Best Computer Hardware Certifications For 2016

Best Computer Hardware Certifications For 2016
By , Kim Lindros

Becoming a computer technician is a great point of entry into the IT field, and computer hardware certifications will help demonstrate your knowledge and competency in maintaining computers, mobile devices, printers and more. These top 5 computer hardware certs can help you get your IT career off the ground. 

To a certain extent, the title of this article is something of a misnomer. In the interests of increased specificity, it might be more appropriate to add the words "general" or "mostly vendor-neutral," although we do include a credential from Apple in this list that focuses exclusively on Apple hardware. And in fact, it's possible to view some certifications from hardware vendors such as HP, Dell, Cisco, Juniper, Fortinet and so forth as hardware focused, at and beyond the entry level. Thus, as you peruse this guide, don't forget that there are lots of other options from which you can choose if you're interested in demonstrating your knowledge and abilities with some (or any) particular vendor's products and devices.

There's another misnomer involved in calling these credentials hardware certifications, too -- namely, the idea that hardware can exist or operate independently of software (or vice versa). If you dig into the curriculum for any specific hardware-related certifications in any depth, you'll quickly realize that by and large software is in control of hardware nowadays. 

Software comes into play for installation, configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting and just about any other activity you can undertake with hardware. We don't want to misrepresent the focus and coverage of these certs, so it's important to understand that the hardware label simply indicates that devices are involved, not that hardware is ALL that's involved.

Table 1 lists the results of an informal job search we conducted to see how frequently the featured certs appear in actual job postings. Keep in mind that these results are a snapshot in time and vary from day to day, depending on the needs of the employment market. However, they provide a good indication of the relative popularity of each cert among employers.

Table 1: Job Board Search Results

BICSI Technician4122053104175
Cisco CCT*3422811289275702
CompTIA A+5,6721,18213891324297,805
CompTIA Server+11477-3012119352

* The Cisco CCT certification has three tracks; the job board search was performed using only "Cisco CCT" as the search term and not a specific track.

A significant change from our 2015 article is the replacement of the Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS) with the Cisco Certified Technician (CCT), which is more relevant to computer hardware and appeared more often on job boards. Also, we received some feedback after polling the IT community forum that the Server+ isn't as popular with IT professionals as in the past. However, we kept CompTIA's Server+ in the top 5 because it is still either recommended or required by HP, Intel, and other large organizations for their technicians. Also, when conducting online job searches, Server+ consistently surfaces in employer requirements. Thanks to Trevor Smith and the forum members for your input on computer hardware certs -- overall, it was very useful data!

Click through the following screens to read about our top 5 picks, which are in no particular order.