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Best IT Trainer Certifications for 2018

IT trainer certifications
Credit: William Potter/Shutterstock

If there's one real nonpareil area for IT certification it's got to be for certification training itself. Mind you, this area isn't for everyone: you've not only got to know your stuff cold and be willing to work long and hard hours to keep up with whatever certification programs you decide to cover. You've also got to be outgoing, a good speaker, well-organized, good with people and fast on your feet.

But with thousands of independent training centers in North America alone and jobs for the cream of the crop with certification sponsors themselves, there are lots of opportunities for people who possess these characteristics. In fact, certification sponsors usually have their own training departments, and they often develop their own curriculum and exams for certifications they sponsor, so training jobs can lead to follow-on roles with curriculum and course development, exam development and certification program work, as well as classroom, video or on-camera training roles.

Most vendors have specific requirements for people who want to teach their certification courses. At a minimum, would-be instructors must take the course and pass the exam for the topic they wish to teach, often with a higher score than those who merely wish to earn an associated certification. In many cases, instructors must also present or acquire "train the trainer" or "trainer training" credentials as well.

"Train the trainer" often refers to a specific course that's designed to teach instructors how to deliver specific courses, and to prep students for related exams. "Trainer training" credentials essentially seek to demonstrate or validate someone's classroom training skills, to ensure they meet standards for classroom content delivery, time, people management and so forth.

The certifications covered in this article fall under the heading of "trainer training" or "training certification," in the sense that these credentials seek to identify individuals who are capable of instructing IT certification candidates in a classroom situation (either in an actual classroom, or in a virtual classroom using web-based online conferencing or course delivery environments). In the 1980s and 1990s, as IT certification programs really started ramping up, most certification sponsors had their own customized train-the-trainer certifications (and some still do, as you'll see).

Salaries for IT trainers vary but are consistent across different certification sectors. Per SimplyHired, most IT trainers can expect to earn an average of $63,000. Of course, some senior IT trainer positions have the potential to earn much more, with top earnings reported upward of $103,000. Contract or freelance training professionals with name recognition and perhaps their own followings can expect to earn $1,000 a day and up for time spent teaching in the classroom or in a video studio.

Before moving on, look at our unofficial job board search for the top five certifications covered in this article to get an idea of which certifications are popular with employers.

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn Jobs

Linkup.com

Totals

ACT (Apple)

105

120

99

303

627

CCSI (Cisco)

30

31

5

12

78

CST (Scrum Alliance)

18

21

11

7

57

CTT+ (CompTIA)

28

31

11

10

80

MCT (Microsoft)

28

28

18

48

122

With the ongoing popularity of all things Apple, especially in corporations and enterprises all over the world, there's always been strong interest and participation in Apple's sizable and active certification program.

The Apple Certified Trainer, or ACT, is the person who delivers official Apple curriculum elements, both inside the company and at Apple Authorized training outlets. ACT credentials are available as follows:

  • Apple Creative Pro Applications: Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X
  • Apple Technical: iOS and macOS
  • iOS Deployment: iOS
  • iOS Development: Swift Programming and iOS SDK

As is typical for trainer credentials, the ACT seeks to identify individuals who can ensure proper quality, consistency and accessibility when delivering Apple training courseware and materials around the world. Upon attaining the ACT credential, ACTs are well prepared and able to deliver courses in either Apple Authorized Training Centers and/or the commercial realm.

Given that Apple classes include elements that involve lectures, demonstrations, hands-on exercises and courseware furnished by Apple or third-party subject matter experts, the courses are dynamic and quite interesting to teach as well as attend. General knowledge in Apple platforms and tools, both within and beyond individual course targets, is strongly recommended for all would-be ACTs, so they can serve their students well in and out of the classroom.

ACTs get a nice batch of perks with their certification, including special support access, instructor-only communications (including peer discussions, job listings, technical resources and more), and tuition and publication discounts.

Certification Name

Apple Certified Trainer (ACT)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Highly recommended:

  • Minimum one year training students in a structured classroom (group) setting
  • Deep understanding of training methods and classroom management techniques
  • Excellent presentation skills

Prerequisites:

  • Master the chosen Apple technology, such as macOS
  • Achieve end-user certification for the relevant product
  • Submit an ACT application
  • Demonstrate skills at a train-the-trainer (T3) event
  • Pass the T3 exam for chosen technology (if available)

Re-certification: Certification is valid for the life of the course

Number of Exams

Cost per Exam

URL

Self-Study Materials

Cisco offers training through its own training centers (mostly for training its own huge in-house staff) and through its network of Cisco Learning Partners (CLPs). Unless you work for Cisco (in which case you'll have access to internal resources about which we could learn very little in our research), you'll have to pursue Certified Cisco Systems Instructor (CCSI) certification through a CLP. The CLPs provide training, set fees and their own instructional requirements, and provide details about examinations and necessary demonstrations of teaching skills involved.

