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5: I Don't Have the Money to Get Certified. The Classes Are Too Expensive. How Do I Get Started? Is There an Inexpensive Way to Get Certified?

This was one of the obstacles that I really struggled with when I entered IT. Instructor-led training was and is very expensive. I searched high and low for good self-study materials, but in the early and mid-90s, there was a void when it came to this type of resource.

Now, people who want to enter IT or continue studying toward advanced certifications can do so without taking out a second mortgage. For example, folks who want to pursue the Windows 2000 MCSE can succeed for a fraction of the cost of instructor-led training. I recommend a three-prong strategy for people wanting to do self-study:

  • First, get a good self-study guide, such as the Training Guides published by New Riders. They are excellent preparation tools for the W2K MCSE. They are comprehensive and easy to follow.

  • Second, build a small computer lab to practice on. Two or three computers that are networked together is all you need for a good W2K lab. If you want to really learn a lot and prepare for the A+ certification tests, build the computers from scratch. Purchase the motherboards, processors, memory, hard drives, monitors, keyboards, mice, speakers, network cards, operating system, and cases; and assemble them from scratch. You will learn more about the workings of the computers, plus save a lot of money, than if you buy a preassembled unit from a major vendor.

  • Finally, purchase a good test-prep to help you prepare for the certification exams. There are many vendors out who provide excellent content. I write for MeasureUp.com, which has superb W2K test preparation materials. I also recommend that you research web sites that discuss the certification and exams that you are interested in. Many have excellent hints on how to prepare for individual W2K exams.

Again, the way to get by the obstacle is to formulate a strategy and have a good attitude. You can get certified inexpensively by self-study. All you have to do is be determined and stay focused. For $1000–$1500 (which includes test fees), you can earn the W2K MCSE through self-study. That is half the price of a single instructor-led course.

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