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Best IT Trainer Certifications for 2019

Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros, Contributing Writers

If there's one real nonpareil area for IT certification it's got to be for certification training itself. This area isn't for everyone, though: 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 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 $66,202. Of course, some senior IT trainer positions have the potential to earn much more, with top earnings reported upward of $104,791. 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.

Job Board Search Results (in alphabetical order by certification)




LinkedIn Jobs


ACT (Apple)






CCSI (Cisco)






CST (Scrum Alliance)






CTT+ (CompTIA)






MCT (Microsoft)







ACT: Apple Certified Trainer

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

An Apple Certified Trainer, or ACT, is a 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 Professional Post-Production, Logic Pro X Professional Music Production
  • Apple Technical: iOS and macOS
  • iOS Deployment: iOS and iOS in Education
  • iOS Development: Swift Programming and iOS SDK
  • Service Fundamentals: ACMT and ACiT
  • iOS Security: iOS Security and Privacy
  • iOS Network: iOS Network Integration

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.

ACT Facts and Figures

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

Experienced with Apple technologies and applications

For creative track only, at least three years' experience as an editor, sound designer, DVD author, photographer, or visual-effects artist (experience as teacher may be considered to fulfil the requirement)


Master the chosen Apple technology, such as macOS

Achieve end-user certification for the relevant product

Submit a LearnQuest Instructor 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

Two exams; the end-user certification exam for the chosen technology and the T3 exam

Cost per Exam

$200 per Apple end-user certification exam
T3 events include workshops and multi-day classroom sessions; prices vary depending on course, complexity, region, and duration; for example, a two-day workshop may cost $1,050 whereas a five-day course may cost $3,000

For courses that have trainer exams, exam cost is included in T3 costs

For the courses that have product-level exams, exams are $250; candidates are highly encouraged to attend product-level courses but are not strictly required


ACT training and certification information currently available through LearnQuest:

Self-Study Materials

None available, as far as we can tell


CCSI: Certified Cisco Systems Instructor

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.

CCSI Facts and Figures

Certification Name

Certified Cisco Systems Instructor (CCSI)

Prerequisites & Required Courses


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.


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.


CST: Certified Scrum Trainer

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 Developer, Scrum Coach (Team Coach, Enterprise Coach, and Trainer), and Agile Leadership.

The Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) joined our list of the top five IT trainer certifications in 2018. The CST is an "elevated" or "guide" level cert and reserved for persons who are licensed to teach Scrum Alliance ScrumMaster and Product Owner courses.

To become a CST, candidates must go through a lengthy application process to prove their qualifications. As a foundation, they must have thorough knowledge of Scrum practices plus 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, a 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.

CST Facts and Figures

Certification Name

Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)

Prerequisites & Required Courses


Deep knowledge of Scrum concepts, practices and principles

An active Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster™ (CSP-SM) or Certified Scrum Professional Product Owner (CSP-PO) 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


Cost per Exam

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

Candidates can expect to pay $3,199 to $3,499 for CSP-SM and CSP-PO training courses. Both the CSP-SM and CSP-PO require additional prerequisite certifications.


Self-Study Materials

None available, as far as we can tell


CTT+: CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer

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, IBM, Ricoh 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.

CTT+ Certification Facts and Figures

Certification Name

CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Recommended: six 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) PLUS

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 (on a scale of 48) required

Cost per Exam

CompTIA CTT+ Essentials, TK0-201: $319

CompTIA CTT+, TK0-202 and CompTIA CTT+, TK0-203: $339 each
 Total: $658 for two exams


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.


MCT: Microsoft Certified Trainer

The Microsoft Certified Trainer program has been around since the inception of the Microsoft certification program in the early 1990s. It remains a traditional path for would-be Microsoft trainers when 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 Learning Download Center (comprehensive access), the Microsoft Learning Courseware Marketplace Library (including access to Microsoft Official Courseware {MOC) and MOC ON Demand), 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.

MCT Facts and Figures

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)

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


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; see also MCT Program Guide

Self-Study Materials

None available

Beyond the top 5: More it trainer certifications

Deeper digging into other certification programs reveals a variety of instructor credentialing efforts. IBMMicro Focus (Novell), Network Instruments (NI) and the Certified Wireless Networking Professional (CWNP) program all also offer trainer certs. Also, the Certified Professional in Learning & Performance Certification (CPLP) from 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.

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