Getting certified--who foots the bill?: Page 3

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Lessons learned about paying for IT certification

Determine what your motivation is for getting certified.

Do your research and have documentation to bring to your boss on how your becoming certified will help the organization.

If your employer balks at paying for certification, consider making a commitment to stay with the company for a length of time afterwards. This might make it an easier sell.

If you are applying for an IT position, ask if the company will consider paying for certification as a nonmonetary perk.

Research the best certification for both you and your company. It will only strengthen your case.

Don't forget to factor in the cost of materials; they can be just as expensive as the actual course.

If you can't get hired without certification, get it as soon as you can because it's the fastest way to get into the IT industry. The upfront test costs are minimal compared with long-term employment possibilities.

If you're committed to the IT industry and you need help paying for certification, take out a loan.

Certification is a great way to multiply your daily rate as a contractor--as long as it applies to the daily work you're doing.

Don't simply cram for an exam. During job interviews, recruiters may ask pointed questions, so know your stuff.
When she worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Neubert wasn't looking to receive technical certification. But the demands of her job led to it. Neubert, now a freelance technology consultant in Framingham, Mass., received her NT certification in 1998. At the time, she was part of a technical team that supported a finance group at MIT, in Cambridge, Mass., and the university paid for the week-long training and the exam.

"I probably would not have gone for the course otherwise because I didn't have the interest," Neubert says. Since the department's technical manager traveled extensively, Neubert says she was called upon quite a bit to take a larger managerial role. "At my previous job I'd had a year or two of exposure to Novell [NetWare] administration, so it made the most sense to send me to the course," she says.

Neubert left MIT a few months after getting NT certified and isn't certain network management is an area she wants to concentrate on. But, she says, "I think [the certification] will help me going forward in my career.''

It's easier than ever before

As with Ron Anthony, the experience has also sparked in Neubert an interest in other types of certification. Someday, Neubert says she may pursue Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification, but funding it herself will be an issue, since there are seven courses required for the MCSE Windows 2000 certification. Neubert says she was unaware there are loan programs available to assist with the cost.

Cost aside, the fact remains that there is strong motivation to get certified even when your employer isn't willing to pay for it. "It's a quick way to demonstrate competence,'' says IDC's Anderson. "For people who have existed in the industry, it's a way to continue demonstrating their proficiency in a subject area and assuring their marketability and their importance within their own company."

For people not already employed in IT jobs, certification offers a chance to get a foot in the door and substitutes for a lack of experience, Anderson notes. As such, many will either take out a loan or pay on their own for an exam or two.

As a strong proponent of saving up to pay for the exams if an employer won't, Anthony points out that "Loans are good if you're careful.'' For people who don't have the money, he recommends trying to get an entry-level IT job with a company willing to train and then pay for certification down the road.

Prometric's Bean says the availability of financing for certification has never been better, because of the employability of people interested in IT jobs. But that's not the only criteria--as with anything, qualifying for a loan also depends on an individual's credit worthiness, he says. And if you're loath to take out a loan, getting the training can easily be done at a lower price tag.

"More than ever, the emergence of high-quality, online learning has led to lower-cost learning, which addresses the financial question,'' says Bean. "But just because there are so many jobs, it doesn't mean you can walk into a job," he warns. "It still takes a lot of studying, hard work, and determination. But when you get there it's a great career to have." //

Esther Shein, the former editor-in-chief of Datamation, is now a contributing editor and a freelance writer.

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