In handling a series of reader questions recently here on the ITKE, somebody raised the question of whether or not it was worth spending $15,000 to sign up for a combination cert training package that would help him acquire A+, Network+, MCP, and MCSA certification. This is an interesting question for all kinds of reasons that I’d like to explore. But first the answer is: “It depends on who’s paying. If somebody else is footing the bill, it may be worthwhile. If you must pay for this out of your own pocket, or borrow money to cover those costs, perhaps not.”
Now for some cost analysis, and then some explanations:
- As I explained waaaay back in 2002, an MCSA is going to cost you about $1,100 to acquire based on minimal and actual costs for self-study including the exams themselves ($125 x 4 = $500 ), Exam Crams ($30 x 4 = $120), full-length study guides ($50 x 4 = $200), and practice tests ($70 x 4 = $280). BTW, obtaining the MCSA gets you an MCP when you pass the first exam in the series, so mentioning the MCP is a little misleading: you must be an MCP to become an MCSA in any case.
- If you shop for exam vouchers carefully, you can find discounts on Network+ costs, with a low of about $215 (see ITExamVouchers.com for the latest deals). Add in the Exam Cram ($30), Study Guide ($50), and a practice exam ($70) for a total of $365 for self-study costs.
- Ditto above for A+, and you can find a low of about $300 for both of the A+ exams. Add two each Exam Crams ($60), Study Guides ($100), and practice exams ($140) for a total of $600 for self-study costs.
- Total self-study budget: $2,065 vs. package price of $15,000. Need I say any more?
Now some explanations, thoughts, and ideas:
- Why go after the MCSA when you should be thinking MCITP for the latest Windows client and server versions, plus platform technologies, services, and so forth, anyway. Chances are good the MCSA will disappear no later than 2012 anyway. Why spend that kind of cash on a soon-to-be-obsolete credential?
- Network+ and A+ are strictly entry level technician certs. They might get you into a support tech or help desk “starter job,” but they won’t get you much further than that. If you’re expecting a significant return on your training/cert investments, these are just the first elements in what should be a much longer sequence of increasingly serious (and higher-paying) credentials.
- If you really want to get a sequence going, you’d want to think about various MCITP credentials, and possibly also Cisco certifications in the CCENT, CCNA, and professional (CCNP, CCDP, CCVP, CCSP) families. Cisco exams cost $125 (two-step CCNA process) or $250 (one-step CCNA and most other non-CCIE exams) each, and you can take 1 (640-802) or 2 (640-822 which also gets you a CCENT, and 640-816) to earn the CCNA. Most of the Cisco professional certs require 4 exams at $250 each to earn, but are highly regarded in the marketplace.
My final take on this situation is that only those with money to burn, or other people’s money to spend, should be considering a “full boat classroom ride to certification.” For everybody else, the economics of self-study are still too compelling to overlook. Still the very best bang for your certification bucks around!