Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video


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    Youtube Video

    When someone new to IT or interested in an IT career asks advice for getting their foot in the door, invariably lots of people are going to tell them that they need to get the CompTIA A+ certification. But the A+ is not an IT certification at all, but a bench certification and the knowledge in it is either so basic that anyone interested in an IT career should either already have it (and never need to certify on it as it is so basic) or it doesn't really apply to them (because it is a bench skill.)

    The A+ also suffers from being horrendously out of date, testing skills that would have been applicable often a decade prior. In entry level bench work, this is sometimes (but not often) useful, it IT is essentially never is. Bench work in entry level shops often involves local computers stores and consumers attempting to keep ancient hardware limping along that is not financially viable. Businesses, driven by financial decisions, are far less likely to do this and those that do, turn to consumer bench services for support.

    Making the mistake of lumping bench work in with IT work leads to a feeling that the A+ will be beneficial to an IT career. But deep questioning of people who feel that they benefited from the A+ often expose that those that feel it helped them or that it was requires went into and often are still in bench careers, rather than IT ones (or jobs that are primarily bench.) If your interest in a career in IT, the A+ should be seen as both non-applicable as well as overly rudimentary, not to bench antiquated. Starter IT certs are more advanced and there is no reason not to jump straight into them instead. Having a higher level cert, meant for IT professionals, that is up to date will do dramatically more for your personal growth, your own education and your ability to get your foot into the door of a real IT position.

    Before posting this video here, this is already my most popular video!



  • I don't disagree but I also don't think there is any reason to poopoo A+.

    The books you go through to study are good all around computer nerd knowledge, even if it is connectors and driver installations and BIOS edits and whatever. Even though you consider it super duper extra "basic" knowledge, it's actually quite difficult generalist knowledge. Sure there is some almost-useless "trivia" questions to memorize, but still, you won't pass the test without serious study and cramming. Even having a few years as a bench tech won't help a terrible lot when you still need to prepare for the obscure trivia questions.

    Here is my point, if someone is a computer nerd, likes computers, likes working with them, wants to work with them in some capacity or another, just take the darn thing! It's not that terribly expensive and it will give you experience in technical test taking.

    I am a horrible test taker. I second guess myself constantly and am always freaking out about "trick" questions like the question is trying to confuse me or something. I actually failed part of my A+ when I first took it in like 2001. I didn't consider it "easy" by any stretch, even after cramming for weeks. Either I'm a bonehead, or I'm just that bad at test taking!

    My take is that A+ might be on the "low end" of the spectrum, but there is nothing whatsoever wrong with taking it. You'll have fun stuff to study if you like computers, you'll get one cert rolling, experience taking a test, and it doesn't cost much.

    I'm happy I have mine, the whole thing was a good experience and there wasn't anything else to help show knowledge for bench work (computer repair). So A+ might not be a true "IT" cert, certainly computer repair and bench work is often on the path to IT and is where a lot of people get their start. Heck, some even just stay there. The place where I got my first job in PC repair is still in business, a friend of mine, still fixing computers to this day.


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    @guyinpv said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    I don't disagree but I also don't think there is any reason to poopoo A+.

    Saying that it is not for the field and is for another isn't the same as poopooing it. I was pretty clear that it has value for people looking to work in bench. Nothing wrong with the bar exam, it's just not useful for someone looking to work in automotive engineering.


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    @guyinpv said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Even though you consider it super duper extra "basic" knowledge, it's actually quite difficult generalist knowledge. Sure there is some almost-useless "trivia" questions to memorize, but still, you won't pass the test without serious study and cramming. Even having a few years as a bench tech won't help a terrible lot when you still need to prepare for the obscure trivia questions.

    There are a few problems with this...

    First, it's very basic knowledge when it is useful and very highly specialized requiring memorization when it isn't. That's a bad combination. You spend all your time learning the useless stuff.

    Second, all of the testing is on things that you will be and SHOULD be looking up on Google. None of it adds to your knowledge in a useful way that you can use later. It's the kind of stuff you ideally will empty from your brain and look up to verify if you ever need it, having it fill your brain is just a waste of brain space. It's not that the info isn't useful ever, it's that when it is useful, you look it up. It's not stuff that's actually useful to have memorized because knowing it doesn't contribute to solving other problems. The person who memorizes this stuff has no advantage over the person who doesn't.

