CompTIA's Long-Lived A+ Still an Ideal IT Point of Entry
Given the rapid growth of the IT industry and the sheer amount of competition within it, certifications that test a candidate's technical competency have become an incredibly valuable metric by which businesses and organizations judge an applicant's knowledge and skills.
While becoming certified is important to succeed in IT, the specific certifications you choose have an enormous amount of impact on your future prospects for employment and the types of career options available to you in the future.
The CompTIA A+ certification (A+) is one of the most widely-held IT credentials and is a strong starting point for prospective IT professionals looking to enter the field and begin their careers.
What is the CompTIA A+ certification?
The CompTIA A+ certification is an entry-level credential designed to demonstrate certificate holders' proficiency as computer technicians. The certification establishes basic competency in setting up, maintaining, customizing, and operating personal computers and often constitutes the first step in an aspiring IT professional's education and career.
A+ is a vendor-neutral certification, meaning that it covers a wide variety of platforms, technologies, and operating systems such as Apple, Microsoft, and other industry leaders. Despite being an entry level certification, A+ is one of the most widely-held and widely-trusted IT credentials and carries ISO/ANSI accreditation status, meaning that it is globally recognized and accredited.
Because it is an entry-level credential, the A+ certification covers a fairly broad range of topics and tests skills relevant to a wide variety of IT disciplines.
As mentioned, the exam tests aptitude in a candidate's ability to install, maintain, customize, and operate personal computers. The exam itself is broken into five main knowledge domains: PC hardware, networking, laptops, printers, and operational procedures with each of the testing categories broken down further into smaller sub topics. These topics include, but are not limited to PDAs, printers, power supplies, direct memory access IRQs, CPUs, network cards, modems, computer repair, and installing and maintaining hard drives.
The certification exam recommends that candidates have at least 500 hours of field or lab experience to maximize their chances for success on the test. Because the certification tests a fairly broad range of topics, the credential is split up into two separate exams (CompTIA Exam 220-801 and 220-802), which each test consisting of 90 performance based and multiple choice questions. Each exam is 90 minutes long.
It's worth noting that the 800 series of A+ exams will retire June 30, with the recently released (on Dec. 15) 900 series becoming the sole path to A+ certification at that time. Both exam sets (220-801 and 220-802, as well as 220-901 and 220-902) are currently available.
Anyone looking to enter IT can attempt the A+ exam, although the tests are specifically designed for entry-level IT professionals lacking in experience. Because the certification tests for a broad range of skills and knowledge, A+ is often the first credential that IT professionals obtain before pursuing other certifications and picking a specific subset of IT to focus on.
Additionally, the A+ certification exposes candidates to a wide variety of material and topics, allowing them to better gauge what disciplines of IT they are best suited to pursue. CompTIA A+ is an excellent credential for aspiring IT professionals to have when they are looking to land their first job in IT, or would like to dress up a resume with a universally recognized and accredited credential that certifies their computer knowledge.
The A+ certification was created by CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association), a U.S.-based IT organization that educates, trains, and advocates on behalf of the IT industry at large. Since its founding in 1982, CompTIA has evolved into a global leader in IT advocacy and education and has become a prominent provider of globally-accredited and recognized IT certifications.
CompTIA launched A+ in 1993 with the purpose of creating a credential that demonstrated candidates' foundational competency as computer technicians. Since then, the exam has been revamped to match changing conditions and technology in the IT industry in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and, most recently, 2015.
The exam is updated every three years in order to ensure that the test is relevant to current industry standards and circumstances. Generally, the updating process begins with surveys that are distributed to and completed by specialized focus groups that answer questions about the skills and knowledge they believe are relevant to the IT industry today.
Then the process involves a job task analysis (JTA) and from the aforementioned data, CompTIA develops several sets of objectives that it hopes to achieve with the new upcoming iteration of the A+ exam. Vendors and training providers then create study materials to reflect the new objectives put forward by CompTIA.
As of 2015, the A+ certification is held by more 1 million IT professionals globally. It has now managed to sustain its popularity and relevance for more than two decades despite a rapidly and constantly changing IT industry.
There are several factors that drive the continued mass popularity of the A+ certification:
Breadth — The A+ certification covers a wide variety of topics and as a result, the skills and knowledge that it signifies are applicable in many different fields of IT.
Global recognition — CompTIA A+ is currently the only generic IT support credential that is globally recognized and accredited, making it an excellent option for IT professionals who value mobility and the ability to work anywhere in the world.
Industry Credibility — Because it has been around for as long as it has, the A+ certification is backed and recognized by virtually every leading vendor, manufacturer, professional association, and service provider worldwide. Businesses and organizations can instantly determine the skills and knowledge that an A+ certificate holder has.
A Foot in the Door — Like in any field, getting established in IT can be incredibly difficult. CompTIA A+ provides an utterly attainable yet thoroughly valuable credential that newcomers with little experience can obtain and dramatically increase their employability and career prospects with.
Regardless of what specific area of IT you plan on pursuing, the CompTIA A+ certification is an excellent choice for IT professionals looking to obtain recognized validation of their skills and knowledge as a computer technician. If you're just getting started on your career in IT or are looking to validate skills and experience you already have with a globally recognized credential, the A+ certification is an excellent choice and one that is certainly worth looking into.