Apple Certification: Over-the-Top Benefits for IT Pros

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Most employers and employees know the positive reasons for technical certification: increased productivity and professionalism, improved skills, overall savings of company time and revenues and increased proficiency. But if we add benefits such as maintaining your town’s vital links to the outside world, enabling students to access resources that would otherwise be unavailable, providing the only link of communication between towns and families, or maintaining computer systems when no other help is available, in fact, when no other help is within hundreds of miles—is this going a bit over the top?

Dave Piazza and Steve Noonkesser are Apple Certified Technical Coordinators (ACTCs) at the Southwest Region School District in Dillingham, Alaska, and they have been experiencing those “over the top” benefits as well as the more typical ones. Their school district serves nine villages on the Bristol Bay coastline of the Bering Sea, just above the Aleutian Islands. Most of the towns are traditional Yup’ik Eskimo fishing villages, isolated from the world most of the year by a tremendously harsh climate. The towns aren’t linked by roads, and the only access to the villages are boats in the summer and single-engine aircraft the rest of the year, weather permitting.

The villages have no telephone lines, so each town’s school computers have their own servers and local area networks that are linked via satellite to the Internet. The schools are the main means of contact each town has with the outside world and to the other towns. The school computers are a vital part of the lives of the people in the villages. Piazza and Noonkesser’s expertise keeps all of the schools’ systems maintained and running smoothly.

Any business or school can relate to the need to be self-sufficient, able to handle any technical problem immediately and efficiently, no matter whether help is in the same town or hundreds of miles away. “For us, certification was a matter of survival,” said Piazza. “We don’t have freight deliveries for days on end, and we can’t wait days or weeks for help to fly in from Anchorage. We have to be able to take care of everything.”

Certification ensured Piazza and Noonkesser that they were completely knowledgeable with the systems they had to maintain for the villages. Noonkesser said, “It gave me a more thorough understanding of the system software and its capabilities, and it increased my confidence level in troubleshooting. Through certification I am able to demonstrate my competence to my employers.”

Both say that preparation for the exam was a positive process. Through professional development grant funds, the district brought in an Apple Systems Engineer to teach a course. Noonkesser said, “The coursework was excellent. The materials provided by Apple were thorough and well prepared. Following the course, several of us were successful in taking and passing the exams required for certification as Apple Certified Technical Coordinators.”

Piazza added, “The switch to OS X was a major change in our operations, and the training made a smooth transition possible.”


Apple Evolution
Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.


Apple offers certification programs worldwide, and the offerings have become one of the fastest-growing IT certification programs in the industry. Apple certification programs are designed to create a high level of competency among Macintosh service technicians, help-desk personnel, technical coordinators, systems administrators and Pro users. For further information about all of these programs, visit

Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist
This new certification is a specialty in itself, as well as a core competency for even higher levels of expertise and specialization. This certification is for people interested in becoming Macintosh desktop service technicians, and it is also recommended for help-desk personnel at schools and businesses, for Macintosh consultants and for others needing an in-depth understanding of how Apple systems operate. The required exam is based on Mac OS X v10.3.

The Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist (ACHDS)certification ensures an understanding of Mac OS X core functionality and an ability to configure key services, perform basic troubleshooting and assist end users with essential Mac OS X capabilities. This certification verifies the technical skills needed by a Mac OS X specialist who works on a help desk or otherwise assists Mac OS X users with technical issues.

To specialize further, the ACHDS certification is the basis for three different tracks of expertise: AppleCare (Service), Mac OS X and Digital Media Pro.

AppleCare Certifications
Apple Certified Desktop Technician (ACDT) certification covers the ability to perform basic troubleshooting and repair of Macintosh desktop systems, such as iMac and Power Mac G5. ACDT certification exams emphasize identifying and resolving common OS X problems and using Apple Service and Support products and practices to effectively repair Apple hardware.

ACDT certification is intended for technicians employed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) or Self Servicing Account (SSA), or for those who want to demonstrate their knowledge of technician-level service and support skills. For those not employed by an AASP or SSA, attaining ACDT certification verifies skills and knowledge that may be sought by a prospective employer.

Apple Certified Portable Technician (ACPT) certification validates basic troubleshooting and repair of Macintosh portable systems, such as iBook and PowerBook G4. ACPT certification exams emphasize identifying and resolving common OS X problems and using Apple Service and Support products and practices to effectively repair Apple hardware.

ACPT certification is for an audience similar to that of the ACDT certification: those who work for Apple service providers, Apple resellers or entities that self-serve, such as schools or small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Mac OS X Certifications
Apple also offers other Mac OS X certifications in addition to the new ACHDS 10.3 certification.

Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) certification verifies a foundation in Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server core functionality and an ability to configure key services and perform basic troubleshooting of the essential Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server capabilities. The required new exams are based on Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server v10.3.

The ACTC certification is intended for Mac OS X technical coordinators and entry-level systems administrators who maintain modest networks of computers using Mac OS X Server. Since the ACTC certification addresses both the support of Mac OS X clients and the core functionality and use of Mac OS X Server, the learning curve is correspondingly longer and more intensive than that for the ACHDS certification, which addresses Mac OS X client support but not Mac OS X Server.

Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) certification verifies an in-depth knowledge of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server architecture and an ability to install and configure machines; design and configure networks; enable, customize, tune and troubleshoot a wide range of services; and integrate Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server within a heterogeneous and legacy networked environment.

The ACSA certification is intended for full-time professional systems administrators and engineers who manage medium-to-large networks of systems utilizing M

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