What Mac Support Career Path is Right for me?

I think there comes a time in every Mac Techie’s career, usually after the first year, where they ask themselves, “where am I heading?” Despite Apple only holding 5% of the market, there is in fact a huge variety of Mac careers available, and more importantly, in demand.
Right now, possibly exacerbated by the uneasy economic climate, it is a candidate dry market out there and I find myself reassuring candidates that their skills are still in demand, and reminding clients to get the candidates whilst they’re hot, if they don’t somebody else will!!
I would describe there as being three main types of technical Mac careers: engineering, in-house support and video (to include broadcast and post production) Often however, these can switch and be synonymous between all three; you are free to change your mind and alter your path too, don’t forget!


Being a Mac engineer encapsulates bench to field to solutions consultant; which is usually in that order too. A typical bench engineer is someone junior, going in entry level to get hands on experience, learning about the hardware, software and the nitty gritty workings of the computer. This is advanced to the next level by onsite visits and face to face interaction with the customer, including exposure to servers and larger networks. The solutions consultant role is the top-level engineer who pretty much has an encyclopedic  knowledge of everything, not just Mac either! These kinds of roles suit the hands on, the ones who react pragmatically to challenges and problems.
Salaries and Quals:
Bench engineer ACMT, ACSP – anywhere between £13,000 – £24,000
Field engineer ACTC – anywhere between £22,000 – £35,000
Solutions consultant ACSA – £35,000 – £50,000 (they often include commission too, pushing OTE up to £70k)

In-House Support

In-house support covers remote and desk side support analysts, Systems Administrators and IT Managers. A great entry level role for techies is the 1st line support role on a busy help desk; you learn not only the OS of the Mac but also server software (Active Directory and Open Directory) to work with permissions, user accounts but often don’t get to grips with the hardware. You do get more senior roles that advance onto the 2nd line and you find that it is a great technical knowledge strengthener.
After around five years working on the 1st and 2nd line, techies find themselves itching to get involved with the infrastructure and seek to go onto the 3rd line, which is where they become Systems Administrators.
These do basically what it says on the tin: administer the systems.
Use of the Terminal and Command Line is also a heavy requirement. This will include further cross platform knowledge, but will require a strong Mac knowledge. Many find that the next logical step will then be into management, and I would have to agree, as although you still remain technical, you become involved with even more skills.
Salaries and Quals:
Remote and Desk Side Support Analyst – ACSP , ACTC – starting at £18,000 going all the way up to £30,000
Systems Administrator ACTC, ACSA , Cisco – £30,000 – £40,000
IT Manager ACSA , ITIL, Prince2 – £40,000 – £60,000

Video (Broadcast/Post Production)

If you’re lucky enough to land a junior engineer role in this field, hold onto it and work from there, but it is more common for either an engineer or an in-house support person to find their careers leading naturally into video.
Video is like the combination of engineer and in-house because you could be visiting a range of studios and working with an array of large storage networks with many, many racks, or setting up and administering Xsans, Ubuntu Servers and other SANs. It is strange to not see a Mac in a visual effects or Post Production agency and as a result, the people with the Mac skills are the most sought after.
Yet, there are a lot of other skills you need to have, like a real, in-depth knowledge of Scripting (Shell, Bash, Python) and a competency with suitable video unique applications (Smoke, Avaya etc.) The job titles in this field differ between Engineer, Senior Engineer, Systems Administrator and Manager and the salaries are below.
Salaries and Quals:
Junior Post Production Engineer – starting at £18,000 up to £23,000
Post Production Engineer – £24,000 – £35,000
Senior Post Production Engineer Xsan Administrator – £35,000 – £45,000
Systems Administrator – £45,000 – £55,000
Just to reiterate, career paths are not set in stone, and this is just a guideline if you ever get stuck or confused. All careers can lead to management or even directorship if you work hard enough! Not to mention, you can start up your own company too!
By Sarah Garrett
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