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Best Help-Desk Certifications 2022

Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Dec 02, 2022
Mary Kyle
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Dec 02, 2022

Stand out as a help-desk professional and set up your IT career for success.

  • For many IT professional aspirants, technical support or help-desk positions remain a traditional entry point into the field. 
  • Help-desk certifications tend to focus on technical support skills and specific vendors or overarching help-desk functions and job roles. 
  • Valuable certifications include proprietary certs from companies like Apple and Microsoft and broader learning-path certifications from companies like CompTIA and ITIL. 
  • This article is for IT professionals interested in pursuing help-desk certifications to further their careers.

Technical support and help-desk positions are traditional entry points for IT professionals navigating their career paths. Earning a respected help-desk certification can help IT professionals stand out, validate valuable knowledge and skills, and demonstrate their willingness to learn to employers and hiring managers. 

Help-desk certifications tend to focus on two areas: overarching help-desk functions and job roles or technical support skills with an emphasis on specific vendor platforms or products.

We’ll highlight help-desk certifications that fit both categories while also considering employer preferences and specific in-demand career skills these certifications help verify. 

Did you know?Did you know?: Some organizations incorporate the best live chat apps into their help-desk offerings to quickly track and resolve issues.

Top help-desk certifications for IT professionals

Some organizations staff help-desk positions to meet support requirements for specific vendor products, platforms, and tools. Others want team members with an excellent general technical background and an understanding of IT operations, practices and procedures. 

Consider the following well-regarded help-desk certifications and determine which ones best suit your needs and career path. 

1. CompTIA A+2022

CompTIA A+ is an excellent entry-level certification for those entering the IT help-desk and hardware support professions. More than 1 million people have earned this credential, and its popularity with IT professionals and employers remains high. 

CompTIA A+ is one of CompTIA’s core credentials; it’s an ideal foundational certification for candidates pursuing a wide range of other IT certifications. (Visit CompTIA’s career path planning tool to see its versatility.) The A+ is well-known and respected in various IT circles; the Department of Defense recognizes it, and it’s a service technician requirement for many enterprise-level companies, including Dell, HP and Intel.

A+ credential holders are support technicians — either in-house or field techs — who can take on the following responsibilities:

  • Install, configure, and maintain PCs, laptops, printers and mobile devices.
  • Dig into PC and mobile operating systems to configure and troubleshoot those systems.
  • Perform basic networking tasks.

In April 2022, CompTIA launched a new CompTIA A+ credential (CompTIA A+ 2022). In this iteration, candidates can expect to find the following updates:

  • Greater emphasis on security
  • Increased reliance on software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for remote work, data management, and scripting 
  • Focus on a range of operating systems beyond Microsoft systems 

The new exam addresses nine core competencies:

  1. Harware. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses identifying, using and connecting hardware devices and components.
  2. Operating systems. CompTIA A+ 2022 focuses on installing and supporting Windows OS and system configuration and troubleshooting for macOS, Chrome OS, Linux and Android.
  3. Networking. CompTIA A+ 2022 explores networks and connection types like TCP/IP, Wi-Fi, and SOHO.
  4. Software troubleshooting. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses troubleshooting software for PCs, mobile devices and application security support.
  5. Troubleshooting. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses troubleshooting network and real-world device issues.
  6. Security. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses identifying and protecting against device and network security vulnerabilities.
  7. Mobile devices. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses installing and configuring mobile devices.
  8. Virtualization and cloud computing. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses virtualization and cloud computing elements, including setting up client-side virtualization and understanding different cloud computing concepts.
  9. Operation procedures. CompTIA A+ 2022 addresses demonstrating and following best practices for communication, safety, and environmental factors.

Two exams are still required to earn the credential:

  • Core 1 exam. The Core 1 (220-1101) exam focuses on cloud computing and virtualization, hardware, network technology and mobile devices. 
  • Core 2 exam. The Core 2 (220-1102) exam covers operating system installation and configuration, security, operational procedures and troubleshooting software.

The previous version of the A+ exam was launched in January 2019 and retired in October 2022. If you’re starting preparations for the CompTIA A+ exam, ensure you’re studying for the latest exam version.

Did you know?Did you know?: CompTIA certifications are part of a broader iterative roadmap. For example, A+ leads to CompTIA’s Network+ certification, which opens into a wider range of certifications for cybersecurity, administration and more.

CompTIA A+ facts and figures

Certification name

CompTIA A+ 2022

Prerequisites and required courses

CompTIA recommends 9 to 12 months of experience.

