These computer hardware certifications are in demand in 2017. Find the most valuable certification for your career path on Tom's IT Pro.
The CompTIA A+ certification is the granddaddy and best-known of all hardware credentials. For anyone serious about working with PCs, laptops, mobile devices, printers or operating systems, the A+ should at least be on their radar if not in their game plan.
Since the first A+ credential was awarded in March 1993, the program has become one of the best-known and most recognized of all hardware credentials, and continues to draw lots of active interest and participation. With more than 1, 000,000 IT professionals possessing the A+ credential, it is something of a checkbox item for PC technicians and support professionals. It also appears in a great many job postings or advertisements.
A+ is also ISO 17024 compliant and accredited by ANSI. The credential must be renewed every three years in keeping with those organizations' requirements for continuing education or regular examinations to maintain certification currency. Twenty continuing education/ units (CEUs) are required for renewal.
Earning an A+ from CompTIA involves passing two exams: a fundamentals exam (220-901) and a practical application exam (220-902). Exam 220-901 focuses on hardware, networking and troubleshooting, and exam 220-902 draws upon knowledge of configuring common operating systems (Windows, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS), as well as issues related to cloud computing. Candidates will find a variety of question formats, including standard multiple-choice, drop-and-drag and performance-based questions.
Candidates who earn the A+ often find themselves in job roles that include technical support specialist, field service technician, IT support technician, IT support administrator or IT support specialist. The A+ is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense (as part of DoD Directive 8570.01-M), and technology companies such as Canon, Dell, HP and Intel make A+ certification mandatory for their own service technicians. Other certification programs, such as Cisco, incorporate A+ training into their training programs.
The A+ certification encompasses broad coverage of PC hardware and software, networking and security in its overall technical scope
ACMT: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician
Given the popularity of Apple products and platforms nowadays, and the use of Macintosh computers in homes and businesses of all scales, there's also demand for Mac-savvy technicians to support these systems.
The Apple Certified Macintosh Technician (ACMT) credential offers a gateway into a variety of Apple hardware-related certifications. Apple uses this curriculum internally to train its own in-house support technicians and Apple Store employees, and its authorized service and repair partners as well. The ACMT curriculum seeks to verify candidates' ability to conduct basic troubleshooting and repair on a variety of Apple platforms, including desktop and portable systems, such as iMac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
The two required exams focus on identifying and fixing common OS X problems and issues, and on using a variety of Apple Service and Support products and practices to diagnose and repair Apple hardware. ACMT certification verifies skills and knowledge that may be relevant to certain employers, such as Apple resellers or self-supporting operations such as school systems, colleges or universities.
The ACMT is a permanent credential and does not require annual recertification. However, as new products are added to the Apple portfolio, technicians may be required to obtain special training and pass exams on products that require special handling. For those products, passing the associated exams would be required to obtain service parts. Product specific exams ensure that Apple technicians maintain the high quality for which they're known.
Individuals who want to become certified to troubleshoot and repair Mac computers need to pass a different set of exams. Visit the ACMT 2016 page for all of the details.
In addition to the A+ certification, CompTIA also offers a server-related certification, which steps up from basic PC hardware, software and networking topics to the more demanding, powerful and expensive capabilities in the same vein usually associated with server systems.
The CompTIA Server+ credential goes beyond basic topics to include coverage of more advanced storage systems, IT environments, and disaster recovery and business continuity topics. It also puts strong emphasis on best practices and procedures for server problem diagnosis and troubleshooting. Although Server+ is vendor-neutral in coverage, organizations such as HP, Intel, Microsoft and Lenovo either require or recommend CompTIA Server+ for their own server technicians.
Those who work — or want to work — in server rooms or data centers, with and around servers on a regular basis, will find the Server+ credential worth studying for and earning. It can also be a stepping stone into vendor-specific server technician training programs at companies like those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, or with their authorized resellers and support partners.
Note that the CompTIA Server+ exam is still listed on that organization’s website as “good for life,” meaning it does not impose a renewal or continuing education requirement on its holders. The SK0-004 launched on July 31, 2015, so it should be available for at least another two years, if CompTIA’s revision history for Server+ is any guide to future updates and revisions.
CTT Routing & Switching: Cisco Certified Technician Routing & Switching
Cisco certifications are valued throughout the tech industry. The Cisco Certified Technician, or CCT, certification is an entry-level credential that demonstrates a person's ability to support and maintain Cisco networking devices at a customer site.
There are three CCT tracks: Routing & Switching, Data Center and TelePresense. The Routing & Switching credential best fits our list of best computer hardware certifications, and it serves as an essential foundation for supporting Cisco devices and systems in general.
The CCT requires passing a single exam. Topics includes identification of Cisco equipment and related hardware, such as switches and routers, general networking and service knowledge, working with the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) and describing Cisco IOS software operating modes. Candidates should also have working knowledge of Cisco command-line interface (CLI) commands for connecting to and remotely servicing Cisco products.
BICSI ITS Technician
BICSI is a professional association that supports the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, mainly in the areas of voice, data, audio and video, electronic safety and security, and project management. BICSI offers training, certification and education to its 23,000-plus members, many of which are designers, installers and technicians.
BICSI offers several certifications, aimed at ICT professionals, who mainly deal with cabling and related technologies. In this program, the BICSI Technician seems most pertinent.
The BICSI Technician certification recognizes individuals who lead an installation group or team, perform advanced testing and troubleshooting of cable installations, evaluate cabling requirements, recommend solutions based on standards and best practices, and roll out new and retrofit projects. Technicians must be well versed in both copper and fiber cabling.
Cablers need a good deal of knowledge about the hardware, networking devices and communications equipment to which they connect cables, so we thought this it would be a good addition to round out the article.
To earn the credential, candidates must pass a single two-part exam consisting of a hands-on practical and a written exam. In addition, candidates must possess at least two years of verifiable ICT industry installation experience within the past five years. Credentials are valid for three years. Certification holders must earn 18 hours of continuing education credits (CECs) in each three-year credentialing cycle and pay the then current renewal fees to maintain the credential.
Interested candidates should also check out other BICSI certifications, such as the Installer 1, Installer 2, Copper, and Installer 2, Optical Fiber. More advanced certifications include the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD), Outside Plant (OSP) Designer, Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC) and Registered Telecommunication Project Manager (RTPM).