Certification – Costs of Attaining a Certification
When pursuing any form of higher education, the subject of money often comes up. It is common for people to question what a certification is “worth”, and just as common as people to respond in terms of salary increases compared to the cost of getting the certification. This is erroneous thinking. As you have (hopefully) already read, the true value of a certification is the learning that it brings you and the new ways it gives you to think about problems. Comparably, these are the terms in which you have to account for the costs of a certification.
There are many ways to attain a certification, the common ones are listed below with a short breakdown of that they actually mean
In a boot-camp situation, you generally go somewhere and do nothing but focus on the certification for about a week. This is often very expensive, as you (or your company) must foot the bill for tuition, meals, lodging, travel, and any other incidentals that may arise. Additionally, during this week, you are not able to make money for your company, so the company often gets a double-whammy on the financial side.
That said, this method tends to be highly successful in filling your brain with the knowledge needed to pass the certification exam. This is good if the primary goal is getting certified. However, if you want the learning to become permanent, you have to ask yourself if you learn best in one shot or slowly and over a period of time. If you can actually absorb information that quickly, and you are willing to talk with your fellow classmates and learn from them, this could be a very cost effective way for you to learn. If not, consider a different method.
Some certifications offer a mentor program. As a mentor, the “instructor” is available to help you understand specific topics, but the learning is expected to be mostly on your own. As such, it tends to be somewhat cheaper than the boot-camp scenarios. However, the financial cost is offset by increasing the time cost. Simply put, it takes more time for you to gain the certification. Depending on your learning style, this could be a good thing. If the extra time is needed to get the new patterns imprinted on your brain, then this method is definitely worth the time cost.
If, however, you approach this program from a perspective where you only think about it during the mentor sessions, it is unlikely to be effective for you. This method takes more work on your part than the boot-camp does. If you have the passion, go for it. If not, it’s best to give it a pass.
Some people prefer to learn from their peers, and to that end, will form a study group for the purpose of helping one another learn enough to pass the test. This tends to be very inexpensive from a financial standpoint, but extremely expensive in terms of time. In addition to the learning that you have to do on your own, you have to carve even more time out of your week to attend the study group. Moreover, everyone in the group has to do this to be successful.
Often, these groups dissolve into chatter, which is socially enjoyable, but a waste of resources compared to the ultimate goal. If you have a group of people that you KNOW can stay on task, and you ALL are interested in actually learning about the topic, go ahead and try this method. However, only go into it with your eyes wide open.
Books / Self Study
This is probably the least expensive in terms of dollars and you have complete control over the time cost. However, studying on your own often only works well if you have the passion and drive needed to learn on your own. This method is not for the passive learner. If you pursue this path, I strongly recommend that you develop a schedule for yourself and stick to it. You have to be brutally honest with yourself and constantly test your knowledge. It also helps to commit to a specific testing date, as this puts pressure on you to keep to your training schedule.
If you pursue this method, you will lose the learning opportunity of bouncing ideas off of others, but if you are dedicated to your path, it may not matter so much. However, your success will also be linked to the quality of the book you choose. This is why I recommend picking up multiple certification prep guides (raising the costs). That makes it more likely that you will learn the material and not just the way that author chooses to present the material.
There is almost always a financial cost to taking a certification test. There is another one for re-taking a certification test, so be sure that you can pass before you sign up for one. The hidden costs here include travel, hotel, meals, and time lost to taking the test. Also, anticipate being exhausted after an exam and do not plan to be productive during the trip back. Odds are that you will just want to sit and fret about how you did. Depending on the exam, you may or may not know for days. Remember that this stress has a cost as well.