How Do I Get an IT Certification?

by Debra B. McCraw | Jun 05, 2019
An IT pro sits in front of a laptop and things about how to get an IT certification

You’ve soul searched to determine the next move for your career, and you’ve decided it’s time to get certified. Maybe you’ve even picked out which IT certification to get. But the big question now is, “How do I get an IT certification?” Lucky for you, we’re here to help. Follow these steps to prepare for your IT certification exam and get certified to show employers you have the skills they’re looking for.

1. Find Out What’s on the IT Certification

The best way to set yourself up for success is to know what you’re getting into. If you haven’t already, be sure to download the exam objectives (they’re free!) to get a sense of what topics are covered and thus, what you need to study. You can also learn about the exam topics on the IT certification’s webpage or in the course overview of the Official CompTIA Study Guide.

2. Figure Out What You Know … and What You Don’t

As you’re reviewing these materials, figure out what you know and what you don’t. And be honest with yourself – it’s ok if you don’t know things! That’s why you’re studying. Read through each piece, and if there’s a term you don’t understand or a topic you’re only slightly familiar with (or completely unfamiliar with), highlight it so you can focus on what you need the most work on. You shouldn’t ignore the pieces you already know, but studying those will be more review and reinforcement than learning from scratch. Once you feel like you know the material and you’re ready to move from learning to exam prep, CompTIA CertMaster Practice can help make your studying more efficient.

3. Learn from the Experience of Others

Head to the internet to get tips and tricks from people who have that IT certification. LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube, for example, are filled with posts about how to pass IT certifications. Do a quick search for your certification’s name to see what’s out there. Just be careful that the content you’re finding doesn’t cross the line – CompTIA takes cheating very seriously, and you don’t want to find yourself in trouble before you even enter the exam room. If you encounter brain dumps or other unethical knowledge sharing, just say no. You can also anonymously report anything you find so we can shut it down.

4. Make a Plan

Before you dive into studying, make a plan to keep yourself on track. In addition to knowing what you need to study, you’ll also want to ask yourself questions like:

  • How much time do I need to prepare?
  • How many hours can I dedicate each week to my IT training?
  • How do I learn best?

5. Choose Your Study Tools

Some people prefer self-study while others like the guidance of an instructor. You can self-study with books, eLearning and online resources, take an IT training course, or do a combination of both. IT training courses range widely in price, timing and schedule, so look around to see what you can find. Nonprofits, like Creating IT Futures, even offer free IT training. When it comes to self-study CompTIA CertMaster offers products for every stage of the IT training journey – from learning to hands-on practice to exam prep.

6. Register for Your Exam

To hold yourself accountable, buy an exam voucher and schedule your exam before you begin preparing. Then you are less likely to put it off and more likely to get certified in a timely manner! Knowing your exam date early will help you fine-tune your study plan as well. We put this at Step 6 because if you decide to take an IT training course, your voucher may be included, and you may even take the exam as part of the class. If you’re buying the voucher and scheduling the exam on your own, there are a number of ways to save money on your IT certification, including buying a bundle, which includes training materials, an exam voucher and a retake voucher in case you need a second try.

7. Study … and Stay on Track

You know what you need to focus on. You have a plan. You’ve booked a date. Now it’s time to dive in and study for your IT certification. Enlist friends and family to help hold you accountable – share your study plan with them and let them know that your focus needs to be 100% on your studies during your scheduled study hours. If you miss a study session, don’t beat yourself up about it – it happens. If you need to, adjust your study plan and get back on that horse to keep moving forward.

8. Test with Confidence and Get Your IT Certification

This is the last and most important step. Make sure that you are getting yourself in the right shape mentally and physically to have a great test day – get enough sleep, give yourself enough time to get to the testing center and resist the urge to cram at the last minute. If you’ve put in the time and preparation, be confident in the fact that you know your stuff. Taking a high-stakes certification exam isn’t easy, so be proud of the work you’ve put in and know that you did your best. If you don’t end up passing on the first try, shake it off, figure out where things went wrong and try again.

Ready to get started? Download the exam objectives for your CompTIA IT certification.


  • Lunga

    Sunday, June 9, 2019

    How long does it take to have iT Certificate

  • Monday, June 10, 2019

    Hi, Lunga! Thanks for your question. It varies based on your previous experience, how you study, how you retain information and how you feel about taking tests. Most people need several months to study, but there are people who can pass it after just a week or two. Once you evaluate what you know and what you need to work on, you'll have a better idea of how long you might need to prepare. Good luck!

  • olat

    Tuesday, June 11, 2019

    My struggle as an Information Systems student is what certification to pursue in the face of myriads of certifications. AWS, AZURE, Sales Point, SAP HANA, CompTIA etc. As you can see, my interests are diverse yet I want to get into the workforce before graduation and do not know what the first step (certification) should be. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Poornima Thakkar

    Tuesday, June 11, 2019

    Exactly right. I started learning IT course,really want to get my CompTIA A+. Studied so hard, knew all the answers still failed because of stress took with me to the testing center. Preaparing for retake.

  • Saiken

    Saturday, June 15, 2019

    I think you forgot to talk about the cost of the test themselves. Which is a big deal for those of us who are low income. These certification test are expensive and even more so if you fail a part and have to take it over again.

  • Monday, June 17, 2019

    Hi, Saiken! Thanks for your comment. We do understand that getting certified is an investment, and we link to our other article about how to save money on your certs: Good luck!

  • Stephen Kearns

    Thursday, June 20, 2019

    I have very little experience with computers. I thought the Comptia a+ certification would be a solid start. I'm 57 years old and want to change careers. I need advice because this is very scary to me. Thanks

  • Friday, June 21, 2019

    Hi, Stephen! Thanks for your comment, and congrats on your decision to change careers to IT! It can certainly be intimidating, but it's possible! You can do it. CompTIA A+ is a great way to validate your skills and show employers that you are up to date in your IT knowledge. Check out this article about changing careers at any age - I think it will inspire you: Good luck!

  • Andreea Turner

    Tuesday, July 2, 2019

    I don’t think you should be dismissive with those bringing up the cost of these certifications. The costs are a true barrier from obtaining them. A career in IT can make one financially independent and secure, but poverty is the toughest cycle to break. Why don’t you work harder to have public and private grants available to cover the costs of these certs, or maybe even run a huge discount on them from time-to-time. Often times, one certification is not enough. One needs at least an A+, Network+, Security+ to be considered for an entry type position. That runs in the thousands with the training materials.

  • Tuesday, July 2, 2019

    Hi, Andrea! Thanks for your comment. CompTIA does understand that certifications are expensive and an investment and can be a barrier to people living in poverty. We want people to use certifications to lift themselves out of poverty and earn a sustainable wage. That's why CompTIA's charity, Creating IT Futures, among many other nonprofits and workforce boards, offer numerous ways for people who are unemployed, underemployed and living in poverty to get the skills and certifications they need to get into IT at low or no cost. Many of these programs also offer job placement and support programs to help candidates land great jobs and keep them. You can read more on our Creating IT Futures website:

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