For consultants who do training work, holding trainer certifications often proves useful in convincing clients of superior training knowledge and ability. Two basic types of training certification are available: vendor-sponsored certifications, such as Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and vendor-neutral ones, such as the Certified Technical Trainer Plus (CTT+) offered by CompTIA.

Each of these programs has undergone some changes during the past year, so consultants who take on training projects are faced with new choices. In this article, we’ll review the changes in the CTT+ and MCT programs and what these changes mean for consultants.

CTT+: Under new management
CompTIA—the same organization that offers the popular A+ certification for PC hardware techs and the Net+ certification for network engineers—purchased the CTT program from Chauncey Group in July 2001 and renamed it CTT+. Those holding existing CTT certifications had until December 2001 to register for a free replacement certificate.

Wendy Post, certification program manager for the CTT+ at CompTIA, said that CTT+ still requires a two-part exam (described in a prior article by TechRepublic contributor Bob Potemski): You must first pass a computer-based test (practice tests are available through Prometric or VUE) on the IBSTIPI standards for training, and then you must submit a videotape of yourself demonstrating those standards.

Changes in the program have been minor and work in favor of the candidate, Post said:

  • Videotape deadline: CompTIA dropped the prior 90-day deadline, and candidates can now submit their videotape any time after passing the computer test.
  • Life of the certification: The Chauncey Group CTT expired in five years, requiring recertification. CompTIA certifications are good for life.

Robin Pedrotti teaches both CTT+ and MCT prep classes through his company, Advanced Teknowlogy Professionals in Benicia, CA. He said that the most important change is the involvement of CompTIA in maintaining the certification. CompTIA has a huge corporate base of supporters, said Pedrotti, and the exposure to large corporations, on a worldwide basis, is much greater.

Many companies that are interested in certifying their internal trainers can simply choose to adopt the CTT+ as a standard instead of developing their own programs. Pedrotti predicts that this will lead to increased opportunities for CTT+ certified trainers in the training departments of many companies, not just in training centers.

MCT: Ongoing evolution
The MCT program has undergone dramatic changes during the past two years. In 2000, Microsoft announced that MCTs must have a premium certification—Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), or Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD)—to continue with the program. At the same time, Microsoft dropped the requirement that MCTs pass specific exams to teach certain courses—the intent being to replace specific skill sets with broad expertise in Microsoft technologies.

In 2001, the program changed again. Three additional requirements have been introduced for the 2002 program year, which started in October 2001:

  • Subscription fee: The program now requires annual renewal and payment of a $300 fee for Microsoft Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC)-based MCTs and a $400 fee for independents. The subscription entitles MCTs to download Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) trainer kits on demand and provides access to a revamped, private MCT Web site and private newsgroups.
  • Teaching: MCTs must deliver a minimum of 10 days of training using MOC during the year.
  • Continuing education: MCTs must earn 20 continuing-education credits (15 from technical training or conferences and five from instructional skills training) during the year.

All of these changes have some MCTs wondering if it’s worth it to continue in the program, especially if their primary work is as a consultant and they do training only occasionally. While some may bristle at the new annual fee, others believe that the hidden gouge is in the 20-day, Microsoft-approved, continuing-education requirement, which may only be truly feasible if you’re a full-time CTEC-based trainer and can attend such classes for free.

Another concern is the premium certification requirement. Despite Microsoft’s recent ruling that Windows NT 4.0 MCSEs would remain certified, MCTs whose premium certification is based on Windows NT 4.0 must still upgrade to the Windows 2000 track by May 1, 2002. This will cause some additional attrition in the program at that time.

Decisions, decisions
MCT or CTT+? If you want a job at a Microsoft CTEC, you’ll have to go with the MCT. But there are many trainer jobs outside of training centers, Pedrotti said. Teaching in a corporate environment is quite different from a training center because a company makes its money primarily from selling its product, not the training. This means there is usually more time to prepare for classes and you’ll have the opportunity to work directly with the company’s developers and engineers.

The pay can be higher, as well: An $80K salary as an employee may translate to more than $100K as an independent, when fringe benefits and training perks are added in.

Independents or those new to the training industry might find a dual-certification approach useful. By itself, the MCT shows that you have technical skills, because a premium certification is required. Adding the CTT+, with its challenging video exam, demonstrates teaching skills in a real classroom.

The combination can set you apart from other candidates. Plus, the CTT+ is accepted by Microsoft as proof of instructional skills for the MCT program, eliminating the need to take a Train-the-Trainer class. Either way, adding a training credential after your name will help you market the training portion of your consulting practice.

What certifications do your clients look for?

Have you obtained a certification to bolster your chances with future clients? Post your comments to tell us which one you’ve earned and why.