The CompTIA A+ is one of the 3 foundational certs that we hear a lot about (A+, Network+, and Security+). CompTIA recommends that students take the A+ first, followed by the Network+, and then the Security+. Many people getting into cyber security skip the A+, how do you know if you should move on to the Network+ and Security+.
Should You Take the CompTIA A+?
A CompTIA A+ candidate possess the ability to troubleshoot and problem solve a wide variety of issues, ranging from networking and operating systems to mobile devices and security. If you are new to IT or cyber security, this is a great certification to hold.
Choosing whether to take the A+ or to skip it and move directly into the Network+ and then the Security+ is a very individual decision. It really comes down to your background and previous experience. To help with this tough decision, we have put together 5 reasons why you would want to skip the A+, and 4 reasons when taking the A+ would make sense.
5 Reasons You Should Skip the CompTIA A+
Reason #1: The A+ is not a prerequisite for either the Network+ or the Security+. While CompTIA recommends that you take the A+ before the Network+ and the Security+, this is not a hard requirement. The material covered by the A+ does have some overlap with the Network+ and the Security+, but skipping the A+ will not put you at much of a disadvantage if any when it comes time to take the other CompTIA certs.
Reason #2: Adding this exam to your certification path means more money out of your pocket. The CompTIA A+ certification voucher costs $220. If purchase a retake and exam material from CompTIA the price will jump to $349. If you are in-between careers or are a young student, this is a substantial amount of money to spend on a certification that is not required.
Reason #3: The CompTIA A+ is a Difficult Exam. A very common question from beginners is “Is the CompTIA A+ difficult”. The CompTIA A+ can be difficult for someone who is brand new to the field of IT. The exam covers a wide range of topics which can be challenging for some test takers. The A+ consists of two exams that are up to 90 questions each. The exam requires a lot of studying whether you are a beginner or have more experience.
Reason #4: The A+ Is Better Suited for Careers in IT. Plain and simple, the CompTIA A+ is not a cyber security focused certification. While it does mention a focus on security, if you are looking for the best bang for your buck the A+ isn’t the best certification for you. The A+ is more geared to technical support roles. While technical support roles are important and a lot of people enter cyber security from technical support, it is not a direct path into the field.
CompTIA Recommends the A+ For the Following Job Roles:
- IT Support Specialist
- Service desk analyst
- Technical support specialist
- Field service technician
- Associate network engineer
- Data support technician
- Desktop support administrator
- End-user computing technician
- Help desk technician
- System support specialist
None of these roles are particularly related to cyber security. When you are choosing whether or not to take a certification, it good practice to look at the recommended job roles of the exam. This will help you determine if the job role aligns with your selected path.
Reason 5: The A+ Will Require A Lot of Study Time. Even though the A+ is a beginner level exam, it will take a lot of time to adequately prepare for. It covers a lot of material. Time is one of our most valuable assets and should be considered when choosing a certification. Seeing as to how the A+ is not focused on security, our limited time could be better spend studying information that is relevant to the industry like the Security+ or the Network+.
The A+ certification also requires two exams to become certified. That is a lot of work for a certification that is not directly beneficial to the field.
5 Reasons You Should Take The A+
There are a lot of situations where it would be in the student’s best interests to spend the time and money and pursue the A+. Don’t let the above reasons deter you from taking this exam. They are simple meant to help you measure up your current situation and determine for yourself whether the A+ is a worthwhile certification.
Reason #1: If you are brand new to the field and have little to no background in IT. If you are transitioning into the field from another industry or need to build more foundational knowledge, the A+ is worth taking. The A+ will provide you with foundational IT knowledge that you will call upon throughout your cyber security career.
Reason #2: You Don’t Have A Cyber Security Degree. Most cyber security degree programs will cover a majority of the information that is encompassed in the A+ certification. But if you are going the self-taught route, the A+ may be worth going for. Going the Self-taught route, you need more certifications and projects that will validate the knowledge and skills you have. In this case is may be a good idea to take the A+ exam to certify your IT fundamentals knowledge.
Reason #3: The A+ Looks Good on A Resume. The A+ is a well-known exam and it is regarded highly in the industry (especially with recruiters). Having this certification will get your resume read. There is an unfortunate reality but in the tech industry in general, there are a lot of “HR Bots” which simply approve or deny applicants base on a very narrow set of factors. We hope that you never have to deal with this because that is absolutely not a proper way to screen applicants. Having the A+ on your resume could be the checked-box you need to pass on to the interview.
Reason #4: Having the A+ opens you up to opportunities in the tech industry. If you are going the degreeless route it can be very hard to break into the cyber security industry depending on where you live and the job opportunities that are available. It is very common for someone to get an initial job in IT and then transition into cyber security after having built that work experience. Holding the A+ will really help you land this springboard job.
Hopefully the pros and cons we provided helped you decide whether or not the A+ is the right certification for you. Just to emphasize it again, this is not a yes or no answer and it really depends on your personal situation.
If you have decided that the A+ is right for you, we recommend following our proven study method and checking out our top A+ study materials.
How to Study for The CompTIA A+
Everyone is different when it comes to studying methods, but here at Cyber Career School we have really honed in on the approach of utilizing 3 main study methods.
- Reading the Book
- Watching the Video
- Taking Practice Questions
While it sounds simple, this proven approach is effective for visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and reading / writing learners.
CompTIA A+ Study Guide
We highly recommend The CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, Tenth Edition (Exams 220-1001 & 220-1002). This can be purchased on amazon and is our favorite book on the A+. Mike Meyers is a proven author and puts out some of the best CompTIA exam study guides out there.
For a majority of our video courses, we recommend Pluralsight. Pluralsight has an excellent course on the A+ exams. One of the big benefits we see in Pluralsight is that there is a flat monthly membership price that gives you access to all of the awesome course they have available. When your ready to move on to the Network+ or the Security+ those courses will also be included in your membership. Check it out with a free trial and see if it is right for you!
You can never have enough practice questions. After you are done the book and the Pluralsight course, its time to test your knowledge with as many practice questions as you can get you hands on. Sybex puts together an entire book of practice questions to prepare you for the exam. This is our first choice. Like we said before, you can never have enough practice exams. If you think you are going to blow through the first book of practice exams, check out the practice exams provided by Exam Cram.
Deciding whether to take the A+ or to skip it entirely is a tough decision. Evaluate where you are in your career progression and then identify where your goal path is. This is the best way to decide whether the A+ certification is for you.