Is the CompTIA A+ Worth It? Benefits, Comparison, Cost

In this article, we cover whether the CompTIA A+ is worth it for cybersecurity and IT professionals.  To see our article on what you should do after earning your A+ certification, go here. To see our full review of all CompTIA certifications, see our article here.  We also list our recommended resources for preparing for the CompTIA A+ here.

The CompTIA A+ certification has been around for over 25 years and is certainly one of the most well known IT certifications ever developed.  But with its origins coming before the cybersecurity boom and its continual focus on hardware and software, many professionals ask if the CompTIA A+ certification is worth the effort.

Is the CompTIA A+ worth it?  The CompTIA A+ is still the de facto certification standard for help desk and computer repair jobs but has limited application in cybersecurity.  Most cyber professionals may be better off focusing their efforts on more security-based certifications, such as the Network+ and Security+.

Let’s take a closer look at the CompTIA A+ certification so that you can make an informed decision about whether you should add this well- known certification to your list of credentials.

What is the CompTIA A+?

The CompTIA A+ is a certification developed by the CompTIA organization that focuses on generalized IT and computer hardware and software support.  The certification was developed in 1993 during a time when other areas of technology were not yet developed, such as cybersecurity. CompTIA has continually updated the A+ to include more modern IT concepts, such as cloud and security, but its focus remains largely a repair-based certification.  Because of its general IT troubleshooting focus, the A+ has long been a gateway certification for professionals looking to enter the field of information technology.

CompTIA A+ Exam Details

Number of exams to earn certification2
Number of QuestionsUp to 90 in each exam
Question TypeMultiple Choice, drag and drop and PDQ
Test Length90 Minutes each exam
Scoring675 and 700 out of 900
Recommended Experience9 – 12 months hands-on in IT
Required PrerequisiteNone
Suggested Prerequisite6 months or more of hands-on experience with hardware and software

Key skill areas of the CompTIA A+

Hardware
Operating Systems
Software Troubleshooting
Networking
Hardware and Network Troubleshooting
Security
Mobile Devices
Virtualization and Cloud Computing
Operational Procedures

Who Should Consider the CompTIA A+?

CompTIA intends the A+ for support technician roles, such as a help desk technician, technical support specialist, field service technician, and other similar titles.  CompTIA also clarifies that the A+ is ideal for professionals that deal with “endpoint management & technical support roles.” They also identify the A+ as being the certification that is used to launch new IT careers and therefore is entry-level.

Should You Consider The CompTIA A+?

The CompTIA A+ is challenged in that it requires two examinations to earn, where nearly all other certifications from CompTIA only require one, and it aligns to positions that are typically the lowest and most entry-level in technology support.  Because of this, the A+ takes a great deal of effort to earn but for many professionals will have limited benefit as they progress in their careers to higher levels.

Most cybersecurity professionals fall into this category, as they intend to move to a higher level and higher-paying positions within a technical support structure, and therefore the A+ may have a limited long term benefit for them.  

Aspiring or current general IT professionals that do not want to expand beyond a support role or that want to prove their technical support skills should consider the CompTIA A+ as a way to validate and prove technical ability.

What experience is required to sit for the CompTIA A+?

CompTIA does not require any prior experience to sit for either of the A+ exams, however, they do recommend 9 – 12 months of experience.  Many aspiring professionals may be able to earn the CompTIA A+ without this level of experience if they are able to gain hands-on experience through another method, such as a classroom or home lab environment, and are able to adequately study the exam material.  

Given that the CompTIA A+ is probably the first certification exam taken by A+ est takers, and that the A+ requires a great deal of memorization regarding hardware details, it is critical that test-takers adequately study and prepare for the A+ exams.

What is the cost of the CompTIA A+?

The CompTIA A+ currently costs $219 per exam, meaning that the full cost to earn your A+ certification, assuming you pass both exams on the first try, is $438.  There are often discounts available through training materials and training centers, and students that attend an authorized CompTIA Academy education center are also eligible for discounts on the exam voucher prices.  Likewise, there are often other pricing options through CompTIA that may include an exam retake, training materials, or a training course. Potential test takers should shop around for the pricing option that best meets their needs.

What is the DoD compliance of the CompTIA A+?

