,629 by honing their skills over time and earning certifications.

      Your A+ certification is but one factor of many to determine your salary. Also important to consider are your years of experience, other certifications you may hold, and your geographic location.

      For more information, see our CompTIA A+ salary article.

  • How many people have A+?
    • The CompTIA A+ exams were updated in 2022 so at this early date, relatively few people have taken the new versions. However, the A+ certification designation was first rolled out in 1993. Today, nearly 1.2 million people hold the designation, according to CompTIA — and for good reason. A+ continues to appear in more tech support job listings than any other IT credential.

  • Where can I find A+ jobs?

Paid CompTIA A+ training and exam prep

When it comes to preparing for the A+ exam, you can choose to train yourself with books and free resources, or you can find a paid course. Most A+ courses fall into two categories: live online A+ boot camps or on-demand A+ courses where you go at your own pace.

Live A+  boot camps

An A+ boot camp provides days of in-depth instruction from an expert instructor. For example, Infosec partners with CompTIA to provide a five-day A+ boot camp that you can take live online or in person. There are a number of other training providers that offer similar options.

The benefits of a live A+ boot camp include:

  • Live, expert instruction: If you’re new to IT and security, you’ll likely have a lot of questions. A live instructor may be able to get you over that initial hurdle much quicker than studying on your own.
  • All-in-one package: Most A+ boot camps come with everything you need: instruction, exam vouchers, books, practice exams and hands-on labs. When shopping around, be sure you know what’s included in your boot camp — and what costs extra.
  • Improved pass rates: Boot camp providers like Infosec stand by their training with an Exam Pass Guarantee. That means if you fail your exam on your first attempt, you’ll get a second attempt to pass — for free.

Self-paced A+ training

If you’re not in a hurry to earn your A+, the go-at-your-own-pace model can be a great (and more affordable) option. These types of courses usually consist of a number of pre-recorded videos, along with practice exams and labs or exercises you can do on your own to reinforce the material.

The benefits of on-demand A+ training include:

  • Train when you want: You’re in charge of your training schedule, whether that’s daily on your lunch break or cramming all weekend long. For further motivation, you can join a study group or connect with others who are preparing for the exam.
  • Build an individual training plan: Don’t waste time learning what you already know. Since you’re not tied to a group, you can spend more time focused on the areas you need to learn most.
  • Prepare at your own pace: With on-demand training, you can take your time preparing for your A+. Just don’t go too slow! Studies show you can quickly forget the information you’re studying — unless you’re actively using it or reviewing it.

A+ comparisons and alternatives

A+ is a popular entry-level cybersecurity certification, but it’s not the only one. Depending on your career goals, you may wish to explore alternative options. Check out these articles to learn more: