Earning the CompTIA A+: What it took

, ,

I don’t toot my own horn very often, but I can say I’m proud of what I have accomplished in under a year. One of those was passing both exams to earn the CompTIA A+ certification.

I’ll explain in some detail as to why I made a career change from a broadcast meteorologist into the IT field in a future post. To sum it up, it came to this: It was time for a change. Advice was gathered from those that were already in the business, and one thing was made clear: Get A+ certified.

What is the A+? For those new to all of this and unfamiliar with this business, it’s known as an entry-level certification for IT created and managed by a trade organization named CompTIA. The knowledge that’s needed to be known is broad and ranges from networking concepts to customer service and best practices to security. It’s so broad that there two separate exams, or cores, that need to be passed to earn the A+. The certification is meant to demonstrate competence in intro and core IT knowledge.

No prior experience is required to take the exams, but CompTIA said that nine to 12 months of on-hand experience (or lab work) is recommended.

I did not have formal experience in the business, but I had built desktops when IDE drives and Intel Pentium processors were a thing. The last desktop I built was in 2008. Many hats were worn at my previous employer which included me doing, basically, Tier-1 support for some of my colleagues. Managing and troubleshooting the network at home became something of a major task a few years ago (note to self: Nighthawk routers aren’t as great as some say – at least in my case).

Once I realized what needed to be done, I started obtaining studying material and working on things at home.

Here are some of the tasks, services, and materials I used to help pass both cores of the A+…

Book: CompTIA A+ Certification Study Guide, Eleventh Edition

This book (Wempen, 2022) was a great comprehensive look at what to expect on the exam. I went through the older exam book earlier in the year, but (long story short) had to get the new book to prepare for the newer exam.

The A+ exams are changed roughly every three years, and the old 1001 and 1002 exams expired in October 2022. The 1101 and 1102 exams, which are in this book, started during the first-half of 2022.

It was a great review of the material, and I still have it as a reference. If you need a book, this is one I would recommend.

It can be found online as well as Books-a-Million.

Study Materials and Practice Exams: Professor Messer

Early in my research, I came across a few forums that recommended the use of the material, practice exams, and YouTube review videos from James Messer, also known as Professor Messer.

The study guides were laid out really well and great resources when you need to get a simple, easy-on-the-eyes review of certain material. His YouTube videos and monthly livestreams of questions and review were very helpful. He also has practice exams that really helped prepare me for the exam.

I would highly recommend his material for those wanting to study for the A+ certification.

Videos and training labs: ITPro (TV)

They are going through a rebranding (at least as of this post) to ITPro instead of ITPro TV. Run by ACI Learning, the company has a vast library of videos that go over many IT topics and certifications. Their training of concepts covered in the A+ exam were hosted by “edutainersWes Brian and Ronnie Wong. They did a great job with providing a deep dive into not only preparing for the exams but also preparing those for that first IT gig.

They also have virtual machine labs where higher-tier subscribers can practice skill sets as well as take practice exams. I have taken a couple of their A+ practice exams, but, to be honest, thought they were a little tougher.

It is pricy if you want the whole package. For the practice tests and virtual lab, it’s $59 per month. The videos-only option is $39 per month. There are annual subscription options available.

I signed up for this toward the end of the studying, but I found the VM labs and videos really helpful.

Google IT Support Certification: Coursera

Nearly a month into studying from the aforementioned book, I discovered Google’s IT Support Certification. A part of the Grow with Google initiative, the tech giant in 2018 started the course on Coursera to fill needed tech jobs across the industry. The company later teamed up with CompTIA to set up a dual-badge on Credly.

The content is meant to line up with entry-level tech professionals. As someone who has participated in both, I would argue that Google’s IT Support training and certification is a bit more in-depth than the A+ learning objectives. For instance, Google’s training discusses more about TCP/IP and the OSI model than what A+ covers.

Speaking of, the training, virtual labs, and exams are hosted on Coursera. They were really helpful for learning the ropes of IT support. The five units covered troubleshooting and customer care, networking, operating systems, system administration, and security.

It took me about four and a half months to complete. To get the certification at the end, one needs to be a $39-per-month to Coursera premium access subscriber. It was worth it, honestly. And the material helped reinforce the concepts of the A+ learning objectives. You can find more details by clicking here.

Free content: YouTube

If budgets are really tight, there are plenty of free resources on YouTube. Below are a few YouTubers that helped me out in my journey:

Network Chuck

David Bombal


Professor Messer

Linux Tech Tips

So, there you have it! I am sure there are things I am forgetting, but those are some of the ways I was able to learn from and study for the A+. Because of all of this, I was able to accomplish so much within a year’s time and obtain my first tech job.