Among the certifications available for computer professionals, A+ is probably the one cited most often as a starting point for careers in information technology (IT). More than 260,000 people have received A+ certification, viewing it as a way to find jobs as computer service technicians or to gain enough skills to move on to further training.
Given its popularity, it is no surprise certain misconceptions have developed about A+ certification, especially among people just thinking about getting started in IT. Is A+ certification a “must” for entry-level IT jobs? Is it for programmer wannabes? Technicians? Here is a guide to help you decide whether A+ certification is right for you.
Sponsored by CompTIA, an industry organization, A+ certifies skills in entry-level PC technology. It is a vendor-neutral certification, with an emphasis on the expertise needed to work as a computer service technician, troubleshooting and repairing PCs.
A+ certification programs typically focus on the skills required for entry-level PC technicians. Students learn about installing, configuring, upgrading and repairing PCs. At New Horizons, the IT training company, a five-day or 10-day course includes instruction in computer architecture, memory, modems, printers, hard disk setup and operating system optimization.
The IT world is vast, with an astounding variety of jobs available, from tech support personnel to programmers. These jobs require different skills, training and experience. Will A+ help you find a job in tech support or servicing computers? Yes. Will it help you find a job as a Java programmer? That’s unlikely. Before you sign up for an A+ certification course, be sure it’s an appropriate credential for your career goals.
The A+ exam is available from Prometric and Pearson VUE. The certification exam actually consists of two tests — one focusing on core hardware technologies, the other on operating systems. For people who already have experience with PC troubleshooting, or have a lot of self-motivation, self-study with a book about A+.
CompTIA views the certification as a credential for technicians with six months of experience. Individuals with A+ certification may find jobs installing, repairing and configuring PCs, or working in technical support positions.
However, A+ isn’t for everyone. Mike Sweeny, managing director or project staffing for TWC, a strategic staffing consulting firm in Audubon, Pennsylvania, points out the expense of many training programs leading to certification. Should A+ be viewed as the only route to an IT career? It should not, though some people may think it is. “They’re misled by all the advertising that these schools do,” he says. “It’s light years away from getting a computer science degree.
In other words, consider your options and your expectations. Are you looking to enter the field as a service technician, and then move up? Or do you want to jump-start your career at a more advanced level, or in another area of IT, possibly by learning Java, networking or some other arena? The choice is yours.