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A Complete Guide to Earning Your A+ Certification

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By: Olivia

June 7, 2017

Lately, I’ve been working to help Cybrarians make sense of certifications, more specifically, which credentials are right for different career goals and the path to earning those certifications. Seeing as many Cybrary users are simply looking to get their start, it’s only logical that I provide an overview for earning perhaps the most popular IT certification, the CompTIA A+ certification.The CompTIA A+ course hones in on the fundamentals of computer technology including repair, basic networking, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware and configuration for mobile including Android and Apple.For those ultimately looking for a career in hacking or security, it is important to recognize that unless you are coming in with a thorough IT background, you will need to know the basics covered in the A+ first and work your way from there.Future hackers will most likely want to progress from CompTIA A+, to CompTIA Network+, to CompTIA Security+ before advancing to CSA+ or the CEH, and learn at least one programming language along the way, although there are varying opinions on this.So, for those starting at the beginning, I will provide a guide for earning your CompTIA A+ certification and point towards specific tools which will help you achieve success.

CompTIA A+ Overview

The CompTIA A+ exam is designed to certify the competency of entry-level PC computer service professionals in installing, maintaining, customizing, and operating personal computers. Obtaining the certification validates entry-level IT skills in today’s essential domains and ensures proper communication and customer service skills.

How Does It Compare?

If you don’t believe you’re ready to jump into the A+ exam, CompTIA also offers an ‘IT Fundamentals’ exam, code FC0-U51, which signifies that you possess the fundamental knowledge to identify and explain computer components, install software, establish network connectivity and prevent security risks. While it covers some similar topics as the A+, this exam is targeted more specifically for “advanced end-users and entry-level IT professionals.”A similar certification also meant for beginners with less computer experience is the IC3 Digital Literacy Global Standard 5. This certification signifies that you possess the fundamental knowledge to effectively use some of the world’s most current and prominent technologies. The exam is divided into 3 parts: computing fundamentals, living online, and key applications.

Who Is A+ Intended For?

This certification is meant to be the starting point for those looking to break into IT. As a standalone certification, it prepares individuals to fulfill call center, help desk and computer repair type jobs.When the knowledge from this certification is built upon, it can help individual move forward to learn networking, security, and even hacking. While not recommended for those looking for programming specific careers, general computer knowledge can always be useful.According to CompTIA “If you’re new to the IT industry, this will help you put your best foot forward. And if you’re already an IT professional, the CompTIA A+ certification validates your skills and can boost your career.”

Why Should I Earn the A+ Certification?

There are a variety of reasons why the A+ certification is a good choice for a credential to achieve. The A+ certification exam demands no prerequisites, introduces candidates to the essential IT domains, and is globally recognized as the mark of a skilled entry-level technician.Typically, the A+ certification is a mandatory hiring requirement for a variety of entry-level IT jobs and those who possess this certification are more likely to receive higher salaries. For example, on average, certified professionals make five to 15% more than their non-certified counterparts in the US.A+ certification is a requirement or elective in the advanced certification paths of leading technology vendors, including Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, HP, and IBM. Additionally, organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense, Dell, Intel and Lenovo recognize this entry-level certification as validation that an employee is competent to fulfill the roles of a support tech, service technician and support specialist.

CompTIA A+ Exam Details

The CompTIA A+ exam, as well as the A+ course on Cybrary were updated to reflect new content, designated by the exam codes: 220-901 and 220-902. Individuals must pass both exams in order to earn their certification.Exam 220-901 covers PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware and network connectivity issues. Testers must score 675 on a scale of 900 in order to pass.Exam 220-902 covers installing and configuring operating systems including Windows, iOS, Android, Apple OS X and Linux. It also addresses security, the fundamentals of cloud computing and operational procedures. Testers must score 700 on a scale of 900 in order to pass.Both exams consist of approximately 90 multiple-choice (single and multiple response), drag and drops, and performance based questions which testers have 90 minutes to complete.

What is the difference between the 800 and 900 series?

In general, the 220-901 exam is about 90% similar to the old 220-801 exam, while the 220-902 exam has been updated more thoroughly. Both exams together contain about 25% new content.The two exams are now more distinct and include less overlap. Mostly, there have been a few structural changes and more performance-based questions have been added.One main topic missing from the new exam is Windows 10. The 220-901 exam went from 5 exam domains to 4, with more emphasis on mobile devices (not just laptops) and a heavy emphasis on troubleshooting.The 220-902 exam added a domain, going from 4 to 5, with The Operational Procedures section added on, and the Troubleshooting section has been split into Hardware and Network Troubleshooting on the 220-901 exam and Software Troubleshooting on the 220-902 exam.

Topics of Emphasis

  • Security
  • Networking
  • Mobile Devices
  • Hardware
  • Troubleshooting
  • Windows Operating Systems
  • Other operating systems and technologies
  • Technical Support

Additional A+ Information

The CompTIA A+ is compliant with ISO 17024 standards and is approved by the U.S. Department of Defense to meet directive 8140/8570.01-M requirements. It is held by over 1 million individuals worldwide.

How Can A+ Help My Security Career?

According to CompTIA, “Security isn’t just for the security experts. IT professionals at every level need security knowledge and skills. You'll be able to spot security breaches, identify their origins and escalate threats more quickly than technicians who are not A+ certified.”That being said, this certification will offer an introduction to critical security concepts that will be solidified during later stages of security training, such as the Security+, so learning the basics early will only help with your studies at a later point.

Recommendations from Testers

“CompTIA certifications buffed up my resume and landed me a great job. Not only did I gain knowledge in the field, I gained confidence and strategies for success in my career.”– Tedley Meralus, IT support specialist, GeoGlobal Partners, LLC“CompTIA certifications have not only boosted my salary, but have allowed me to progressively advance in my career as an IT professional.”– Robert Kosydar, server systems administrator, U.S. Department of Defense

What Does Cybrary offer in Preparation of the A+ exam?

Cybrary offers a full spectrum of preparation materials in order to ensure you become A+ certified.You can earn your certification in 4 easy steps:
  1. Take the A+ Course
Learn by watching the free online videos, which have been updated to reflect the 900 series and include material for both the 220-901 and 220-902 exams.
  1. Practice with a Virtual Lab
Explore critical concepts covered in the 220-902 and gain practical experience in a hands-on environment.
  1. Assess your Skills with the Practice Tests
Dive in to a simulated testing environment to receive analytics and feedback on your strengths and weaknesses with both the 200-901 and 220-902 practice exams.
  1. Certify Your Skills
When you’re ready to take the test, purchase discounted exam vouchers for the 220-901 and 220-902 exams and schedule your tests at your nearest testing center.

How Do I Renew My A+ Certification?

Your CompTIA A+ certification is valid for three years from the day of your exam. “You can participate in a number of activities and training programs, including higher certifications, to renew your CompTIA A+ certification. Collect at least 20 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in three years, upload them to your certification account, and A+ will automatically renew.”Luckily, Cybrary’s A+ course offers CEUs, which are accepted by CompTIA for renewal.

To Summarize

While the A+ certification is not the exact path for everyone seeking entry into the broad world of technology, it offers a good starting point for many who want a job in the industry. It can even help those interested in hacking gain the fundamental skills they need to further pursue other interests.Kickstart your career by learning fundamentals of computer technology including repair, basic networking, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware and configuration for mobile including Android and Apple. Then, follow 4 steps to obtain your certification. It’s that simple.

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Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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