Number of exams

Two exams: CompTIA A+ Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102)

 

90 questions maximum per exam; includes multiple-choice, drag-and-drop and performance-based questions

Cost per exam

$246 per exam ($492 total)

URL

https://www.comptia.org/certifications/a

Self-study materials

Self-study materials are available on the CompTIA Marketplace. Materials include exam objectives, sample questions, study guides, and classroom and e-learning opportunities. Credential seekers may also want to check out the CertMaster online learning tool.

Also, the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide is available on Amazon.

TipTip: When you’re ready to move beyond fundamental networking tasks, consider additional certifications to advance your networking career and achieve titles like network specialist, network administrator or network technician.

2. Apple Certified Support Professional

If you’re a fan of MacBooks and all things Apple, the Apple Certified Support Professional certification is a must. Targeting IT professionals who support Macs, iPhones and iPads in business, this certification validates a candidate’s knowledge and the technical skills necessary to support these platforms and Mac products. 

To earn the certification, candidates must pass the Apple Device Support exam. While the exam has no prerequisites, Apple encourages all aspirants to view the free Apple Device Support tutorials. Additionally, Apple encourages people to have hands-on experience supporting Apple devices with at least 30 to 60 hours of preparation experience. 

The Apple Certified Support Professional is also an excellent starting certification for moving deeper into the Apple space, as it’s a prerequisite to earning the Apple Certified IT Professional certification. As Apple devices become more common in enterprise environments, demand for Apple knowledge may also increase. 

Apple certifications are increasingly popular, especially as Macs become more common in enterprise environments and companies switch from PC to Mac. Apple continues to demonstrate high-quality customer support by preparing in-house support professionals to help their organizations support Apple computers. 

Check out Apple’s Training and Certification page and select the certification of your choice for more info. 

Apple Certified Support Professional facts and figures

Certification name

Apple Certified Support Professional

Prerequisites and required courses

Apple recommends taking courses through its online training services and having hands-on experience with various Apple devices.

Number of exams

One exam: Apple Device Support Exam (9L0-3021-ENU)

The exam contains 105 technical questions to be answered in 120 minutes. The passing score is 80 percent. 

Pearson VUE administers the exam. Applicants must first sign into ACRS using their Apple ID and password.

Cost per exam

$149

URL

https://training.apple.com/it

Self-study materials

Apple offers an Apple device self-paced tutorial covering numerous exam objectives. Additionally, the Apple Device Support exam prep guide includes links to Apple documentation for all covered subject areas. 

TipTip: To further shore up your Apple device skills, consider pursuing the AppleCare Hardware Certification program, which is among the best computer hardware certifications around.

3. HDI-CSR: HDI Customer Service Representative

The HDI-CSR certification is designed for IT professionals in call or support centers. Candidates typically have the following talents: 

  • Excellent soft skills that facilitate effective communication and listening
  • Technical skills to assess customer needs
  • The ability to troubleshoot and quickly resolve issues
  • The ability to manage challenging customer interactions 

HDI highly recommends training for the HDI-CSR via an online course, virtual classroom or self-study. The training course contains four units that cover the topics below:

  • The IT professional’s role in the support center
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving and troubleshooting skills
  • Maximum effectiveness

To obtain the HDI-CSR, candidates must pass one exam that focuses on one of the following categories:

  • Leadership (10 percent)
  • Policy and strategy (10 percent)
  • People management (10 percent)
  • Resources (10 percent)
  • Process and procedures (55 percent)
  • Performance results (5 percent)

The HDI Learning Center administers the exam online, and it must be completed within six weeks of purchase.

Of all the help-desk certifications we’re highlighting, HDI’s offerings are probably the best-known and most respected of their kind in the industry. Anyone interested in career advancement in this fast-growing area of IT should dig into HDI’s certification credentials, especially at management levels. 

HDI offers a complete multi-tiered certification program that includes:

Other credentials of interest include:

HDI-CSR facts and figures

Certification name

 

HDI Customer Service Representative (HDI-CSR)

Prerequisites and required courses

There’s a recommended online course for $499.

Number of exams

One exam: 45 minutes and 35 multiple-choice questions, with a minimum passing score of 80 percent.

Cost per exam

The exam cost includes the course fee; each retake costs $99.

URL

https://www.thinkhdi.com/education/courses/hdi-customer-service-representative.aspx#DeliveryMethods

Self-study materials

HDI offers a self-study bundle that includes three exam attempts. 

Did you know?Did you know?: If you’re considering parlaying a technical position like a help-desk job into a career in IT management, it’s essential to work on your organizational, project management and people skills.

4. ITIL 4 Foundation

ITIL is an industry-accepted framework for managing IT service delivery. ITIL defines a service lifecycle model for processes and activities during the design, development, delivery, and support of IT services. Axelos, a U.K. 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 Managing Professional, Strategic Leader and Extension Module certifications. At the Foundation level, an individual understands key concepts, terminology, roles, and core processes involved throughout the ITIL service lifecycle. 

