Becoming a computer technician is a great point of entry into the IT field, and computer hardware certifications will help demonstrate your knowledge and competency in maintaining computers, mobile devices, printers and more. These top 5 computer hardware certs can help you get your IT career off the ground.
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 over 1, 000,000 IT professionals possessing the A+ credential, it is something of a checkbox item for PC technicians and support professionals, and is mentioned in a great many job postings or advertisements for such position, as you can see in Table 1.
A+ is also accredited by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and 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: one called the fundamentals exam (220-801), and the other the practical application exam (220-802).
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 8570.1), and technology companies like 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
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.
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 that include HP, Intel 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.
Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) Routing & Switching
Cisco certifications are valued throughout the tech industry, so it's no surprise that one of its hardware certifications made our list. 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 certs, 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+ 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.