Implementation to Instruction: Teaching on Horizon?

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There are numerous avenues available to transform your skills from the corporate IT world to the IT educational environment. As technology advances, so will the need for technical instruction and learning. As a result, higher-education institutions of all levels need experienced certified professionals to educate and promote growth in the field. With experience as an IT professional, you can take your career to another possible arena: teaching.

College and University Instruction

Teaching in most four-year colleges and universities still requires at least a master’s degree, but a doctorate is the preferred choice. Certifications are beginning to carry more weight within traditional universities, however.
In colleges across the country, this change has been so great, many faculty members hold multiple certifications in addition to their degrees. Requirements vary, depending on the accreditation — in some technical schools and career colleges, an advanced degree is not necessary if individuals are certified and have a minimum amount of industry experience (often at least 10 years).

Most commonly, IT professionals take up teaching through adjunct professorship roles. In academia, “adjunct” is the title used to denote a part-time instructor. The rigors to become an adjunct professor are not as difficult as those for a full-time assistant or associate professorship. This allows adjunct professors to actively pursue careers in the industry and still provide real-world knowledge of career-related experiences in the classroom.

Schools hire multiple adjunct staffers to create an as-needed labor pool. This is great for schools, but it has significant disadvantages for adjunct professors. Any employment offer depends on student enrollment and the availability of course offerings. Teaching loads can be erratic, and there is always the possibility that classes will be transferred from adjuncts to full-time professors because their schedules are filled before classes are assigned to adjuncts.

Some adjuncts will not teach a semester when classes are unavailable or when assigned classes are abruptly canceled because of low enrollment.
This makes the teaching schedule from one term to the next quite unpredictable.

If you wish to take up full-time teaching, there is a rigid career track ahead of you on the path toward tenure. Professors typically begin their career as assistant professors. After achieving specific performance metrics outlined by the college, you can be promoted to associate professor. The average age for obtaining an associate professorship is 43.

The next step after associate professor is to become a professor with tenure. You can proceed up to this point with a master’s degree, but for the tenured professor level, a doctorate is mandatory.

At each stage, the criterion for advancement includes a probation period of three to six years. During this time, it is highly recommended that you have written in at least three peer-reviewed publications and show evidence for keeping pace with industry trends.

These positions require lengthy applications and interviews by board members, administration and faculty. Sometimes, this can take months or years just for the qualification and acceptance phase. Candidates must show their contributions through committee involvement, research progress, scholarly publications, membership in professional societies, presenting research at seminars and success in obtaining research grant funding. All this must be defended to a committee to advance to the next level.

So, why all this fuss about becoming tenured? Tenured professors are guaranteed lifetime employment except under the most severe circumstances. The rationale for this is to allow professors to publish unpopular or unusual research without the fear of termination. Most tenured professors can take up to a one-year sabbatical about every seven years to pursue their research. The average tenured professor earns almost twice as much as new assistant professors.

Because the process of obtaining a tenured position is lengthy and difficult, another alternative is to find an institution that offers collegiate professorships. These are usually full-time positions that involve teaching four or more courses per term. Teaching is the primary function of this role, but collegiate professors serve on academic committees, as well.

This allows the professor to have a full-time teaching position and become active on other committees affiliated with the school. The pay scale for collegiate professorships is significantly lower, and working hours are usually nontraditional and vary from term to term. Specialty schools are good places to look for these types of positions.

Academy Instruction
Many colleges and universities are opening vendor academies to further train students and their communities of IT professionals. Academy instruction is an excellent way to get acclimated to academia, and IT professionals often find this environment very comfortable because instruction at an IT academy is practical and implementation-based.

Although academies usually do not require a degree, they do require that a trainer has obtained suitable vendor certifications and about three to five years or more of industry experience. Each vendor and academy has a different set of certifications for being a trainer. Trainer certifications usually require an annual fee, ranging from $200 to $500, to maintain the credential.

To become certified as a trainer, you must possess the necessary skills and experience, as required by the vendor, to effectively understand the material you would like to teach.

Some IT academies are stand-alone businesses, but the norm is for IT academies to partner with schools to offer training or certification coursework.

Cisco systems academies, for example require instructors to hold the Cisco Certified Systems Instructor (CCSI) certification to teach Cisco curriculum. The CCSI certification requires instructors to pass the certification exam they’re teaching with a score 10 percent to 20 percent higher than the usual passing score. (This usually means scoring above 899 on the exam.)

Additionally, CCSI instructors must demonstrate their teaching ability by teaching two chapters of the course they plan to teach at the academy.

This includes lecturing and answering questions on the material. To obtain the CCSI, candidates also must configure the equipment used in the classroom lab in what Cisco calls a “lab test.”