Although the ITIL Foundation training and examination syllabus specifically includes a service desk component, the entire ITIL Foundation certification lends itself well to the help-desk industry.

Candidates can take a three-day training course through an Accredited Training Organization (ATO) or Accredited Trainer (using the Axelos Find a Trainer web page) and take the exam at the end of the course. Alternatively, they can self-study for the exam and take it at an ITIL Examination Institute. 

ITIL Foundation facts and figures

Certification name

ITIL 4 Foundation Certification — IT Service Management

Prerequisites and required courses

While there are no prerequisites, training is highly recommended. Costs vary greatly depending on the manner of instruction and the training provider’s location. 

Number of exams

One exam: ITIL Foundation

The 60-minute exam contains 40 multiple-choice questions, with a minimum score of 65 percent required to pass.

Cost per exam

$495; PeopleCert provides online proctoring to take the exam. 

URL

https://www.axelos.com/certifications/itil-service-management/itil-4-foundation

Self-study materials

The training and examination syllabus and sample tests are available on the certification web page. Study guides and certification kits are available from Amazon.

For those who want to study on the go, Axelos has an ITIL Foundation mobile study app available.

TipTip: ITIL Foundation certification can also help you establish an enterprise IT architect career. ITIL certs are considered among the best enterprise architecture certifications to advance your IT career.

5. Microsoft 365: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate

Microsoft certifications now have a role-based approach. According to the Microsoft Training and Certification Guide, certs are available for five primary focus areas: Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365, Power Platform and Security. 

Our pick for the most helpful certification for help desk professionals is the Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate. The credential validates the following skills:

  • Deploying, installing and configuring the Windows operating system
  • Configuring and managing storage and connectivity for devices 
  • Maintaining the Windows operating system
  • Protecting any associated devices and all data within those devices
  • Establishing identity and access management 
  • Establishing and managing configuration profiles and compliance policies
  • Protecting, maintaining, and managing devices
  • Managing applications

To earn the credential, candidates must pass two exams:

  • Windows Client (Exam MD-100) 
  • Managing Modern Desktops (MD-101). 

Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate

Certification name

Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate

Prerequisites and required courses

Achieving the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals certification is recommended but not required.

Number of exams

Two exams:

  • Windows Client (Exam MD-100)
  • Managing Modern Desktops (Exam MD-101)

Cost per exam

$165 each ($330 total)

Pearson VUE administers the exams.

URL

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/modern-desktop/

Self-study materials

Links to free, self-paced training and fee-based instructor-led training, and on-demand learning are available on the certification web page.

Beyond the top 5 help desk certifications

In addition to the help-desk credentials we’ve highlighted, various outlets offer other tech support certification offerings. Here are some to consider:

  • Ed2Go. Ed2Go (part of Cengage Learning, a major publisher of community college textbooks) offers a certificate program called Help Desk Analyst: Tier 1 Support Specialist. The program is part of business, computer science and information technology curricula at community colleges, universities, four-year colleges and private higher-education companies that offer IT training programs.
  • RCCSP Professional Education Alliance. For help-desk professionals in leadership roles, RCCSP Professional Education Alliance offers the Help Desk Team Lead training and certification program. The two-day training program specifically targets professionals in leadership and management roles. Topics covered include escalation and conflict management, help-desk processes and best practices, people management, coaching, and quality assurance. 

In the help-desk certification arena, the more you look around — and the more specific a target you choose — the more options you’ll find. Outside the credentials we’ve highlighted, proceed with caution.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: The technology field changes rapidly. New certifications arise, and existing ones are retired frequently. When pursuing help-desk certifications or any of the best IT certifications, ensure they address technologies with long shelf lives that will continue to be in demand.

Choosing the right certification

Selecting the right help-desk certification often means deciding or determining the best technology to focus on. For example, professionals working in environments with heavy Apple or Microsoft usage will likely benefit from those proprietary training paths. In contrast, generalists can find valuable information from HDI, ITIL or CompTIA paths. 

Ultimately, help-desk professionals should remember that skills from any certification will be transferable across roles. 

Jeremy Bender contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.
Mary Kyle
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Self-motivated, results-oriented project management professional with successful track record in the areas of project and program management, leadership, customer relationships and negotiation with a reputation for meeting challenging organizational goals and objectives. Proven ability to build, motivate and lead collocated, virtual and international teams to achieve maximum productivity and exceed customer expectations. Highly effective communication, presentation, planning and coaching skills. Detail oriented with excellent organizational, problem solving and risk management skills.