Earning and holding a CCSI is a lot like obtaining and maintaining an H-1B Visa for non-citizens who wish to work in the USA: it means developing and maintaining a good relationship with some CLP who will act as your sponsor, and who will work with you and Cisco to help you earn and maintain this certification. If you want to teach Cisco courses, this will be a necessary relationship to build and hold.

Once you earn the CCSI certification, Cisco expects you to teach at least four classes each year (or two classes per year for CCSIs in a developing country). Cisco monitors instructors every month, and sometimes sits in on a class to evaluate a CCSI's current skills and to ensure quality.

Certification Name

Certified Cisco Systems Instructor (CCSI)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Required:

  • Be a current employee of a Cisco Learning Partner (CLP) or be sponsored by a CLP
  • Select a baseline technology, take the course(s) and pass associated exam(s) (with an instructor-level score)
  • Pass the Instructor Certification Program (ICP) evaluation (a two-day event that evaluates presentation skills and hands-on skills)
  • Acknowledge the Cisco Certified Systems Instructor Agreement
  • Purchase a CCSI membership

Recertification required if credential holders are inactive for one year or after major updates are made to Cisco authorized courses

Number of Exams

Two or three exams depending on chosen baseline technology

ICP evaluation spans at least two days, which includes a hands-on lab exam

Cost per Exam

Cisco exams cost $300 each

ICP evaluation costs vary by partner; many sponsors permit successful candidates to work off the evaluation fees by teaching instead of requiring cash payment.

URL

https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/training-events/wwlpc/docs/ccsi_program_overview_guide.pdf

Self-Study Materials

Sponsors generally offer student and instructor manuals for ICP coverage. Many sources for books, Exam Crams, practice exams and so forth are available for Cisco certifications. Cisco offers an Instructor Certification Program Kit membership to prospective candidates for a nominal fee of $25. Membership is valid for four months while candidates prepare for the exam.

Scrum Alliance, Inc. is a membership organization that promotes the adoption of Scrum methodology and provides both education and a networking community to Scrum and Agile practitioners. The Alliance offers certifications for ScrumMaster, Scrum Product Owner, Scrum Coach, Agile Leadership and more.

New to our top five list of IT trainer certifications for 2018 is the Scrum Certified Trainer (CST), a person who is licensed to teach Scrum Alliance ScrumMaster and Product Owner courses.

To become a CST, candidates must go through a lengthy application process in which they prove their qualifications. As a foundation, they must have thorough knowledge of Scrum practices as well as hands-on experience implementing Scrum as a ScrumMaster, product owner or team member. That means they must hold the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) certification from Scrum Alliance or the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification if they want to teach CSPO courses. They must also prove they have taught Scrum in at least 10 multi-day ScrumMaster training sessions to at least 100 students total.

After a Trainer Approval Community (TAC) reviews and approves a CST application, the candidate is interviewed by a panel at a global Scrum gathering, a regional Scrum gathering or a Scrum Alliance-sponsored event. Approved CSTs must sign an agreement and pay an annual fee.

The CST certification is valid for one year. CSTs are expected to keep their skills current by attending trainer and coach retreats, conducting training events, joining discussion groups and the like.

Certification Name

Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Prerequisities:

  • Deep knowledge of Scrum concepts, practices and principles
  • An active Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) certification
  • An active Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) designation for those who wish to teach CSPO courses
  • Hands-on experience implementing Scrum as a ScrumMaster, product owner or team member
  • Experience teaching Scrum to at least 100 students during at least 10 multi-day ScrumMaster training sessions

Recertification: Annual recertification required

Number of Exams

None

Cost per Exam

$250 for CSP certification or $995 to $1,250 for CSPO course

$250 application fee and an annual fee as specified in the CST Agreement

URL

https://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/trainers/cst-certification

Self-Study Materials

None available, as far as we can determine

CompTIA acquired the Certified Technical Trainer credential in 2001 from The Chauncey Group, and that's still very much the arena in which this general-purpose technical training certification plays. The CTT+ is accepted as evidence of trainer training in many IT certification programs outside CompTIA, including Adobe, Dell, Microsoft, Verizon and Cisco. CTT+ certified professionals are also highly sought after and employed by the U.S. Department of State.

Today, earning a CTT+ requires passing two exams: a CTT+ Essentials exam, which covers basic instructional concepts and techniques, and either a Classroom Trainer (real-life instructor-led training) or a Virtual Classroom Trainer (online training, usually video-based) exam. These latter items require submission of a recording of the candidate teaching in the environment to which the specific exam applies (in the classroom for Classroom Trainer; online or via video-based instruction for Virtual Classroom Trainer) and completion of a detailed questionnaire about the content, focus and coverage of the materials for the recorded teaching encounter submitted for review. Candidates must also pass the computer-based CTT+ Essentials exam before they can submit the forms for the Trainer exam.

