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PC Repair Certifications Besides the CompTIA A+

By  Dec 17, 2008

Topics: Certification

As you probably know, CompTIA appears to have the computer repair technician certification market tied up fairly tightly with their A+ title. In this post I will endeavor to locate some alternative credentialing options for those who might be interested.

Retail Channels

At least in the United States, the two primary retail outlets that staff their own merry gangs of certified computer repair technicians are:

NOTE: Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2008; therefore, I'm not sure how fruitful it would be for you to pursue employment with them at this time.

Anyhow, if you search the Internet you will find lots of opinions concerning the relative advantages and disadvantages of working as a bench repair technician for a retail consumer electronics store.

For my part, I have trained a large number of active and "retired" Geek Squad and Firedog personnel. By and large, these men and women are a well-intentioned, fairly technically proficient bunch of people. My argument with the retail PC repair channels lies more in their business model than with the techs themselves.

For instance, I've learned more than I should about the "top secret" Geek Squad diagnostic software, the MRI Toolset. Quite frankly, in my estimation a barey trained chimpanzee could run this software on somebody's messed-up computer and fix most minor-to-intermediate software issues.

In my opinion, Geek Squad and Firedog are in the customer gouging business. Keep your ethics in mind before you file your employment applications with these outfits, please.

A local, and reputable, "mom and pop" PC repair shop might present a better opportunity for you to spend your time gaining your proverbial "sea legs" as a repair technician before earning your first enterprise-level IT gig.

Vocational Schools

Another alternative to pursuing the CompTIA A+ title is to enroll in a so-called "voke school" such as ITT Technical Institute, DeVry University, High-Tech Institute, or your local community college, all of which should offer certificate programs and/or associate degree programs in computer repair technologies.

One advantage that a vocational school program has over a traditional IT training class is its length, breadth, and depth. For instance, I have taught more official CompTIA A+ classes than I can count. These five-day instructor-led workshops offer as much hands-on, practical experience as you can fit in the same timframe as attempting to navigate through a 700-page course manual (!).

On the other hand, I have also taught a dozen or so semester-length computer repair training classes for ITT Technical Institute. You figure it out: which students do you think emerged from their program with the more sophisticated skill set?

To every advantage their is usually at least one disadvantage. Most, if not all, vocational schools are for-profit enterprises. Vocational schools are typically rife with variable quality (to say the least) instruction, uneven administration, and a certificate that carries little to no weight in the IT marketplace.


Speaking candidly, IT newcomers who want to become PC repair techs might in the end want to go for a blended approach. That is to say, picking up the CompTIA A+ (to garner the industry recognition), and gaining the practical hands-on experience through either vocational school training or putting in their time in a mom/pop or retail shop for a little while, might indeed constitute a valuable front-end investment that pays off big-time in the medium to long run in one's IT career.