In-Depth

Training Know-How

Consider going to the head of the class as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. This briefing tells you how.

The Microsoft Certified Trainer, or MCT, is the drill instructor of Microsoft’s Training and Certification division. These are the people whose job it is to train the rest of us on Microsoft’s new technologies and products and turn us into networking mavens. They’re authorized to deliver instructor-led training (ILT) using Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) course material for Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs), Authorized Academic Training Partners (AATPs), or Microsoft Certified Partner corporate entities. They may also teach for independent training operations. They also generally happen to fall on the high end of the earning strata, according to this magazine’s annual salary surveys.

As such, maybe you’ve considered becoming an instructor. My goal with this article is to provide you with no-nonsense, clear-cut directions for becoming an MCT. The rules have changed dramatically over the last year, and you may be a bit fuzzy about where to begin. The requirements I discuss officially take effect on Oct. 1, as part of the MCT 2002 program.

The Basic Requirements
The first step to becoming an MCT is to hold one of Microsoft’s premier certifications. The list consists of the MCSE, MCSD and MCDBA. Easy, right?

Next, you need to get technical trainer training. This will give you a taste of what it’s like to stand in front of a group of people and teach them what you know (after all, you may discover that it’s not for you).

You can fulfill the requirement in one of three ways. First, you can attend a “train-the-trainer” course approved by Microsoft. These courses are usually offered at CTECs or AATP institutions. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t published a standard curriculum for this course; therefore, the precise content, length and cost of these courses vary by location. However, typically they last two days and cost between $700 and $900. You can download an Excel spreadsheet containing a list of pre-approved train-the-trainer workshop providers directly from Microsoft by pointing your browser to www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices/content/downloads/TTTList.xls. As of this writing, about 750 training facilities were listed for the U.S. and Canada.

In this class you’ll develop presentation skills, learn how to handle multiple learning styles and speeds within the same group, and get a rundown on the basics of classroom training, such as making sure people are comfortable, getting feedback from students, and learning how to pace yourself. Not all classes focus on how to teach technical topics. As you’re choosing a train-the-trainer facility, keep this in mind; consider picking one that does.

The second way to prove your training expertise is by doing technical training for other companies. Microsoft currently accepts training credentials from the following vendors: Caldera, Prosoft (Certified Internet Webmaster), Cisco Systems, Citrix, Lotus, Novell, Oracle and Santa Cruz Operations.

Third, Microsoft accepts the Chauncey Group’s Certified Technical Trainer (CTT) certificate. CTT is a cross-industry certification available to all training professionals who provide technical instruction and education. To earn the CTT, you must successfully complete one computer-based exam and one performance assessment videotape that contains a 20-minute sample showing you in action, teaching a live classroom. The computer-based test consists of 105 multiple-choice questions, lasts 105 minutes, and costs $150 per attempt. The performance assessment also has a $150 fee attached to it. You can also take CTT courses that prepare you for the exam. They frequently last three days and can cost up to $1,800.

Also, you might be able to work out a special deal with the MCT program folks if you have another technical training certificate not given in the preceding list. For example, I taught for ExecuTrain of Syracuse, New York, when I applied for my MCT certification. Microsoft accepted my instructor certificate from ExecuTrain as valid proof of my competency as a trainer.

Before you can submit your application to become an MCT, you have a final requirement: taking an MCT-led class that lasts at least three days. Microsoft used to require you to sit through any course you were going to teach. That’s been eliminated, but Redmond still wants to ensure you know what distinguishes a Microsoft course from any other kind of training—to observe a Microsoft class in practice. As the MCT guidelines explain, “Attending...will allow you to observe the course flow and timing, complete the course labs, observe student and instructor interactions, and listen to questions and answers.” You’re advised to make it a class you plan to teach.

Last, it’s time to apply for the MCT program. “Additional Information” lists where to obtain the form online. You’ll need to supply some personal information, give details about your employer, designate how you’ve met the requirements and provide various forms of proof, and agree to abide by the rules of the program.

If you work for a CTEC, you’ll be asked for its name and its certified partner number. If you don’t work for a CTEC, you’re considered a freelancer and you’ll need to pay a $200 application fee. This applies even if you’re employed by an AATP.

Supply and Demand

Victor Melfa is CEO of The Training Associates, an IT Training and Consulting firm, and also one of the founders of both the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Information Technology Training Association (ITTA). Recently, editor Elizabeth Hoyt spoke to him about the current state of the trainer industry and how MCTs can stay on top.

How would you characterize the trainer industry compared to last year?
Things have changed quite a bit since the beginning of the year. The slowing economy has hit training companies. The business outsource from corporations to the training companies has lessened. Many of the training companies have experienced reduced sales so far this year. There have been a lot of layoffs of trainers.

Many more contract trainers are available now, because the demand for trainers has gone down. The salaries for full-time trainers have gone down. The daily price of contract trainers has gone down because there are so many available. Last year everything was going strong. Maybe some weaknesses started to show up in some places mid-year.

Beginning this year, right after the election, when the true news came out about the economy and everybody realized the economy wasn't as good as they thought, layoffs started.

