Becoming a computer technician is a great point of entry into the IT field. In addition, computer hardware certifications can help demonstrate your knowledge and competency in maintaining computers, mobile devices, printers and more. Below, you’ll find our pick of six computer hardware certifications to help you get your IT career off the ground.
Although we cover our favorite hardware certifications here, the idea that hardware can operate independently of software (or vice versa) isn’t true. If you dig into the curriculum for any specific hardware-related certs in any depth, you’ll quickly realize that software is in control of hardware.
Software comes into play for installation, configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting and just about any other activity you can undertake with hardware. The hardware label simply indicates that devices are involved, not that hardware is all that’s involved.
Job board search results (in alphabetical order, by certification)
|BICSI Technician (BICSI)||384||657||30||92||1,163|
Differing factors, such as specific job role, locality and experience level, may impact salary potential. In general, hardware professionals can expect to earn somewhere in the mid-$60,000s. SimplyHired reports average earnings at $71,946 for IT technicians, with highs reported at almost $116,000. The average national salary for computer hardware technicians ranges from about $31,000 to more than $53,000. However, some certifications command higher salaries. Certification Magazine’s “Annual Salary Survey” (Salary Survey 2018) average salaries for CompTIA Server+ at $98,060 and the A+ credential at $97,730.
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 continues to draw active interest and participation. With more than 1 million IT professionals now 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. Thus this credential must be renewed every three years in keeping with concomitant requirements for continuing education or regular examinations to maintain certification currency. Some 20 continuing education units (CEUs) are required for renewal.
Earning an A+ from CompTIA involves passing two exams: 220-901 and 220-902. Exam 220-901 focuses on hardware, networking, mobile devices, connectivity and troubleshooting. Exam 220-902 draws on knowledge of installing and configuring common operating systems (Windows, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS). It also covers issues related to cloud computing, security and operational procedures. Candidates will find a variety of question formats, including standard multiple-choice, drag-and-drop and performance-based questions on these exams.
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 (in DoD Directive 8140/8570.01-M). Also, technology companies, such as Ricoh, Nissan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dell, HP and Intel, require staff to earn the A+ certification to fill certain positions.
The A+ certification encompasses broad coverage of PC hardware and software, networking and security in its overall technical scope.
A+ Facts and Figures
|Certification name||CompTIA A+|
|Prerequisites & required courses||9-12 months of experience recommended|
|Number of exams||Two exams (maximum of 90 questions, 90 minutes): 220-901 and 220-902 (CompTIA Academy Partners use the same numbers)|
|Cost per exam||$211 per exam. Exams administered by Pearson VUE. Exam vouchers available at CompTIA|
CompTIA offers several self-study materials, including exam objectives, sample questions and study guides ($178 for the eBook $198 for the print edition), as well as classroom and e-learning training opportunities. Credential seekers may also want to check out the CertMaster online learning tool. Links to CompTIA training materials may be found on the certification webpage.
ACMT: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician
Given the popularity of Apple products and platforms, and widespread use of Macintosh computers in homes and businesses of all sizes, there’s demand galore for Mac-savvy technicians.
The AppleCare Mac Technician (ACMT) 2018 credential is Apple’s latest hardware-related ACMT certification. (The credential was formerly called the Apple Certified Macintosh Technician or Apple Certified Mac Technician.) Per Apple, the ACMT 2018 “qualifies a technician to repair all the Mac products that were covered by prior ACMT certifications, plus all other Mac products that were produced before April 2018.” Technicians with the ACMT certification who work at an Apple-authorized service facility are allowed to perform service and repairs.
The ACMT’s two required exams are the Apple Service Fundamentals and the ACMT 2018 Mac Service Certification. Service Fundamentals focuses on customer experience skills, ESD and safety, troubleshooting and deductive reasoning, and product knowledge. The Mac Service exam covers troubleshooting and repair of Mac hardware (mainly Apple iMac and MacBook Pro systems). Note that the Apple Service Fundamentals exam is also required for the Apple Certified iOS Technician (ACiT) 2018 certification.
