To learn about the CompTIA Network+, see our article here. To see why you may want to take the Security+ before the Network+, see our article here.
If you’ve just passed the CompTIA A+ certification, congratulations. Earning the A+ takes a lot of effort and is quite an accomplishment. But after you let the feeling of earning your certification settle in, you may be wondering “What’s next?” It’s understandable to wonder what step you should take after earning your A+ certification. Let’s take a look at some of the most common options.
So, what should you do after the CompTIA A+? After passing the CompTIA A+, most people should add their certification to their resume and LinkedIn profile, pursue opportunities to validate and apply their A+ knowledge in a job, internship or volunteer setting, and then assess which certification to complete next, such as the Network+, Security+, CCNA or MCP certifications.
Let’s dive in a little deeper and discuss what options you have, and what path may be best for you, now that you are CompTIA A+ certified.
Step #1: Determine if a raise is available for you
Ideally you looked into this or spoke to your employer before you sat for and earned your A+, but if not, your first step probably should be to look into whether your employer (assuming that you’re working in a technical job) provides a bonus or raise for certifications earned, or if they will reimburse you for the testing fee now that you’ve passed. Many employers will gladly pay for a certification exam if you pass, and some do have some sort of bonus structure. Keep in mind that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Either way, if you’re working, it’s probably a good idea to tell your employer that you’re now certified, as that lets them know you’re taking your career seriously, and that you probably have more work options now than you did before you were certified.
Step #2: Add A+ to your resume
After you pass the A+ certification, one of your first steps should be to go directly to your resume and add the certification to your list of credentials. CompTIA also gives you the option to add an A+ badge to your resume if you prefer to have that graphic as well. I don’t know how much employers do or do not notice the badge, so it’s probably just something you should do if you feel like it.
Adding the CompTIA A+ certification to your resume has a nice side benefit. There is something really powerful in seeing your certification in writing on the same page as your name. And by adding the A+ certification to your resume right away, you can avoid potentially sending your resume out to an employer later and possibly forgetting that the A+ certification is not listed there. If you need help with your cyber security resume, check out our helpful hints here.
Step #3: Add A+ to your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the modern resume of the working world, and it has become a really powerful headhunting tool. I know lots of cyber security professionals that have been recruited or have received unsolicited interview offers solely through LinkedIn. In other words, if you’re getting into cyber security, you need a LinkedIn profile. While you’re at it, add your CompTIA A+ in the certifications section too. Updating your profile with the A+ will send a notice out to your connections, which is probably the best way to get the word out that you are now A+ certified.
Step #4: Give yourself some downtime
Studying for and passing any certification is a lot of work. It takes several weeks or even several months of dedicated, focused study. One of the best things you can do for yourself to avoid burnout is to take a few weeks off after you earn your certification. Don’t dive right in and begin studying for your next certification unless you have a work requirement to meet or you’re feeling really energized to move on to the next topic. For the most part, I recommend that people plan on earning one certification every six months, which means you can afford a little down time before you dive right back in.
Step #5: Find opportunities to apply your A+ knowledge
It’s important to avoid becoming someone who is only paper certified. Along with your A+ certification, you really need to work to find an opportunity where you can apply and validate your CompTIA A+ knowledge. Having this additional hands-on experience, which can be added to your resume, is a great supplement to your certification.
If you’re already working in the cyber security or IT field, good for you. Hopefully your work relates in some way to the A+ material and that your employer acknowledges and appreciates your certification. If you’re not working in the field yet, use this opportunity as a newly A+ certified professional to look for an opportunity to build some experience and validate and apply your skills. This can be a part-time or full-time job, an internship or temporary position, or even a volunteer experience. The most important thing is that you’re proving that you can actually apply your A+ skill set and that you are doing something that can add to your resume.
Step #6: Assess if you need non-technical skills
Your technical skills are important, but soft skills are what can make or break your success in a position. If you are currently working in a cyber security position and have just passed the A+, it’s worth taking a moment to assess if you should shift gears for a while to gain some non-technical experience of some sort. Would it benefit your career right now if you learned project management or customer service skills? Would you be more likely to get a raise if you took a class on supervising others? Are you required to speak in front of others? Every position is different, but it is important in technical fields like cyber security to not get laser focused only on attaining technical skills. Give a little thought to what other skills may help you at this point in your career.
Step #7: Determine your next certification
For most people, the next certification is going to be something networking based. You can move on to the CompTIA Network+, which CompTIA considers the next step after the A+ certification. Or you can try a similar networking certification, such as Cisco’s CCNA. Some people shift gears toward software and begin work on Microsoft’s MCP, usually relating to Windows or Windows Server. Another option, if you are already strong in networking, would be to skip the Network+ and go pursue the CompTIA Security+. That is usually considered a more desirable certification, and if you’re thinking that you’re going to be headed in the network security direction, you may want to consider that one too.
Now you know what some of the best options are for you post A+ certification. Consider your current employment situation and your longer term plan to best determine how to leverage your A+ to move upward in your career.
Do I have to take the Network+ after A+? You do not have to take the Network+ after completing the A+ certification, although many people do. CompTIA allows you to jump to any of their base certifications without a prerequisite, so there is no requirement to go directly to Network+. You can learn more about the A+ to Network+ track here.
How long is the CompTIA A+ valid? CompTIA typically phases out their certification exams after three years, at which time you must retest, test up to a higher certification, or take continuing education coursework to maintain your current certification. If you do not do one of these things, your certification becomes invalid in CompTIA’s records.
Can I get a job with the CompTIA A+? There seems to be a good number of job postings that require or request the A+ certification, and these employers often will hire someone without substantial experience. These jobs are entry level and are often somewhat competitive.