Maintaining the CCSI certification requires instructors to work for a Cisco Learning Partner. If you are looking to teach, the school you work at must be an authorized partner to keep your status active.

At Microsoft’s IT academies, trainers must have the Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certification and the most current version of the certification they’re teaching. For example, trainers teaching the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) courses are required to hold the MCT and MCSE.

Becoming an MCT involves earning a valid Microsoft certification and demonstrating teaching ability. The teaching ability criteria can be met if you are a current instructor at an accredited institution, a CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) or if you attend the Microsoft training skills course. You can find the requirements for each track on the Microsoft education Web site: www.microsoft.com/education.

Wireless certification group Planet3 offers four types of certification, ranging from basic wireless certification (Wireless#) to the Certified Wireless Network Engineer (CWNE).

To become a Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) trainer, you will need to have the Certified Wireless Network Trainer (CWNT) certification. It requires instructors to pass the exams they are teaching with 80 percent, although 70 percent is the pass mark for students.

The CWNT also requires 12 months of teaching experience and a current trainer certification from another vendor such as the MCT or CTT+. The trainer certification requirement is waived if the instructor is a university professor or an instructor in the military. Finally, trainers must attend a course on the class they wish to teach.

This provides instructors with a mentoring opportunity, and it helps to assure consistency in the presentation of CWNP material.

Contract Training
If you have the certification and want to take it to the corporate level, businesses need qualified and experienced trainers. Contract training can be quite lucrative — contract trainers can charge upward of $300 to $600 a day to teach standard courses, and they can charge more for advanced or specialty classes.

Commonly, instead of contracting directly with a company, trainers contract with professional staffing agencies to manage their training schedules more efficiently. This can create multiple avenues for income and the opportunity for repeat work.

The credentials mentioned for IT academies such as the MCT and CWNT also are valuable in contract training. However, contract training has found a definite niche in teaching technologies for which there are not established academies. In this case, a vendor training certification might still be available.

For example, Novell does not have an academy program, but it does specify standards for Novell training. Novell trainers are required to hold the Certified Novell Instructor (CNI) certification. This certification requires instructors to be a current Certified Novell Engineer (CNE), Novell Certified Linux Professional (CLP) or Novell Certified Linux Engineer (CLE) and that they hold another trainer certification such as the MCT or CTT+.

There are certifications for becoming a corporate trainer, as well. A few good credentials to obtain are the American Society for Training and Development Training (ASTD) certificate and Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification.

Learning Consulting
Some companies are interested in developing custom learning programs. Many of these companies do not have these skills in-house, so they hire learning consultants. They come into the company to tailor a program to specific needs. Those interested in becoming a learning consultant will need more than training experience and certification — the companies that hire them look for skilled instructors who have good business sense, as well as a grasp of current training needs and methodologies and an understanding of what training will give them a competitive advantage.

After developing a program, many learning consultants will work with a company during their first teaching cycle to help train new teachers and establish the curriculum. Because of this, it is important for learning consultants to also have experience training other teachers.

Training teachers is different from training students. Learning consultants must be able to effectively instruct trainers on how to work with various learning preferences and how to instruct using multiple styles. Some skills learning consultants must teach are measuring knowledge transfer, coaching and providing feedback.

There are not many learning consulting certifications, but Microsoft does offer the Microsoft Certified Learning Consultant (MCLC). To obtain this certification, you must be an active MCT and submit a case study that outlines recent learning consulting projects.

MCLCs must renew their titles yearly and are required to submit an additional case study every two years. This certification is nice, but its value is limited to those who design Microsoft curriculum.

Most learning consultants end up designing specific curricula that sometimes can include developing a certification program itself. In these situations, a vendor learning consulting certification might not be as valuable.

Teaching is a rewarding and honorable career to pursue, whether it is full time or part time. There are many opportunities for IT professionals to share their industry experience with students, be it as a professor, academy instructor or contract trainer.

If you are interested in teaching, consider obtaining a higher-level certification such as the MCSE, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) or Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP).

Once you begin teaching, a likely subsequent certification goal would be to obtain a trainer certification such as the MCT, CCSI, CNI, CTT+ or CWNT. If your career is purely in academia, consider pursuing an advanced degree and finding an interesting research area.

Finally, experienced instructors should consider learning consulting as another source of income.
Your prospects are vast.

Eric Vanderburg is the senior network engineer at JurInnov Ltd. and an adjunct professor of computer information systems at Lorain County Community College. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.


CertScope

Academia and teaching offer a wide range of new opportunities for experienced IT professionals. Moving into this field also requires obtaining new credentials such as the CCSI

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