Erik Eckel evaluates the most appropriate Apple certifications for enterprise administrators to consider.
A quick statistics check shows college and secondary education enrollments are up — way up, actually. That should come as no surprise. As the economy tightens, many strive to strengthen education, skills and expertise, thereby making themselves more attractive to employers.
Like them or hate them, technical certifications are a natural MIS career enhancement. IT staff can leverage certifications to better position themselves for promotion, while also gaining some insulation from layoffs. While one's education, experience and certifications never provide foolproof protection in a down economy, the better combination one builds, the easier it becomes to weather economic storms.
As Apple technologies return to corporate environments, led in part by renewed interest in the company's laptop computers and the popularity of the iPhone, opportunities exist for enterprise administrators to differentiate themselves. Adding Apple certification to one's resume can separate an IT professional from the herd (especially if others possess only the more traditional Microsoft accreditations).
Choosing the best path
Apple certification paths essentially break down into four categories:
- Creative professionals - The training for this path is best targeted at graphic artists, producers, videographers and other creative services professionals who must master Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Xsan, and similar technologies.
- IT professionals - This path's training is targeted to systems administrators and technical support staff that must design, implement, and maintain Mac OS X-powered platforms within heterogeneous environments. As such, I believe it's the most appropriate path for enterprise administrators.
- Business - The business path targets technology professionals who must administer and maintain Mac systems within businesses and government agencies. As such, this track may prove appropriate for IT consultants working with a variety of clients.
- Education - The education track is most appropriate for technology staff that must design, implement, and maintain Mac OS X-powered platforms within educational institutions. In addition, those following the education track also develop familiarity with Apple software that enables digital content creation and distribution.
The company maintains an interactive guide on its Web site that helps prospective candidates determine which Apple certifications are most appropriate. The guide matches tasks to actual certifications. For example, if an IT professional indicates the need to support Mac OS X users and systems, the interactive tool recommends pursuing the Apple Certified Support Professional 10.6 accreditation. Or, if one specifies the need to manage Mac system deployment and integration within a mixed platform environment, the tool suggests the Apple Certified System Administrator 10.6 certification as appropriate.
The Apple Certified System Administrator, or ACSA, validates a candidate's system administration expertise. An ACSA must master the ability to install and configure systems, design and maintain networks, troubleshoot multiple Mac operating systems, including client and server platforms, and manage mixed network deployments.
An ACSA is essentially a certified Apple engineer that's already mastered the entry-level Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) and Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTA) accreditations and demonstrated additional expertise designing and administering medium to large networks. Specialization is also supported, as ACSAs can earn accreditation in tracks targeting specific areas of expertise, including directory services, deployment, or security.
The Xsan Administrator certification is appropriate for engineers who must install, deploy, and administer Xsan networks. Xsan, of course, is Apple's storage area network technology.
The Apple Certified Media Administrator (ACMA) accreditation takes Xsan expertise even further. ACMA candidates must possess significant expertise deploying, installing, and maintaining Xsan networks, in addition to demonstrating mastery of Mac OS X and other Apple technologies. This certification is targeted at both systems administrators and technical engineers working for resellers, consultancies, and other offices.
IT certification is one way technology professionals can differentiate themselves from other candidates. Enterprise administrators seeking to bolster their skills and improve their resumes could do worse than pursue Apple certification. Apple certified professionals are much more rare than MCSAs and MCSEs. Further, combining Apple and Microsoft skills can only help as organizations increasingly find themselves having to support an ever-expanding range of systems, software and peripherals.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.