In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, rich media is becoming a staple of our lives. Personal cell phones multitask as cameras, MP3 players and PDAs, while the latest videoconferencing technology allows for business partners around the world to connect with each other and share resources in real time.
As a result, it is an extraordinary time to be involved in creative content development. Further, the economic recession might even make having these skills paramount for any IT professional. That’s because with less money to go around, many companies will be forced to innovate and create projects in-house, whether for marketing campaigns, internal and external presentations or proposals, or other important business functions. To do that, these companies will need IT employees with the skills and knowledge to leverage the latest media tools.
Apple Inc. is at the forefront of the creative media movement with products such as iLife, iWork, Final Cut Pro, iPhoto and others. Certifications in the Apple suite of products and services could help individuals gain a competitive edge in today’s ever-changing job market.
A Rundown of the Offerings
There are five Apple certification tracks: Mac OS X certification; Xsan certification; iLife and iWork certification; professional applications certification; and hardware certification.
The Mac OS X certification program offers the following credentials:
- Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP), which represents the starting point in this cert path and validates support and troubleshooting skills.
- Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC), which builds on the ACSP with Mac OS X Server support and troubleshooting skills validation.
- Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA), which according to the Apple Web site, “address[es] the needs of professional system administrators and engineers who manage networks of systems in complex, multi-platform deployments.”
Following the Xsan track yields the Xsan Administration certification, which verifies knowledge around Apple’s SAN file system for Mac OS X.
The iLife and iWork certification program prepares professionals to become Apple Certified Associates for the iLife ’08 and iWork ’08 product suites. These certifications, according to Apple’s Web site, “are designed for professionals, educators and students who want to validate their skills in Apple’s digital lifestyle and authoring applications.”
For example, organizations that engage in frequent presentations or are constantly pitching and selling ideas might want an IT pro with a command of iWork. This software suite helps employees create compelling presentations with Keynote; accurate charts with Numbers; and professional handouts with Pages. Or perhaps a company wants to create a promotional video in-house; in this case, someone with validated mastery of iMovie and iPhoto might come in handy. If nothing else, these certifications help IT professionals improve their communication capabilities and boost their resumes.
In its professional applications certification program, Apple offers credentials to validate skills with a variety of applications such as Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Server, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Color, Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro and Aperture. Master-level certification also is available for Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio.
Finally, the hardware certification program appeals to those interested in validating their Macintosh computer skills and leads to Apple Certified Macintosh Technician (ACMT) certification.
To obtain training for any of the above credentials, students can take a class from the experts at an Apple Authorized Training Center or review the Apple Training and Apple Pro Training Series books. For more information, visit training.apple.com.
Certifications Create a Benchmark
Oftentimes, there is a tendency to assume that today’s younger employees know everything about computers because their generation has grown up with them. These workers themselves might assume they can sit down to a powerful media application, press a few buttons and make it work. Yet, those who are learning to be digital content creators might be discouraged when they realize that using a particular technology is not that easy.
This is where Apple certifications come in. The certification test provides an international benchmark for employers to find out how much their workforce really knows. Also, Apple certs are particularly useful for content developers because they indicate that these individuals won’t constantly struggle with the software, but rather they’ll focus on more complex tasks involved in the creation. The powerful toolsets in such software as Final Cut Pro become allies, not foes.
Ultimately, certifications are like tying your shoes before a race: They show you’re ready to run. Sure, you can skip this step, but it’s a risk because, at some point, you’ll trip.
Growing Demand: A Case Study
Ball State University is the only Apple Authorized Training Center (AATC) in Indiana. The university offers Apple Pro Training classes and the corresponding certification exams through its Digital Corps program, which recently earned a 2008 Campus Technology Innovator award.
Digital Corps was created for two reasons: to address the university’s need for highly skilled media software expertise and to address the needs of students graduating into a dynamic media world. A year and a half in, the Digital Corps has met both goals, all while providing an award-winning student experience, high employment rate upon graduation and an increase in both measured and perceived skill. The group credits Apple Pro training and certification for this achievement.
The Digital Corps is based on the classic “guild” model, consisting of three expertise levels: apprentice, specialist and master. To become an apprentice, students must submit a resume and undergo several interviews. Apprentices generally work in the lab, supporting lab clients. They also take certification classes and have numerous books and other resources available to them.
After students obtain two certifications, they automatically become specialists. Specialists also help out in the lab, but they generally become teaching assistants for certification classes and do project work.
After proving a mastery of the technical craft and an ability to manage projects and work with clients, students can apply to become a master. Masters manage projects for on- and off-campus clients, foster professional relationships and build their portfolios. Of course, as students progress through the ranks, their pay increases. Often, by the time students reach the master level, they also are freelancing and laying the foundation for a career after college.
In May 2007, there was only one Apple Certified Pro in Final Cut Pro at Ball State University. Now, the Digital Corps alone has 15. It also has Apple Certified Pros in Final Cut Pro Level One and Level Two, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color and Shake — including two Final Cut Studio Master Pros. There also are several Apple Certified Support Professionals and Apple Certified Help Desk Specialists. In all, the Digital Corps group boasts a total of 81 certifications.
This semester, Ball State is offering 15 certification classes on campus between the Apple Pro Training and Adobe Certified Associate courses. Currently, 11 of these courses are full with wait lists, and the remaining four are nearly full. Additionally, Ball State recently expanded its professional offerings to include the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server courses, allowing the university to serve the many hybrid media professionals who do both media content creation and system support. The university also plans to add iLife and iWork courses soon, with the eventual goal of offering all Apple training classes on campus and at the Indianapolis center.
With all this expertise, the Digital Corps has worked on numerous projects on campus, including typesetting publications, multimedia and Web-based assignments, documentaries and educational videos and even a custom billboard system based on Apple’s Quartz Composer. The Digital Corps also has created a Ball State Chirper iPhone app, available for free on the iTunes app store.
Perhaps most important, Apple certifications can help individuals land the jobs of their dreams. Of the Digital Corp’s five graduates, all are gainfully employed: One works at MTV Networks in New York City; another is a video editor for the Timberwolves, Minnesota’s NBA team; and a third serves as an assistant trailer editor for Winston Associates, a Colorado-based planning firm specializing in 3-D visualizations. The other two work for the Digital Corps.
Jonathan Blake Huer is director of the Digital Corps and emerging technology and media development at Ball State University. He also is also an Apple Master Trainer in Final Cut Studio 2. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.