In our Salary Survey issue, published last month, we found that the average salary for an MCT is $78,600. How does this compare to what you’re seeing in the industry?
I think that’s too high. Our experience has been that since the first of the year there has been a definite reduction. We’re the largest provider of trainers to the industry. We know that trainer salaries have gone down from a year ago, and contract trainer salaries have gone down.

When Microsoft first developed the MCT program, [MCTs] were getting over $1,000 a day. Today they're getting $500 to $600 a day. In general, I think as a company's program ages, there's a reduction in pricing.

How does the MCT compare to other trainer certifications?
It's weaker than some and stronger than others. It's weaker than Cisco, stronger than Novell. It depends upon supply and demand. It really depends on individual technology. The hottest, newest technologies have the most demand.

What can an MCT do to stay ahead of the game and employable? Are there certain skills or expertise they should have?
The key is to make sure they’re expert in the latest, most popular technology that’s in demand. And, of course, be an expert at teaching that technology. Also, if they want to stay employable…they can lower their prices.

When a technology is first released, the supply [of trainers] is not great. That's when trainers can make the most money. That's when we pay the highest prices. When Windows first came out, we were working with Microsoft and other [companies] getting our trainers up to speed on that. That's the trick to find out what's going to be hot. You've got to stay close to the source.

The Benefits of the Credential
Once Microsoft has approved your application—which takes about two weeks—you’ll be notified by e-mail and receive a welcome kit. In that, you’ll find a printed version of your MCP transcript, an MCT certificate, a camera-ready MCT logo sheet, and other assorted agreements and guidelines.

Becoming an MCT has its advantages besides use of the logo. For example, you’ll get a discount on every MCP exam you take—$45 off the price tag. You won’t receive a separate MCT ID—the original MCP ID still applies. To obtain your discount with Prometric or VUE, you need to let the customer service representative know you’re an MCT each time you register for a test.

You’ll have the right to download trainer kits for all MOC and MSDN training courses at no charge; paper-bound editions are available for purchase either directly from Microsoft or from Microsoft-approved channels. You’ll also gain access to online editions of trainer packs, which you can download for free.

You’ll get an invitation to Microsoft-sponsored events and promotions specifically for the MCT community. Plus, you’ll have access to the MCT private area on the Web site and private newsgroups. (The private area includes a log listing all problems with the MOC.) Microsoft also makes a special hotline available to trainers, where you can get courseware questions answered, get help on how to set up your classroom and labs, and address other problems.

Keeping Up
Once you’ve achieved your MCT, the work doesn’t stop. Obviously, you need to make sure you don’t have a lapse in your premier certification. If you’re certified under Windows NT 4.0, that means you need to get through those Windows 2000 exams to retain your MCSE or you’ll lose your MCT also.

However, one new addition in 2001 is the requirement that you deliver at least 10 days of training during the program year, which runs from October through September. It can be in the classroom, in online classes, or in a custom training situation—as long as you use the MOC or MSDN materials, not just kits or books from Microsoft Press or other vendors.

A second requirement mandates that you “earn” 15 technical continuing education credits (CECs) during the program year. Interestingly, you can take care of this in one fell swoop by getting through the Accelerated test, exam 70-240, which is worth 15 credits. Other exams are worth five credits apiece. Alternatively, you can attend Microsoft courses or a Microsoft technical conference, each worth a credit a day. You can also obtain credit for time spent in billable consulting work (16 hours of billable time for one credit). This year, you can obtain all of your CECs by getting your Win2K certification before the end of 2001.

But that’s not all! You also need to earn five instructional CECs. Microsoft is pushing online training by granting a credit for each day of e-learning you deliver. In-person training doesn’t count. You can also earn credits by attending Microsoft courses, a training skills course, or a training skills conference (one credit per day).

The advantage of being new to the program is that you get credit simply by joining. MCTs who sign up between February 2002 and May 2002, for example, gain 10 technical credits and five instruction credits for their certification. Those who sign on between June 2002 and September 2002 will have all their credits covered. If you’re just about to become an MCT—and complete that before the end of January 2002—you’ll receive five technical credits; you’re on your own to earn the rest. Also, if you’re entering the the program as a new MCT within 90 days of program renewal, your renewal fee will be waived. That gives you a slightly longer time to attain your MCT requirements until the next renewal (in October 2002).

Additional Information

Want to be an MCT? Your starting point is at www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices. Choose the left-menu Certification button, then MCT. From there, you can download a copy of the MCT Program Guide.

The application for applying to become an MCT is at www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices/content/downloads/MCT_app.doc. You can find out more about the CTT credential by visiting the Chauncey Group’s CTT Web site at www.chauncey.com/ctt.html.

Finally, you’ll have to pay an annual program fee to maintain your credential—$300 for full-time trainers at CTECs and $400 for independent trainers. Stand Up and Train! If you’ve been pondering the possibility of becoming a trainer, now isn’t a bad time to get started. Demand is high for instructors who can train well on Win2K. If you time your application right, you’ll eliminate some of the continuing education credits from your to-do list. Good luck!

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