Apple Certification: The Perfect ‘ADD’

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Three18. For most, the reference may draw a blank. But for me, the term means speed, performance, agility and power. It is the engine model of the muscle car that my friends and I enjoyed so much in our college days. As principal of Three18, a technical consulting firm that specializes in developing business solutions for small and medium-sized companies, I chose the name because our business goals are similar to the qualities of that beloved Scamp’s V8 engine.

But Three18’s success isn’t from sheer horsepower. The key to the company’s winning edge is staff expertise, and that means Apple certification, as well as the more common Microsoft and Filemaker Pro certifications.

Many Three18 clients are adding Mac OS X technology to their business solutions. With approximately 60 percent of the business now utilizing the Apple platform in multi-vendor environments, Three18 staff must obtain certification in both Windows and Apple technology, with a base competency of Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist (ACHDS) certification. Staff members then become specialized in different areas, depending on the needs of the business, and subsequently attain Apple certifications as high as the Apple Certified Systems Administrator (ACSA) for the most senior staff, as well as the Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) certification for mid-level engineers. Competency in both platforms enables staff members to give customers a wider range of choices for solutions. The highly certified senior staff at Three18 can resolve the most complicated technical issues on the Apple platform.

The results of the training and certification are an enhanced knowledge infrastructure and satisfied customers. Apple’s certification programs garner an increasing level of respect: The tests are challenging, and they’re getting harder—always staying sharp.

What’s in It for the IT Professional?
The ACHDS is the most popular certification track that Apple has ever offered. Since its introduction 18 months ago, it has been adopted by thousands of support professionals worldwide. In fact, Mac OS X certification programs are among the fastest growing in the industry—increasing an astonishing 300 percent in 2004, a year that started off with the designation of Apple as “Certification of the Month” by Thomson Prometric.

So what types of professionals hold the ACHDS certification? The most frequent job categories are technical support professionals who assist Max OS X users over the phone, help desk personnel in businesses using Mac OS X systems for general productivity or creative design, service technicians who support Mac OS X customers and technical coordinators or power users who manage networks of Mac OS X systems, such as teachers and technology specialists who manage classroom networks or computer labs. The ACHDS certification requires only one exam, which verifies 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. The required exam is based on Apple’s new Mac OS X, version 10.4, aka Tiger. The ACHDS certification is a great first step on an intended path to more complex system administration.

To achieve the next level, professionals can add one more exam to achieve the ACTC certification, which verifies a foundation of Mac OS X Server core functionality. The ACTC certification is intended for Mac OS X technical coordinators and entry-level system administrators tasked with maintaining a modest network 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 alone. The required exam is based on Apple’s Mac OS X Server, version 10.4.

The ACSA certification verifies an in-depth knowledge of Apple technical architecture and an ability to install and configure machines; architect and maintain networks; enable, customize, tune and troubleshoot a wide range of services; and integrate Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server and other Apple technologies within a multi-platform networked environment. The ACSA certification is intended for full-time professional system administrators and engineers who manage medium to large networks of systems in complex multiplatform deployments. In fact, Certification Magazine’s 2004 Salary Survey (www.certmag.com/salaries) reveals that professionals who hold Apple’s highest certification, ACSA, earn an average salary of $72,500—considerably higher than the average IT compensation, as identified by the survey

ACSA: Now Easier, More Flexible
Until now, the Apple certifications have been based on a particular version of Mac OS X and Mac OS X software—and that will continue to be true for the ACHDS and ACTC certifications, which are currently based on Tiger. But the ACSA program has recently been revised to be time-based (rather than version-based), and focuses on individual job functions so that candidates have greater flexibility. All ACSA exams are now elective, so candidates are free to structure the program to meet their needs. Each passed exam earns a specialization certificate and a specific number of credits toward ACSA certification. Credits earned are valid for two years from the date of the exam, whereupon they expire. ACSA certification is granted when the candidate achieves a total of seven valid (unexpired) credits. As credits expire, the candidates replace them to keep the ACSA certification current.

Some of the currently announced ACSA exams include:

 

 

  • Mac OS X Deployment: Verifies the knowledge necessary to streamline the installation and configuration of Mac OS X on large numbers of computers, and to maintain software deployments on Mac OS X systems. (Two credits)
  • Mac OS X Directory Services Integration and Administration: Verifies the knowledge necessary to configure Mac OS X to access directory services provided by Mac OS X Server or other third-party solutions; to use Mac OS X Server to provide LDAP-based directory services; and to integrate Mac OS X Server into an existing heterogeneous directory services architecture. (Four credits)
  • Xsan Administration: Verifies the knowledge necessary to configure and maintain all Apple software and hardware components necessary for an Xsan cluster file system. (Three credits)

 

To ease the transition to the new time-based (rather than version-based) ACSA program, Apple has announced that professionals who already hold ACSA for Mac OS X, version 10.3, aka Panther, or have been in process to earn the ACSA Panther certification will be able to count their Panther exams toward the new ACSA certification.

Mac OS X Certification Alliance
Apple has just introduced a new program—the Mac OS X Certification Alliance—to acknowledge and support the thousands of Mac OS X experts worldwide who hold Mac OS X Panther or Tiger certification. The program comes at no cost and with many benefits, such as an optional public listing for personal networking purposes, discounts on future Mac OS X exams, special access to a customized members-only page with resources and links of value to the Mac OS X certified community, regular newsletters customized for the Mac OS X certified community and access to exclusive certification merchandise. For more information, visit training.apple.com/certification/alliance.

As Apple’s certification programs continue to grow, Apple plans to add more and more benefits to support the members of the Mac OS X Certification Alliance.

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