People often want to know if a specific certification will land them a job in IT or cybersecurity. I recently had someone ask me this about the CompTIA A+ certification, so in this article, I want to address that question.
Can you get a job with just the A+ certification? Yes, earning the CompTIA A+ is often enough to be hired for an entry-level IT job, as long as you also demonstrate strong soft skills, such as communication, professionalism, and a willingness to learn.
Let’s take this a step farther and talk about exactly why the A+ certification from CompTIA can be such a powerful way to land your first IT job (To see our full article about the CompTIA A+, go here.)
The CompTIA A+ Separates You From Other Entry-Level Job Seekers
A fact that we often overlook when we consider any career field is that everyone starts at the beginning. No one was born knowing IT or cybersecurity or any other field. We all start at the same place, meaning that if you’re looking for your first entry-level IT job (see my full article about entry-level cyber jobs for more information), everyone else has nothing to show on their resume too.
Consider how powerful this is for you. Everyone else is starting out right where you are, and no one is ahead of you at the beginning. This means that anything that you do to better your resume will differentiate you from everyone else looking at entry-level jobs. And one of the best, and fastest ways to do that is with a certification.
Earning a degree, completing coursework, or getting experience all take time. IT certifications, such as the A+, are highly beneficial for the entry-level job seeker because they are often more affordable than educational classes, can be earned quickly, and don’t require any prerequisite accomplishments. This means that you can earn the A+ as fast as you are able to prepare for it.
The CompTIA A+ has been the de facto entry-level IT certification for more than two decades, and since certifications are the most attainable resume-builder you have, the A+ is the easiest way to separate yourself from the other entry-level competition.
Employers Recognized the Well-Known A+ Certification
You may not realize this since you’re new to the field, but employers that have been in IT for a while certainly recognize the CompTIA A+. It is by far the most widely-recognizable IT or cyber certification on the planet (due to its long history and entry-level focus).
So much so that the employers that you’ll interview with probably already have someone on staff that has the A+, or they did in the past.
Because the A+ is so widely known, employers also know how hard it is to earn, and how focused you have to be to pass this certification. They’ve talked to other people before you that have the A+, they’ve hired others that had the A+, and they may even have the A+ themselves.
The bottom line is that since the A+ is so well-known and respected as a solid certification for entry-level IT jobs, when you earn yours, you join that club of certified professionals that benefit from this familiarity.
The A+ Says a Lot About You to Employers
This is an important point that many overlook. Hiring managers look at lots of resumes, and most of those resumes at the entry-level are poorly written and have nothing related to IT on them at all.
But when an employer comes across your resume, which is the same as all of the others except for the A+ added, the employer sees something different. Subconsciously, having the A+ tells the employer that you are serious about your career. It says that if this person was willing to do the A+ on their own, they are likely to earn another certification on their own, or enroll in an IT program at college, or learn a new technology on their own.
The A+ shows an employer that you are serious about your career, and a self-starter. And employers know they can’t buy that or make someone else learn that.
Employers Can’t Find People with Experience
You probably already know that experience is hard to build, and for employers, experience is hard to find (You can see my five strategies to get hands-on experience here.) At the entry-level of IT, employers are often hard-pressed to find applicants with experience, and certainly with the right kind of experience. In fact, employers often expect that they will have to hire someone with little to no experience for their entry-level positions.
So if employers are often stuck with finding experienced people, what is the next best way to validate knowledge? You guessed it – certifications. Certifications have become the best way for employers to validate knowledge and skills in IT when prior experience is not available. Even more so than educational programs, simply because they vary so widely in quality and topics covered.
Getting your A+ certification validates your skills and knowledge when you have no other means to do so through experience.
Employers Believe You’re Worth Training
Another reason that getting an A+ can help you get a job is because of the cost of training that employers pay for employees. Much of this training is for certifications, so if you already have the A+ certification, the employer can see that as an investment that you’ve made that they don’t have to make.
My Recommended A+ Job Strategy
If you’re now set on earning the A+, you should also consider these things as powerful ways to supplement your CompTIA A+ certification. They are easy to do, and are effective in making you the applicant that stands out to employers, especially if they have more than one A+ applicant.
Enroll in an IT Class
IT classes are everywhere, and many of them are free or nearly free. One of the first things you should do after earning your A+ is to enroll in a class related to IT or technology, and add this to your resume as “currently enrolled”. Learn more about getting started in a college IT or cyber program here.
Employers recognize that you are just starting out and don’t know everything that they’d like you to know, but they want to see that you’re trying to grow and progress, so that way they can be reasonably assured that you’ll be more valuable in a year or so.
Enrolling in an educational course or program is one way to do that, and no one with any morals can knock someone trying to further their education. This is a great thing to add to your resume, even if it’s not completed.
Complete Small Tech Projects On Your Own
You’re going to need some hands-on experience, and some stories to talk about during an interview, so the best way to get those when you haven’t worked in the field is to do small projects for those you know.
Did you set up your father’s wi-fi router? Could you help a senior citizen with how to use their phone? Can you volunteer to help set up a church’s computers?
People everywhere buy new devices and technology all of the time, and most people could use a hand with setting those things up. Employers expect that if you’re truly passionate about technology, that you do these things already because you enjoy them, so look for ways to complete these types of small projects and then add them to your resume. And be ready to talk about them to an employer during an interview.
Set Up Your Own IT Lab at Home
Most serious professionals have at one time had equipment at home that they have used to learn new skills. At it’s best, my personal home network grew to eight stations, and even now has multiple commercial grade switches and routers, machines running various VMs, and so forth.
When someone is serious enough about working in IT, they will inevitably build their own small lab at home with any used, free, or donated equipment they can find. You need to do the same, and let the interviewer know you’ve built such a lab.
From my experience interviewing and talking to other employers, when someone interviews well and has the A+ certification, they are certainly in consideration for a job. But when they also have taken the time to build their own setup at home, solely for the passion of the field and their interest to learn, then employers know they have someone that can really grow with the company.
Build Soft Skills
So, if someone has the A+ certification and has done some of these other things, could there still be a reason why they might not get hired? The answer is certainly “yes”.
Assuming that you’re not facing a tremendous amount of competition for the job, are applying for appropriate entry-level jobs, and are interviewing well enough, the only sticking point that typically pops up is lack of ability in soft skills.
After an employer determines that your technical skills are strong enough to fill the role, they are immediately trying to determine if you’re likeable, if you’ll fit in well with the team, if you’re going to be a pain to work with or cause trouble down the line, and if their customers will like you.
Many employers have not hired someone who was otherwise qualified simply because they didn’t like their personality, or because they thought they wouldn’t represent them well to customers. Soft skills such as communication, professional appearance and manners, customer service, and teamwork all matter in IT more than most applicants know. Don’t shortchange these important areas once you’ve earned your A+ certification. If you’re interested in what you should do after earning the A+, see our article here.