The 10th Anniversary of CompTIA A+

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Editor’s Note: This post is outdated. For an updated guide see Jed Reisner’s A+ 220-801 and 220-802 guide.

What would it be like if the computing industry hadn’t come together 10 years ago to recognize the benefits of establishing knowledge standards for entry-level technicians? I’m referring to the development of A+ certification, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in June. I believe that A+ represents a milestone in the history of IT certification and a wise and very farsighted move by our industry. Here are my reasons for making this comment.

If the computing industry had not insisted on A+ and supported this certification’s development 10 years ago, half a million men and women would have had little consistency in their foundation-level PC training. There would have been no uniformity for their starting point and no clear career path afterward. It would have been pick the vendor you think would be best to study, specialize from day one and hope that you made the right choice. Or you could have spread your bets around by picking a number of vendors and going through the same basic training and certification exam over and over again.

Hardware and software suppliers would each have had to individually develop and support primary-level training and certification. Not only would this have been extremely costly, but it also would have taken resources away from higher-level, more specialized certifications.

Training and educational institutions would have been forced to find instructors knowledgeable in multiple manufacturers’ products in order to teach the basics. And then there would be the issue of the fragmentation of learning due to too many courses, too many books, too many labs and too many students bewildered as to which vendors to specialize in. Take your pick: Apple, Compaq, Dell, Gateway, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and others.

Repair shops and help-desk managers would have had a difficult time knowing who to hire and on what basis. There would have been no uniform way to judge the novice technicians applying for openings. Companies would have had big problems trying to qualify for authorized-repair-shop status because there would be no consistency in personnel qualification.

When you consider what might have happened if A+ had not been in the picture for the past 10 years, it becomes clear that this certification has had a quite an impact.

In the early 1990s, manufacturers, value-added resellers, educators and others came to CompTIA to talk about the development of a vendor-neutral break/fix certification. The industry as a whole believed that because of the similarity of hardware and operating systems, standards could be developed for PC troubleshooting, repair and help-desk assistance and that CompTIA, the computing technology industry’s business association, was ideally suited to take on that responsibility. After a painstaking process, including job-task analysis, focus groups, surveys, item writing and more, A+ entered the IT profession.

Courseware and educational opportunities soon followed. Educators and commercial training organizations could point to a clear career path for entering IT—it began with the vendor-neutral A+ certification. As their education continued, learners discovered their strengths and began to specialize.

Over the years, the A+ certification grew and matured, continuing its relevance as the first step in an IT career. Trainers and educators want their students to start with A+ because it’s the recognized entry point, and a valid one. A+ provides a solid foundation for continuing education and on-the-job experience. IT certification rests squarely on the base of CompTIA A+.

The essential reality of 21st century IT careers is that certification alone is not a key that will open the door to a high-paying career. Employers are looking for people with education, certification and experience. They know these assets lead to higher productivity, quality and results.

CompTIA’s A+, Network+ and other certification offerings are all about global standards, best practices and being enablers for more advanced training and gaining practical experience.

Our industry would be all the poorer if we hadn’t come together 10 years ago and explained that these are the entry-level standards for our technicians. Anniversaries are a wonderful way of reminding us what’s important.

John A. Venator is president and CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the largest global trade association supporting the IT industry. CompTIA has 9,600 corporate members and 10,500 individual professional members.


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