I had asked this question when I started looking into IT certifications and my personal experience eventually aligned with the recommendations of other people.
If you have enough knowledge and experience AND don’t care about the ITF+, then start at A+ like I did and like most people do. I did eventually go back and get my ITF+ just to have it, but I didn’t need to start with it to prep for A+.
Your Knowledge and Expertise
If you’re familiar with computers because you use one every day, you need to reevaluate your skills. My first assumption was that anyone who uses a computer for work can probably pass the A+ with little effort. I was very wrong.
I spent about 2 months studying for the A+ because I needed to become familiar with the hardware components of the computers. I had a great deal of experience administrating my personal computers and even administering SOHO servers, but couldn’t find my way around a Motherboard until I spent time learning it.
Although the CompTIA A+ is considered the entry-level certification that employers seek, it does require that you have intimate knowledge and understanding of computer system hardware, operating systems, administration, and networking.
If you have practical experience with the concepts and technologies I listed previously, then you can probably start at the A+ like I did. With a bit of studying and sharpening your skills, you can get right into the A+.
Benefits of Starting with ITF+
Although ITF+ isn’t a baseline requirement for many entry-level positions, it’s a great introduction to the CompTIA examination process.
In all honesty, I wish I had started with the ITF+ instead of getting it after passing both A+ and Network+ when it didn’t seem necessary.
I wish I started with ITF+ because it covered many topics found on the A+ and Network+, albeit at a very shallow level. But even still, learning about the fundamentals and rudimentary level concepts is the best way to delve deeper into the specific technologies you’ll need to become familiar with later.
Cost and Time Commitment
There is a big difference in the amount of money and time you’ll spend for the ITF+ and A+ exams.
For a single exam voucher, the ITF+ costs $119.00 (circa 2019).
For a single exam voucher, the A+ costs $219.00 (circa 2019). However, you will need to pass 2 separate exams to earn the CompTIA A+ certification. That means the total cost for A+ exam vouchers is $438.00 (circa 2019).
If you’re paying out of pocket, that’s a fairly large investment in a certification you are not guaranteed to get. CompTIA does offer bundles where you can get a single free exam retake along with your primary voucher if you buy their study book or lab tests together.
So if you’re not sure whether an IT career is really something you want to pursue, study for and take the ITF+ exam first. It costs much less money upfront and is a great way to judge your expertise of basic computer technologies.
You might want to consider starting with the CompTIA ITF+ if any of the following apply to your situation:
- Not sure if you want to pursue an IT career.
- Worried about losing too much money by failing a test.
- Need to determine how much you really know about computers.
You can consider skipping the CompTIA ITF+ and go straight for the A+ like many professionals do if any of the following apply to your situation:
- Only want the Trifecta (A+, Network+, Security+) for career prospects.
- Have a more advanced understanding of computer systems than most average people.
- Confident about expertise and are currently pursuing an IT career.
Though I started with A+ and Network+ first, I’m glad I went back and earned my ITF+ afterward.
I wish I had started with ITF+, but it wasn’t necessary for me at the time with the expertise that I had.