    Third, memorizing as a need on a test itself means that the test isn't important. The two can't really go together. It means it isn't testing your understanding, but rather things you memorized. That's not good in any setting.

    And the big one - the cost of lost opportunity. The A+ takes a lot of time and money due to the need for books and resources, the fact that you have to memorize things instead of knowing them, that you have to sit for two exams and so forth. All of that comes with a massive cost of lost opportunity. At the point in your career (basically... before it begins) when your time is the most important, this wastes it. Instead of memorizing useless facts you'll never have a reason to use in your field, you could be learning something actually important that will help you get and do your job in your career. If the A+ takes six months for someone to get, imagine what useful knowledge they didn't learn in that six months that they traded for memorizing connectors! The A+ is actually a big negative when compared to any reasonable alternative. And the A+ cert does nothing for improving your resume, but the time needed to get the A+ would normally allow you to get at least the Network+ and the Server+ or something similar. So not only do you end up with a cert that no one in IT cares about, but you lose the opportunity to have a few that they do care about.


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    @guyinpv said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    I am a horrible test taker. I second guess myself constantly and am always freaking out about "trick" questions like the question is trying to confuse me or something. I actually failed part of my A+ when I first took it in like 2001. I didn't consider it "easy" by any stretch, even after cramming for weeks. Either I'm a bonehead, or I'm just that bad at test taking!

    The material is easy, the test is not. Meaning.... it's about memorization. It tests your ability to memorize useless facts that you have never used and likely will never use. This is why it is so awful. It does more to test your testing aptitude and your ability to memorize and tells an employer literally nothing about your readiness to do any work or understand computers. It's a hard test while showing nothing. It even starts asking questions about electrical wiring!



  • Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.


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    @guyinpv said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    My take is that A+ might be on the "low end" of the spectrum, but there is nothing whatsoever wrong with taking it. You'll have fun stuff to study if you like computers, you'll get one cert rolling, experience taking a test, and it doesn't cost much.

    The A+ is not on the spectrum, that's the issue. It's not an IT exam at all. Not because of its level, IT doesn't have a "level", but because it's not IT material. If you enjoy computers, it probably isn't fun because it's so many questions (some of which that are wrong - making memorizing wrong answers even worse) about things that really aren't much to do with computers (cable adapters being a key factor.) Don't get distracted by the fact that it is entry level, that's fine. It's that it is entry level to the wrong field that makes it so worthless to people looking to go into IT.

    If you want to work bench jobs and work at a computer shop, repair computers and such, it's the ideal starter cert for that career. But that's not IT. There is no business application there. It's not a great test for bench because it is still memorizing things that even in bench almost never come up and tests almost nothing that does, and no test based on memorization is good, but at least it's the right area of study. But there is something very wrong with taking it - because every day, every dollar you spend on it, you didn't spend learning something actually useful that meets your goals.


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    @guyinpv said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    So A+ might not be a true "IT" cert, certainly computer repair and bench work is often on the path to IT and is where a lot of people get their start.

    I think thsi mostly happens because teachers or family mislead people and tell them that IT people fix computers (or progam, both are common misleading statements.) So people go there then realize that they want to be in IT or that there aren't many good bench jobs in their area. Bench is not really on the "path" to IT, though. If people study for bench and work in bench and then want to switch to IT, it might feel like it is on the path, but it is not. The same effort of studying and same time will lead someone directly into IT jobs instead. So, with rare exception, the A+ and its related bench careers are either a path until themselves, which is great for people interested in that, or a distraction to trying to get into IT.

    In many cases, getting an IT job after the A+ and bench work is actually harder than doing it immediately because it doesn't look great on resumes and having the skills later in life is less impressive than having them earlier. I think that you'll find that the A+, which I got as well, ends up on average holding people back not just at the beginning of their career but over the course of it as well.


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    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.

    It's not really skipping it any more than you likely skipped your automotive certification. It's not in the path between "interest" and the MCSE. And the Network+ didn't exist back then, so the MCP was the starter cert in that arena.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.

    It's not really skipping it any more than you likely skipped your automotive certification. It's not in the path between "interest" and the MCSE. And the Network+ didn't exist back then, so the MCP was the starter cert in that arena.