The ACMT 2018 is a permanent credential and does not require annual recertification. However, as new products are added to the Apple portfolio, AppleCare will make associated courses available through Apple Technical Learning Administration System (ATLAS). You must complete these courses to service new products.
ACMT Facts and Figures
|Certification name||AppleCare Mac Technician (ACMT) 2017|
|Prerequisites & required courses||AppleCare Technician Training recommended|
|Number of exams||Two exams (must be taken in this order):
Apple Service Fundamentals exam (SCV-17A) OR Apple Service
Fundamentals exam (SVC-18A)
ACMT 2018 Mac Service Certification exam (MAC-18A) Each exam: 70 questions, 2 hours, 80 percent passing score
Tests administered by Pearson VUE; Apple Tech ID number required
|Cost per exam||TBD|
|Self-study materials||Self-paced training: Apple Technical Learning Administration System (ATLAS)
Instructor-led training courses: LearnQuest
BICSI Technician and Registered Communications Distribution Designer
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 who are designers, installers and technicians.
BICSI offers several certifications aimed at ICT professionals, who mainly deal with cabling and related technologies. Two credentials, the BICSI Technician and the BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) are pertinent (and popular) in this story.
The BICSI Technician 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.
Candidates need a good deal of knowledge about the hardware, networking devices and communications equipment to which they connect cables.
To earn the credential, candidates must pass a single two-part exam consisting of a hands-on practical evaluation and a written exam. In addition, candidates must possess at least three 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 current renewal fees to maintain this credential.
Interested candidates should also check out other BICSI certifications, such as the Installer 1 (INST1), Installer 2 Copper (INSTC) and Installer 2 Optical Fiber (INSTF).
An advanced credential, the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) is so well respected that the Department of Defense Unified Facilities requires RCDD for all telecom-related design projects. The RCDD is geared toward experienced ICT practitioners with at least five years of ICT design experience. Alternatively, candidates who do not have the requisite experience but who possess at least two years of design experience plus three years of knowledge “equivalents” (combination of approved education, certifications or education), may also sit for the exam. All experience must have been within the preceding 10 years.
RCDD candidates should be able to create and prepare system design specifications and plans, as well as recommended best practices for security design requirements, for business automation systems. RCDDs are also well versed in data center, cabling systems and design for wireless, network, and electronic security systems.
To earn the credential, candidates must meet the experience requirements, submit the application plus credentialing fees, along with a current resume. In addition, candidates must submit four letters of reference two of which much be from current or former clients. One reference may be personal while the remaining references must come from the candidate’s employer.
Other advanced BICSI certifications include the Outside Plant (OSP) Designer, Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC) and Registered Telecommunication Project Manager (RTPM).
BICSI Technician Facts and Figures
|Certification name||BICSI Technician|
|Prerequisites & required courses||Three or more years of verifiable ICT industry installation experience (must be within past five years to qualify)
Adhere to the BICSI Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
Physical requirements: Distinguish between colors, stand for extended periods, lift and carry up to 50 pounds, climb ladders, and possess manual dexterity necessary to perform fine motor tasks
Technician Exam prereqs: Both the Installer 2, Copper and Installer 2, Optical Fiber credentials OR the Installer 2 credential
Note: There are no additional credentials required for candidates attempting the Technician Skip-Level exam.
50 hours review of BICSI Information Technology Systems Installation Methods Manual (ITSIMM)
|Number of exams||One two-part exam, including written exam (140 multiple-choice questions*) and hands-on, performance-based exam (hands-on performance exam delivered last day of TE350 course; written exam administered the day after the completion of the TE350 course)
*If the candidate doesn’t have both the Copper and Optical Fiber Installer 2 credentials or an Installer 2 credential, the written Skip Level exam will have 170 questions.
