Comptia's A+ certificate has been around for some time, and is widely recognised throughout the world. It's aimed at people who want to work as a computer technician, or in a IT help desk role. In other words, it's all about fixing the computer when it goes wrong. The Comptia A+ is an entry-level qualification, and is quite useful for a first job as a computer technician.
Comptia revamped and updated the certificate in 2006, and it now comprises of the following:
- Mandatory core exam
- IT Technician
- Remote Support Technician
- Depot Technician
To gain the A+ certificate, you need to do the Mandatory exam, and one of the other three. So if you pass the Mandatory exam and the IT technician exam, then you'll have a qualification as an IT technician. But if you pass the Mandatory exam and the Remote Support Technician exam, then you'll have a Remote Support Technician qualification. Expect to study for about 160 hours before taking any exams.
To see if this is for you, here's a breakdown of what you'll be doing in your studies.
The Comptia A+ Mandatory core exam
The Mandatory core exam, known as the Essentials, will consist of one hundred multiple choice questions. Each question will be worth a set number of points. The maximum mark you can get is 900, but you only need 675 to pass. The exam last 90 minute. The subjects you'll be studying for the exam are:
- Personal Computer Components
- Laptop and Portable Devices
- Operating Systems
- Printers and Scanners
- Safety and Environmental Issues
- Communication and Professionalism
What you are studying here is computer hardware and devices, installing and configuring an operating system, setting up printers and scanners, basic networking, computer security, computer safety, and how to deal with clients and customers.
IT Technician - exam 220-602
As an IT Technician, your job will be to solve problems in the work place. So if somebody reports a problem with their PC, you'll show up and fix it. The problem could be anything: from grimy mouse ball to critical hardware failure. If you're just starting out, expect to clean lots of grimy mouse balls!
To pass the IT Technician exam, and gain this A+ qualification, you'll be building on the skills that you learned in the Mandatory exam. Because it's mainly an office-based support role, the emphasis will be on operating systems like Windows 2000 and XP (But expect another update to the exams when Windows Vista gains more recognition in the workplace). You'll gain Network experience, as well, which will include wireless technology as well as wired.
Again, the exam is multiple choice. The minimum pass is 700 out of 900. Once you pass both the Mandatory exam, and the Technician exam you'll be a Comptia A+ Certified IT Technician.
Remote Support Technician - exam 220-603
As its name suggests, this certificate is all about supporting customers and business remotely. Someone will phone in with a complex problem (or, usually, a not-to-complex problem that they could have fixed themselves), and you'll be expected to fix it there and then. Or you may just support customers via email, instead of the phone.
Again, you'll build on the skills you acquired in the Mandatory exam. Because this is not a hands-on role, you'll concentrate on how to solve a computer problem when you can't see the computer. On the bright side, at least you won't be cleaning mouse balls!
To pass this exam, you'll need to score at least 700 out of 900 on the multiple choice questions. The exam lasts 90 minutes. If you pass both this exam on the Mandatory one, you'll be a Comptia A+ Certified Remote Support Technician.
Depot Technician - exam 220-604
This role is more suited to those who simply enjoy fixing computers and computer peripherals. It's not really a customer-facing position. Typically, you'll have a broken computer in front of you, along with a report on what the problem is. Grab your tools and start tinkering! You'll also need a good understanding of operating systems, and how they interact with the hardware, because quite a lot of the problems you'll be facing are to do with software failure, rather than hardware. Think Viruses and Spyware infection, and try to avoid the temptation to reformat the hard drive!
Again, you need 700 out of 900 to pass the exam. But when you do, and have the Mandatory exam as well, you be a Comptia A+ Certified Depot Technician.
The Comptia A+ certificates are an excellent way to enter the field of IT Support. Widely recognised throughout the world, they'll give you a basic grounding in all the essentials you need to make it as a junior technician. Highly recommended as a first step to the higher IT support positions. This is your apprenticeship!