    Well the job I had at the time was hmmm... install/fix end user PCs, run cabling, move (but not program) phones. We did eventually take over image deployment with a Partition Magic for Win 3.1 and 9x machines.

    So, is that bench or IT?


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    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.

    It's not really skipping it any more than you likely skipped your automotive certification. It's not in the path between "interest" and the MCSE. And the Network+ didn't exist back then, so the MCP was the starter cert in that arena.

    Well the job I had at the time was hmmm... install/fix end user PCs, run cabling, move (but not program) phones. We did eventually take over image deployment with a Partition Magic for Win 3.1 and 9x machines.

    So, is that bench or IT?

    That's bench.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.

    It's not really skipping it any more than you likely skipped your automotive certification. It's not in the path between "interest" and the MCSE. And the Network+ didn't exist back then, so the MCP was the starter cert in that arena.

    Well the job I had at the time was hmmm... install/fix end user PCs, run cabling, move (but not program) phones. We did eventually take over image deployment with a Partition Magic for Win 3.1 and 9x machines.

    So, is that bench or IT?

    That's bench.

    This was my assumption.

    I definitely didn't to be in that department for long. At the company, the pay topped out at like $28K for a bench tech.

    Move to the LAN department (as it was called - the department that was responsible for the network switches/firewalls/servers) ranged from $40K - $130K. remember this is in NE, 15 years ago, and cost of living is still low compared to a lot of places, but apparently it's moderate compared to where Scott likes to live.


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    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    @dashrender said in Is the CompTIA A+ Certification Right for IT? SAMIT Video:

    Not on purpose or anything, but I skipped right over the A+ and studied for and passed the NT 4.0 MCSE as my first certifications.

    It's not really skipping it any more than you likely skipped your automotive certification. It's not in the path between "interest" and the MCSE. And the Network+ didn't exist back then, so the MCP was the starter cert in that arena.

    Well the job I had at the time was hmmm... install/fix end user PCs, run cabling, move (but not program) phones. We did eventually take over image deployment with a Partition Magic for Win 3.1 and 9x machines.

    So, is that bench or IT?

    That's bench.

    This was my assumption.

    I definitely didn't to be in that department for long. At the company, the pay topped out at like $28K for a bench tech.

    Move to the LAN department (as it was called - the department that was responsible for the network switches/firewalls/servers) ranged from $40K - $130K. remember this is in NE, 15 years ago, and cost of living is still low compared to a lot of places, but apparently it's moderate compared to where Scott likes to live.

    A lot of people do go to bench before going into IT. Too many, I think, that it starts to become an assumption.



  • I just wanted to say, that I have never taken the A+ test but I know the whole test and when I thought it through High School in the DR it was way back.



  • I did the A+ and it was instrumental in getting my helpdesk position. Not sure what that says about where I work at but at the time my job had just been ended and I needed something. I do think the A+ helps a lot if you do helpdesk though, you quickly analyze situations and know how to narrow things down quicker. However, as in Scott's certification video,I had a big thick book and really went over it in detail and took things about apart at home to see what the book was talking about each time. Took me about 6 months to do it but I was the only person at my company to pass it the first time they took it.



  • @scottalanmiller I believe this is the first time that I have commented on one of your posts. Love reading them. I do have to ask, what are you considering IT? I have been in the IT industry for nearly 20 years for several employers, very large and small. On the tech side of the IT department we have always had support techs doing "bench" work.

    The IT team is responsible for moving information, allowing users to interact with information, etc. PCs, servers, even printers/copiers are all vehicles for that information processing. Someone has to fix those broken vehicles, and it's always been my experience that it is a member of the IT team who can break a machine apart and put it back together in working order. No employer that I have worked for has taken a dead PC to Best Buy or called in Joe's PC Fix.

    In 2000 I took the A+ and passed. Did it help? Maybe as I have stayed on the tech/operations side of IT my whole career. I don't require it for my new hires and about agree with you that it is almost pointless. I do think it gives folks a building block of knowledge of how computers work as soon as you press the power button for troubleshooting steps (something almost lost in today's younger generation). If I see it on a resume I may set it in my "Take a second look" pile.


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    @sully93 I have a video from MangoCon 2016 where instead of talking about "what isn't IT" I talk about what it is. I have a recent SAMIT video on separating IT from SE. I'll do one soon on separating IT from Bench.



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