If you want to teach certification courses, the CTT+ is an excellent choice for helping to warrant your skills and abilities in the classroom.

Certification Name

CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Recommended: 6 to 12 months of training experience
Required: Video or recording of candidate's classroom or virtual classroom sessions for TK0-202 or TK0-203 exam

Number of Exams

Two exams:

  • CompTIA CTT+ Essentials, TK0-201 (95 questions, 90 minutes, passing score of 655 required) and
  • CompTIA CTT+ Classroom Performance Based Exam, TK0-202* or
  • CompTIA CTT+ Virtual Classroom Performance Based Exam, TK0-203*

*Submission of instructional recording required (must be 17 to 22 minutes in length); passing score of 36 required

Cost per Exam

CompTIA CTT+ Essentials, TK0-201: $294

CompTIA CTT+, TK0-202: $320
or
CompTIA CTT+, TK0-203: $320

Total: $614 for two exams

URL

https://certification.comptia.org/certifications/ctt

Self-Study Materials

The CompTIA IT training site offers several self-study materials including exam objectives and sample questions, as well as classroom and e-learning training opportunities. The Additional Resources section near the bottom of the CTT+ web page provides links to a comprehensive program overview, as well as preparation guides for both the Classroom Trainer and Virtual Classroom Trainer. Credential seekers may also want to check out the CertMaster online learning tool.

The Microsoft Certified Trainer program has been around since the inception of the Microsoft certification program in the early 1990s, and remains another traditional path that would-be Microsoft trainers take en route to obtaining official status as a certified instructor for Microsoft technical and certification classes.

The MCT comes with some sweet benefits to match its annual fee and recertification requirements. These include access to MCT Central, MCT preparation kits, Microsoft Download Center (comprehensive access), the Microsoft Learning Courseware Marketplace Library, support and much more. MCTs also qualify for early invitation to and special discounts on software, events, Microsoft Press Store books and publications of all kinds. MCT credential holders are also eligible for special offers, including $100 of monthly use of Azure Services through MCT Software and Services, discounts on Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams, free access to Microsoft Labs Online, one free Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exam annually, invitations to participate in beta exams and MCT exam discounts.

Requirements to enter the program are strenuous. In addition to completion of an application and payment of applicable fees, candidates must accept the terms of the MCT Program Guide and Agreement, provide proof of instructional skills and possess a qualifying Microsoft certification.

Certification Name

Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Required courses: None
Prerequisites: Hold a qualifying Microsoft certification, evidence of instructional skills (can be demonstrated by possessing one year of experience or holding an acceptable trainer certification; see MCT web page for list of acceptable trainer certs), at least one year of instructional experience

Application process: Complete the application, accept the current MCT Program Agreement and Program Guide, submit the MCT form, pay all applicable fees
Recertification: Annual recertification required

Number of Exams

None

Cost per Exam

No exam fees

Application fees: $1,000 (new membership), $800 (reinstate or renewal), $99 (alumni)
Application and fee must be submitted annually. 
Employees of Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions receive a 25 percent discount on fees; Microsoft Imagine Academy receive a 50 percent discount.

URL

www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mct-certification.aspx; see also MCT Program Guide

Self-Study Materials

None available

Deeper digging into many certification programs reveals a wider variety of instructor credentialing efforts. Citrix certifications have been around since the late 1990s, and Citrix has included the Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI) in its certification portfolio since the program kicked off in 1997 or thereabouts. The CCI was a top five featured certification in this article for several years. Although it's still a worthy credential, it didn't generate job board hits like the other featured certifications this year.

IBMMicro Focus (Novell), Network Instruments (NI) and the Certified Wireless Networking Professional (CWNP) program all also offer trainer certifications. The Certified Professional in Learning & Performance Certification (CPLP) by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) focuses on instructional design (ID), training delivery, coaching, learning technologies and the like.

Google for Education, aimed at K-12 schools, offers the Certified Trainer certification to teachers, technologists and consultants who incorporate technology into the classroom.

For those interested in certification and training, it's hard to get closer to the source than becoming a certified instructor, unless you go to work for the sponsor that designs and builds the content and exams that drive certification credentialing efforts.

Teaching others is a great way to stay on top of the learning curve for those with the necessary drive and skills, and the pay isn't bad either. And there are plenty of outside jobs in sponsor training organizations and at various training companies. Many IT professionals make good living working as contract instructors in their chosen subject fields. If you love teaching and IT, it's a great area to be in.