Get your technical training from top technical experts

You've heard the old adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach." Well, that might be true in some fields, but it's certainly not the case with technical training in the IT industry. When it comes to teaching others about networking and other sophisticated topics, only the top technical experts need apply for the job. Leading vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, Novell and HP put stringent requirements on who teaches their official courses -- and that's good news for the students who want to learn from the best.

You've heard the old adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Well, that might be true in some fields, but it's certainly not the case with technical training in the IT industry. When it comes to teaching others about networking and other sophisticated topics, only the top technical experts need apply for the job.

For example, to become a Certified Cisco Systems Instructor (CCSI), a trainer would have to meet some pretty stringent requirements. According to Yolanda Salas, senior manager of Cisco's Learning Partner Channel, the instructor candidate must be sponsored by an Authorized Cisco Learning Partner, and must hold a current CCNA or higher Cisco certification. In addition, the intended trainer must pass a two-day in-person Instructor Certification Program (ICP) event, which evaluates the candidate's presentation, technical and lab skills. The candidate also must observe a class delivery of the course he will first teach and pass the associated course exam at the designated instructor level "cut score."

Cloud Security Alliance offers certification

And that is just to become a Cisco certified trainer. To maintain the status, the CCSI must purchase an annual CCSI Membership, which provides access to the electronic Instructor Kits, and also acknowledge and accept the Cisco Certified System Instructor Agreement to validate his status and to maintain consistency in the CCSI program. CCSIs must be certified for each course they teach, and of course, Cisco certification must be renewed on a regular basis. As Salas points out, these professionals are highly specialized trainers.

Cisco's requirements for technical trainers may be stringent but they aren't unique. Many of the top-tier solution vendors put their trainers through similar requirements.

Mary Jo Swenson, a manager with Novell Training Services, says her company "looks for someone who knows the technology and can present well." To ensure a trainer meets those criteria, Novell wants him to be a Certified Novell Instructor, or better yet, an Advanced Certified Novell Instructor with significant hands-on product experience. The instructor must hold the certification for the course he is teaching, and must stay current on Novell product knowledge. He can lose his status as a trainer if he doesn't stay current on Novell products. Swenson says the trainer also should hold the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification, which validates that the person can perform classroom management duties and handle the "teaching" portion of being a trainer.

HP, too, wants only certified trainers in the classroom to ensure you get the best experience possible from your technical training. Like Novell and Cisco, HP expects a trainer to hold the technical certification(s) pertinent to the classes he teaches, as well as the HP Certified Instructor credential.

Microsoft has two levels for its certified trainers. The basic level is the Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) designation. Anyone who teaches an official Microsoft-sponsored course is expected to hold the MCT certification, acquire a valid Microsoft certification in the topic to be taught, and demonstrate instructional presentation skills. Microsoft also offers a higher level of certification for trainers: the Microsoft Certified Learning Consultant (MCLC). This is aimed at the individual who frequently consults with customers to diagnose current and desired business performance and design learning solutions to bridge the gap within that customer environment. It's sort of your company's own private plan to get everyone up to speed on the technologies and solutions that will improve business performance.

Have you considered putting your own knowledge and skills to good use in the classroom? In a future article, I'll detail how you can get started as a certified trainer for one of your preferred vendors. There's good money in training. According to Novell's Swenson, a well qualified staff instructor can earn about $80,000 a year, depending on his geographic location and how many courses he can teach. An independent instructor can earn $800 to $1,100 a day. In today's job market, that's a decent living.

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