CompTIA's CTT+, Microsoft's MCT and the Wonderful World of IT Training Credentials
Have you ever considered teaching?
By and large, one doesn't enter an IT career thinking about teaching. There are the chosen brave ones, certainly, but generally speaking, entering IT means you want to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
But maybe then you realize that loving to learn about IT and master technical skills doesn't mean you love the grind of hacking together new software or running a dev team. Perhaps you've found yourself missing the thrill of obtaining new certifications as you log into you server management tool, or maybe between the 245,786th and 245, 787th lines of code in your C# project you had a sudden urge to learn something truly new for the first time in a long time. When that happened, did you consider teaching?
Every big company needs a tech instructor, even if they don't know it. A qualified, intelligent and certified tech instructor can keep the rank-and-file of the IT teams knowledgeable and up-to-date. Loyal employees are kept valuable and stimulated, short-timers can work free of worry knowing that they're keeping their employability relevant. The company as a whole runs cleaner and more efficiently.
In many cases, instructors are hired organically. Maybe it's a team lead who does a lot of the instruction anyway, and it's decided to let that person devote all of his (or her) time to learning and teaching. If you've decided instruction is the route you want to take, then you can definitely get an edge by certifying your instruction skills. As always, certifications should be investigated thoroughly for relevance, respectability, and breadth before diving in — but as long as you're here anyway, let's take a look at four big ones.
We'll lead off with the CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer+, or CTT+. Always good for a vendor-neutral cert, CompTIA has made the CTT+ awesome for the renaissance learner who either hasn't decided definitively which field to dive into, or who wants to maintain flexibility. While tech training may not have the biggest selection of certifications, the CTT+ will still hold weight with employers looking for solid trainers (CompTIA boasts that it's recommended by Dell, Microsoft, Novell, Ricoh and IBM).
To get the certification, applicants must pass the CompTIA CTT+ Essentials exam with a minimum score of 655 and the Classroom or Virtual Classroom Trainer with a minimum score of 36, and they recommend 6 to 12 months of training experience. Altogether, it will cost about $550.
After that, you have the two big commercial certifications: Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and the Apple Certified Trainer (ACT). These certs may not hold quite as much raw power as the CTT+, but they've still got plenty of clout both inside and outside the specific vendors (this is especially true of the MCT). These certs might be better piggybacking on the CTT+, demonstrating that you've been furthering your understanding of the specific products in question.
The ACT certification has two versions, creative and IT. To earn the IT ACT, you must have three years' experience either teaching or working in IT, including one year of experience working with the OS X and one year teaching in a structured classroom environment. You also need to have earned the end user certifications for the relevant products, and you must demonstrate teaching skills at a T3 course. For anyone interested specifically in the OS X Server Essentials course, you must first certify in the OS X Support Essentials course. The cost depends on the specific course you're applying to teach.
The MCT is almost more like an exclusive club than anything else — it needs to be renewed yearly but comes with a big set of Microsoft-related perks, including access to the online MCT community. It also doesn't have an exam; rather, there's a list of accepted certifications and qualifications (one of which is the CCT+). If you meet the qualifications, you apply, pay the fee, and you're in. Initial cost is a cool grand, but after this there's a steep discount for renewals.
Finally, no certification list can really be complete without a Cisco entry, and this one is no exception: the CCSI. This cert requires applicants to have already completed a CCNA certification before starting in on the two-day exam to become a CCSI.
Ultimately, you'll probably be able to find a training certification that applies no matter what field you're planning on going into. If you have the background and really want to teach, push out and look for opportunities. Chances are, you're the training asset your IT group never knew it needed.