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Financing Your Certification

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Certification doesn't come cheap. This article from Certification Magazine looks at typical costs and ways to pay for them.
This article is reprinted here with permission from Certification Magazine.

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Today, the belief is common in the IT field that a good job is seldom more than the "right certification" away from being landed—and for good reason. But the reality of obtaining that very certification can involve jumping through some interesting hoops between the time someone decides to pursue that certification and the time when that certification is completed and the job search begins.

Many would-be certification chasers don't always understand the economic implications that the decision to pursue can bring in its trail. Table 1 shows that even the costs of following the self-study path to a three- or four-exam certification are not insignificant and involve expenses of at least $800 to $1,000. For those who prefer classroom training to prepare for their certification exams, that same ticket is quite a bit higher—namely, $5,000 to $11,000-plus!

Table 1 Average Costs in Dollars for Training

Program

# of Exams

Self-Study

CBT/Online

Classroom/ILT

Microsoft

Single-element exam

 

260

480

1,760–2,760

MCDBA

5

1,300

2,400

8,800–13,800

MCSE

4–7

1,040–1,820

1,920–3,360

7,040–19,320

MCSD

4

1,040

1,920

7,040–11,040

Novell

Single-element exam

 

260

480

1,760–2,760

CNE

5–6

1,300–1,560

2,400–2,980

8,800–16,560

MCNE

4–6

1,040–1,560

1,920–2,980

7,040–16,560

Oracle

Single-element exam

 

285

505

1,785–2,785

DBA

4–5

1,140–1,425

2,020–2,525

7,140–13,800

Developer

5

1,425

2,525

8,800–13,800

Cisco

Single-element exam

 

260–460

560–660

1,760–2,960

CCNP

2/4

720–1,240

1,220–2,240

3,620–11,540

CCDP

2/4

720–1,240

1,220–2,240

3,620–11,540

CCIE

2

1,420

1,700

4,100–6,300

Prosoft CIW

Single-element exam

 

285

585

1,785–2,885

Designer

3

855

1,755

5,355–8,655

Developer

7

1,995

4,095

12,495–20,195

Administrator

4

1,140

2,340

7,140–11,540

CompTIA

A+,N+,i-Net+

3

818–968

1,238–1,388

4,838–8,288


NOTE

In these programs, all exams cost the same, so unitizing costs is a matter of simple multiplication. In these programs, costs of tests vary, so high and low values include actual exam costs, plus other variations.

How Much Does It Cost?

Thus, it's no wonder that the question "How much is this going to cost me?" comes up very quickly, once current and would-be IT professionals start assessing the costs of pursuing any certification more seriously. Table 1 also gives a pretty good idea of what these costs can be, but within a narrow frame of reference:

  • Self-study includes costs for books ($80), a single set of practice exams ($80), and the vendor or organization's exam itself (ranges from $95 for Novell exams to a high of $1,000 for the CCIE lab exam from Cisco, with regular stops at $100, $125, and $200 along the way).

  • CBT stands for computer-based or online training, and includes the costs of books ($80) and the exam (varies), plus a stable industry-wide average of $300 for computer-based or online training courses. Since most such courses include a practice exam, this average figure doesn't include the additional $80 average cost of another practice exam.

  • Classroom training varies widely by cost per classroom day. I used a range of $300 to $520, based on a broad spectrum of classroom training organizations. I also included $80 for books, $80 for a practice exam, and the cost of the exams themselves. I also used an average of 5 days in the classroom per exam topic, though this varies from a typical low of three days to a high of 10 days in some cases.

Thus, what Table 1 presents is a set of averages that should be useful when pricing individual programs or when trying to establish general budget guidelines. Notice that these costs do not include the cost of living while taking classes or studying for exams and that costs for computer equipment (to gain absolutely essential hands-on experience while studying and practicing for exams) are not included, either.

As you start making choices about which program you want to pursue and what method of study you're going to use (self-study, CBT or classroom), you'll want to start selecting products and vendors and using "real numbers," instead of the averages I present here. These are ballpark figures only, intended to give you a reasonably accurate idea of the kind of budgets you're thinking about taking on.

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