The CompTIA A+ is recognized by the US Department of Defense as an approved 8570 IAT Level 1 baseline certification.  IT and cybersecurity professionals will find that most, but not quite all, CompTIA certifications are recognized by the Department of Defense.

How long will it take to prepare for the CompTIA A+?

Given that the CompTIA A+ takes two exams to earn and is usually the first certification that a potential test taker will sit for, it is usually a good idea to spend more time than usual to prepare for the A+ exams.  People new to the technical support field will usually find that a time period of at least 3 – 4 months of continual study is necessary to prepare for the A+.

Even professionals that work daily in the technical support arena will find that a good bit of proper preparation is necessary to adequately prepare for the CompTIA A+, since the A+ covers so much detail and specifications that even seasoned technicians may not need to recall on a frequent basis through their daily work.

Since there are two exams required to earn the A+, and they both pertain to computer support, many potential test-takers of the A+ choose a strategy of preparing for both exams at the same time without making a differentiation between the two exams and their content.

Is the CompTIA A+ hard?

Another common question regarding the CompTIA A+ has to do with the difficulty level of earning this certification.

So, is the CompTIA A+ hard?  Although the CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification, many test-takers will find the A+ to be a challenging certification to earn due to the amount and depth of technical detail covered on the exams.  It is critical that A+ test-takers adequately prepare before sitting for these professional certification exams.

What certifications are comparable to the CompTIA A+?

While there is some overlap between the A+ and CompTIA’s Network+ (related to networking content that is also included on the A+), any comparisons of the A+ to other certification exams can mostly be made to hardware or support certifications issued by specific computer vendors, such as Dell.  Other certifications offered by CompTIA are focused on other technical concepts, such as networking and cybersecurity.

How well known is the CompTIA A+?

The CompTIA A+ is one of the oldest IT certifications on the market, having been offered to aspiring and current IT professionals for over 25 years straight, since 1993.  During that time, the A+ has never fallen out of favor, as there are a limited number of certifications similar to the A+ content, and CompTIA has continually updated the A+ to current technology standards.

Given the strong demand for solid computer and help desk technicians over the past two decades, and the steady availability of the A+ certification, the CompTIA A+ is one of the most widely recognized IT-based certifications ever developed.  Nearly any technology manager or HR professional that has hiring experience in the IT area will have knowledge of the CompTIA A+.

What should you expect on the CompTIA A+ exam?

The CompTIA A+ exams are known to be challenging exams due to their wide range of content, and also the depth of that content that is required for a test taker to know.  This means that there is a lot of memorization required to pass the A+ exams, often more than what many day-to-day computer technicians may be required to know for their jobs.

When sitting for the CompTIA A+ exams, be prepared for a handful of PBQ, or performance-based questions that will present a troubleshooting scenario.  Many of these will be multiple step questions, meaning that it is critical that you read the requirements fully. Often, these PBQ’s can take several minutes to complete.  In addition to these questions, test takers should expect dozens of multiple-choice questions that ask about very specific details of technology support.

Reading the question fully (and re-reading at least once) is important, as the meaning of one word in a question can have an important impact on the intent of a question.  Many questions will ask for a judgment call, by including words such as “which option is BEST” or which should you do FIRST.”

How long is the CompTIA A+ good for?

Many CompTIA certifications, including the A+, are good for three years from the date it is earned.  It can be renewed by earning CEU’s, retaking the exam, or taking a higher-level exam, such as the CompTIA Network+.

Which positions would benefit from the CompTIA A+?

  • Help Desk Technician
  • Computer Support Technician
  • Help Desk Manager
  • Junior Network Technician
  • Field Service Technician

Our Recommendations

  • Aspiring cybersecurity professionals should carefully weigh the investment of preparing for the CompTIA A+ versus another higher-level certification, such as the CompTIA Network+ or Security+.
  • Skipping the A+ and moving directly to the Network+ or Security+ is feasible for most people with proper study and preparation.  This is our recommendation for most clients.
  • Consider the A+ if you work, or want to work, directly in a technical support role.
  • Keep in mind that while it is entry-level, the A+ is not an easy certification to earn in that it will require sufficient study.

You can see our recommended resources for the CompTIA A+ here.

About the author 

Matt Day

Matt Day is a cybersecurity professional with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cybersecurity and technology training fields. He has a degree in Computer Information Science and CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Server+, CySA+, and Cisco CCNA certifications. Matt is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.

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