Author: Ben Bedo
Introduction: My Favorite IT Certification
I feel I need to let all of you in on a little secret from "the real world". It might hurt, just a little.
Many of us, as IT professionals, have a reputation of being angry, little nerds with little to no social skills that don't involve an eight-sided die.
Like most stereotypes, that statement is simply not true. But like it or not, this is the view that many of our non-techie co-workers have of us. After all, we're the ones who seem to know everything there is to know about that magical box that allows people to get their work done, and we're the only ones with the skills and permissions to fix those magical boxes when something goes awry.
There's a certain level of mystery and intimidation that comes with that power, and therefore many of us come across as, well, angry little nerds. And let's be honest, many of us are just that. After all, how many times have you had to reset the same user's password or had to show the same user how to print to a different printer?
Maybe you're different. Maybe, just maybe, you enjoy people and enjoy helping them solve their problems. Maybe you're a computer geek with the uncanny ability to actually put what you do in normal, easy-to-understand English. If so, maybe (just maybe) you should look into becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT).
It's not rocket-surgery: a Microsoft Certified Trainer is simply a professional trainer that has been certified by Microsoft as being legit in terms of professional know-how and the ability to communicate that to "normal" people. I've been an MCT for six years, and I can honestly say that maintaining that designation has made my job as a trainer much easier.
... but wait, why?
Benefits of Becoming an MCT
There are lots of reasons!
First and foremost is the level of respect that comes with the MCT designation. MCTs are many times viewed as the premiere experts in their field and are often the gateway for IT staff to update their own skills.
To that end, you are provided with the resources you need as a trainer to stay current, nay, ahead-of-current with Microsoft technologies as and before they are released to market.
Here are just a few benefits you'll receive when you join the ranks of MCTs:
- A not-for-retail TechNet subscription, which gives you free download access to a very large majority of Microsoft titles. The catch is that you can't use it for business purposes, but you can use it for sharpening your own skills.
- Images for MOC (Microsoft Official Curriculum) courseware. Instead of wiping and custom building lab environments for your classes, you can deploy these custom images of client and server environments that have been tailored to the specific MOC.
- Recently new is the formatting of MCT Trainer Packs (think of them like your high school teacher's instructor's manual) in MS OneNote format.
- Access to the MCT Forums. This is not a minor perk -- this is a very big deal. Some extremely intelligent people hang out on these boards, and it's such a great resource!
Enough blather, already! How do you become an MCT?
Becoming an MCT is relatively easy, depending on your current circumstances. Here are the requirements:
MCT Requirement Number 1: You must be Microsoft certified
You must hold one of the following Microsoft certifications/designations:
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator: Security (MCSA: Security)
- Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST)
- Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)
- Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
- Microsoft Office 2007 Specialist (MOS 2007)
- Microsoft Office 2010 Specialist (MOS 2010)
- Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Specialist (MCBMSS)
- Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Professional (MCBMSP)
- Microsoft Certified Master (MCM)
- Microsoft Office 2007 Master (MOM 2007)
- Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA)
Obviously, if you don't currently have any Microsoft certifications, get them first before shooting for your MCT.
MCT Requirement Number 2: You must be able to relate to normal people
This is where, unfortunately, some of the best technical people fail. You must present information well! Think about all of the really bad professors you had in college. I'm sure they all (well, most anyway) had vast knowledge of their subject, but they simply couldn't communicate it well. If you're like these bad professors, becoming an MCT isn't for you. MCTs are generally very dynamic presenters with the ability to take an overly complex issue and boil it down to where mere mortals can understand it. It's an MCT's secret desire to propagate more geeks!
So how would a fledgling MCT-wannabe go about fulfilling this requirement? Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for future students, an MCT candidate can't simply declare they have presentation skills, they must prove they have presentation skills. There are a few of ways of accomplishing that:
- Earn your CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer+ (CompTIA CTT+) certification. As you may know, CompTIA is a vendor-neutral organization designed to let IT professionals provide tangible evidence of their skills. Much like the CompTIA A+ designation, a CTT+ candidate is required to pass two exams; one "essentials" test, and one "practical application" test. The practical application test involves a video. See? Proof.
- Pass a presentation skills course. CompTIA has a course, as well as Microsoft. This will be your most expensive option as it involves signing up for and taking classes in technical presentation. If you have no prior experience in the presentation realm, this would be a good option to pursue.
- Already be a certified trainer for a major technology vendor. Microsoft clearly spells out five and of course, they're listed: Microsoft, Cisco, Citrix, Novell and Oracle. If you're already an MCT, this is your loophole for not having to take and pass presentation courses every year!
- If you already work as an instructor at an accredited academic institution, Microsoft takes the school's word that you are a good instructor -- at least good enough to keep your job! Simply have your boss fax or scan over proof of employment on your school's letterhead and you're golden. It's none of my business, but I think this particular method should be dropped. We've all had instructors at accredited schools that were just terrible, and with this option in place, terrible instructors could skate their way right into becoming an MCT. But enough editorializing!
MCT Requirement Number 3: You must maintain high scores
As an MCT, you are required to distribute surveys to your students as each class draws to an end. You are required to maintain very high ratings in order to maintain your MCT status, so if your idea of teaching is reading out of the textbook to your students (or worse, having students read a paragraph at a time around the room -- ARRRRGGHGHHHH!!), go ahead and skip on to the next blog post. MCT isn't for you.
MCT Requirement Number 4: You must teach
If you're new to MCT, you have to fight (Fight Club reference, sorry). Put another way, if you're a new MCT, you have to teach at least one Microsoft course in your first year. This generally is not a problem as most new MCTs I've known are itching to go.
Hey, I fit all of those requirements! Now what?
How to Become an MCT
Now, simply navigate to the MCT page on the Microsoft Learning site, located here. You'll want to click the Apply button. This will open a tab that gives you a launching point for starting your MCT application process. In my experience, most new MCTs are current MCPs, so this tutorial will assume that you've clicked the link taking you to your MCP page.
Hover your mouse over Microsoft Certified Trainer and click MCT Enrollment Tool; then walk your way through the wizard. Here are some things to watch out for:
The annual fee to be an MCT is $400. There are a number of ways to get a discount (for example, if you work for a Certified Partner for Learning Solutions (CPLS) or a Microsoft IT Academy, you'll receive anywhere from a 25% to a 100% discount). I've found that each year the mechanism for discounts, etc. has been different. I manage a Microsoft IT Academy, and when my instructors were renewing their MCTs, my institution was granted three free MCTs. In 2011, that number was lowered to one -- so we had to pay to keep two instructors live with MCT status. Luckily, they did receive a 25% discount, but it was still $600 more than we spent last year.
Next month if you attend the MCT Summit you can complete your MCT requirement #2 through the 1.5 day pre-conference Train-the-Trainer bootcamp for $700; this fee includes your $400 MCT Enrollment fee and the $350 MCT Summit conference fee. Trust me, this is a great deal; you're not only saving a lot of time and money, but you get a chance to network with other MCTs.
In any case, becoming an MCT is well worth the price and effort! If you're interested in becoming an MCT and want to ask questions or need advice, please feel free to comment or contact me directly.