|Cost per exam||$295 (non-refundable application fee must be received by BICSI 15 days prior to exam; retake fee of $130 applies)|
|Self-study materials||Information Technology System Installation Methods Manual, 7th edition electronic download, $220 member/$240 non-member; print and download combo, $260 member/$290 non-member; printed manual, $220 member/$240 non-member, Web-based training through BICSI CONNECT|
BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) Facts and Figures
|Certification name||BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD)|
|Prerequisites & required courses|
Five or more years of verifiable ICT industry design experience (must be within past 10 years to qualify)
Two or more years of verifiable ICT design experience (must be within the past ten years) plus three additional years of ICT equivalents from approved education, experience, or ICT licenses or certification (CCNA, for example)
Adhere to the BICSI Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
DD101: Foundations of Telecommunications Distribution Design ($1,030) (BICSI CONNECT online course)
DD102: Designing Telecommunications Distribution Systems ($2,815)
125-150 hours of TDMM study
TDMM flash cards ($275)
RCDD Test Preparation Course ($925) (BICSI CONNECT online course)
|Number of exams||One exam (100 questions, 2.5 hours)|
|Cost per exam||$495 BICSI member/$725 non-member application fee, (non-refundable application fee must be received by BICSI 15 days prior to exam; retake fee of $225 BISCI member/$340 non-member)|
Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual, 13th edition (TDMM) electronic download ($310 member/$380 non-member; print and download combo, $350 member/$435 non-member; printed manual, $310 member/$380 non-member)
Web-based training through BICSI CONNECT
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.
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 include 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 a working knowledge of Cisco command-line interface (CLI) commands for connecting to and remotely servicing Cisco products.
CCT Routing & Switching Facts and Figures
|Certification name||Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) Routing & Switching|
|Prerequisites & required courses|
Recommended training: Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH) ($299)
|Number of exams||One: 640-692 RSTECH (60-70 questions, 90 minutes)|
|Cost per exam|
Exam administered by Pearson VUE.
|Self-study materials||Cisco Study Material page provides links to the course, study groups, exam tutorials, and other related content, including exam syllabus, training videos and seminars.|
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, virtualization, and disaster recovery and business continuity topics. It also puts a strong emphasis on best practices and procedures for server problem diagnosis and troubleshooting. Although Server+ is vendor-neutral in coverage, organizations such as HP, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Xerox, Lenovo and HP use Server+ credentialed 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 steppingstone into vendor-specific server technician training programs at such companies as those mentioned above, 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. Typically, exams are available for at least two years. If CompTIA’s revision history for Server+ is any guide to future updates and revisions, then it’s likely that we’ll see a new exam making an appearance sometime before the end of 2019.
Server+ Facts and Figures
|Certification name||CompTIA Server+|
|Prerequisites & required courses||No prerequisites
Recommended experience includes CompTIA A+ certification plus a minimum of 18-24 months IT-related experience
|Number of exams||One: SK0-004 (100 questions, 90 minutes, 750 out of 900 passing score)|
|Cost per exam||$302. Exam administered by Pearson VUE. Exam vouchers available at CompTIA.|
CompTIA offers a number of self-study materials, including exam objectives, its CertMaster online study tool, sample questions, books and more. Formal training courses are also offered. Links to CompTIA training courses may be found on the certification web page. Additional resources may also be found at the CompTIA Marketplace.
Beyond the Top 5: More hardware certifications
There are many more hardware-oriented certifications available that you might want to consider. As you get into IT and start to develop a sense of your own interests and observe the hardware systems and solutions around, you’ll be able to dig deeper into this arena.
You can investigate all the major system vendors (including HP, Dell, IBM, and other PC and server makers) as well as networking and infrastructures companies (such as Juniper and Fortinet) to find hardware-related training and certification to occupy you throughout a long and successful career.
Although ExpertRating offers many credentials, we rejected them after viewing several complaints regarding the general quality of the courses. Obviously, such complaints are from disgruntled customers but were enough to make us proceed with caution.
This is also an area where constant change in tools and technology is the norm. That means a course of lifelong learning will be essential to help you stay current on what’s in your working world today and likely to show up on the job soon.