These help desk certifications are in demand in 2017. Find the most valuable certification for your career path on Tom's IT Pro.
Technical support and help desk positions remain traditional points of entry into IT for many people nowadays. One way to make yourself stand out as a help desk professional is to validate your knowledge and skills through one of these leading help desk certifications.
Although training and credentials for help desk positions are available, a large number of candidates come into these jobs fresh out of school or from other fields without the benefits that help desk certifications can provide. Nevertheless, we're seeing increasing interest in these certifications, and an increasing tendency for high schools, community colleges and even some four-year institutions to include elements of help desk training in their curricula, where some also embed certificate or certification content or credentials in their programs outright.
When it comes to help desk positions, there are a small number of certificate and certification programs that focus more or less exclusively on the help desk function, and the various job roles it supports. A greater number of credentials that style themselves as verifying technical support skills are also available, where most such credentials focus on particular sets of vendor platforms and products.
HDI-TSP: HDI Technical Support Professional
HDI, a UBM Tech company, is one of those organizations whose original name ("Help Desk Institute," in this case) was rebranded to an abbreviation. The rebranding occurred in 2005 in recognition that its membership and focus had expanded beyond help desk organizations to include the greater service management and support center industry.
The HDI-TSP credential is designed for IT professionals who are one notch above the front line, handling help desk tickets that require level 2 or level 3 support to customers or other departments. The HDI-TSP credential validates skills necessary to provide quality support, including understanding and knowledge of common service center management processes, cloud services, remote management and ITIL processes. The credential also covers a variety of soft skills that are necessary to be successful in customer-facing roles, such as effective communication and customer management, identifying and resolving problems, listening skills and managing conflict.
Training for the HDI Technical Support Professional certification is highly recommended and offered in a variety of formats, including traditional classroom (referred to by HDI as a "public" course), virtual instructor-led and online self-paced. Onsite training can also be arranged through the HDI Customer Care Center (1-800-248-5667) upon request.
To obtain the HDI-TSP, candidates must pass a single exam, which focuses on leadership (10 percent), policy and strategy (5 percent), people management (10 percent), resources (20 percent), and process and procedures (50 percent). (The percentages total 95 percent, per the certification website.) The exam is administered online through the HDI Learning Center and must be completed within 12 weeks of purchase.
Of all the help desk certifications, HDI's offerings are probably the best known and most respected of their kind in the industry today. Anyone interested in career advancement in this fast-growing area of IT should dig into the HDI's certification credentials, especially at management levels.
With so much emphasis on BYOD (bring your own device) in corporate IT these days, and because many of those devices are Apple products, this might look like a great credential for aspiring IT professionals to chase down and catch.
The focus of the Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) credential, however, is OS X on Macs, not iOS on iPhone and iPad devices. (Some Apple Authorized Training Centers offer a course ̶ Managing Apple Devices: Deploying and Maintaining iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan Devices ̶ for professionals working with Apple devices.) Nevertheless, with Macs claiming a respectable mind and market share at work these days, the ACSP remains a worthwhile platform-oriented tech support certification.
The basis for this credential is the OS X Support Essentials exam, which covers the general functions of a particular OS X version, as well as installation, configuration, user account management, network configuration and services, and system management best practices and methods. To prepare for ACSP certification, Apple offers the El Capitan 101 OS X Support Essentials 10.11 course [PDF].
In addition to the ACSP, Apple offers a few additional OS X-related certifications, which include:
- Apple Certified Associate ̶ Mac Integration Basics 10.11 certification (one exam)
- Apple Certified Mac Technician (ACMT) Certification (two exams)
Apple certifications are increasingly popular, and Apple continues to show its customer support savvy by preparing in-house support professionals to help their organizations support Apple computers. Check out Apple's Training and Certification page and click the certification of your choice for more info.
ITIL, formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is an industry-accepted framework for managing IT service delivery. ITIL defines a service lifecycle model for processes and activities that take place during the design, development, delivery and support of IT services. AXELOS, a UK company, develops best practices, maintains ITIL and administers the ITIL certification program.
The ITIL Foundation is the entry-level certification in the ITIL "scheme," which also includes Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert and Master certifications. At the Foundation level, an individual understands the key concepts, terminology, roles and core processes involved throughout the ITIL service lifecycle. Although the ITIL Foundation training and examination syllabus include a service desk component specifically, the entire ITIL Foundation certification lends itself to the help desk industry.
Candidates can take a three-day training course through an Accredited Training Organization (ATO) or Accredited Trainer and then take the exam at the end of the course, or self-study for the exam and take it at an ITIL Examination Institute.
Windows 10 is Microsoft's newest operating system, which is why we chose to feature the MCSA: Windows 10 in this year's list of the top five help desk certs. As customers adopt and implement Microsoft's latest technologies, they need savvy technical gurus to assist when problems arise. The results of the informal job board search reveal an increasing demand for professionals with Windows 10 skills, and this demand is likely to expand in the future.
Candidates must pass two exams to achieve the MCSA: Windows 10 certification. Exam 70-698, Installing and Configuring Windows 10, covers Windows implementation, configuration, support for core services, management and maintenance. Exam 70-697, Configuring Windows Devices, dives into topics such as identity management, desktop and device deployment, networking and storage, data access, and managing apps. Candidates should also know how to plan and implement a Microsoft Intune device management solution.
The MCSA: Windows 10 is a solid certification on its own, but it also serves as a prerequisite for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications. Because MCSE certifications are among the most popular and sought-after in the world – by individuals and employers – earning the MCSA: Windows 10 can become a stepping stone to a great salary and a healthy job market.
More than 1 million IT professionals have earned the CompTIA A+ credential. The popularity of the credential with IT professionals and employers alike remains unquestioned. CompTIA A+ is an excellent entry-level certification for those entering the IT help desk and hardware support professions. In fact, it's the ideal foundational certification for candidates pursuing a wide variety of other IT certifications; see the CompTIA Career Roadmap to get an idea of the versatility of credentials offered. Both well-known and respected in various IT circles, the A+ is recognized by the Department of Defense (DoD) and is a service technician requirement for many enterprise-level companies, including Canon, Dell, HP and Intel.
A+ credential holders are technical support technicians, either in-house or field techs, who can install, configure and maintain PCs, laptops, printers and mobile devices, dig in to PC and mobile operating systems to configure and troubleshoot those systems, and perform basic networking. Candidates pursuing the A+ cert must pass two exams: one with a focus on PC hardware, networking and mobile devices, and another on operating systems (desktop and mobile), security and cloud computing.
The certification is typically valid for three years after launch; the latest exams were released on Dec. 15, 2015. Credential holders must obtain 20 continuing education units (CEUs) within the three-year period to recertify.