A wise man once told me that the answer to any good question always begins with the same two words — namely “That depends…” In this case the good question has been popping up in numerous e-mails and blog post comments. It comes in a variety of forms, of course, but I’ll simply summarize them like this:
“Should I spend the money on high-dollar, instructor-led, classroom training for my certification, or should I look for some cheaper alternative?”
So, then, what does the answer to that question depend on? Here goes a list of possible alternatives, many of which are questions that the reader must answer for him- or herself:
1. Who’s paying? If you get financial assistance or an outright grant of some kind, there’s no doubt that students who take instructor led classroom training report the best overall learning experience. And important corollary to this topic is that it’s seldom worth incurring major debt to earn a certification, unless you’re already in a job that generates enough disposable income to make those loan payments good.
2. How well do you know the material? Somebody who’s prepping for an exam on a topic they know well may find it faster, easier, and much cheaper to take the self-study route to take and pass an exam, than to shell out the money and take 3 or more days away from the office to go through a classroom training adventure.
3. How important is the certification? I know people who’ve first tried the self-study route only to fail and fail again on the cert exam. But because they were required to possess a current credential of some kind, they had no choice but to keep trying until they passed the exam or exams in question and earned the necessary “piece of paper” to stay in their jobs. This is one case where cost becomes a secondary factor, and doing whatever is necessary to remain in the job comes first. That makes ILT classroom training almost a must (though many such folks still try the self-study route first in the name of economy) because the ability to interact with a knowledgeable and well-qualified instructor can make the difference between success and failure on the next try.
4. How big is your budget? Whether you’re paying yourself, have some or full support, the sky is seldom the limit for training outlays, especially in today’s tight budgetary climate. Though you can turn to a global, national, or boutique training company for your next ILT adventure, don’t forget you can also get good, high-quality instruction and lab access at a fraction of the cost from your local community college for most common cert topics and credentials (for more exotic or advanced topics, however, YMMV “your mileage may vary”, as they say on the Internet). While you can pay $1,000 -$1,500 a day for 8-9 hours of classroom training at a top-flight ILT establishment, you can often find the same kind of classes at community colleges for under $100 an hour, sometimes even under $60 an hour. Community college classes do take 9-12 weeks to complete and involve a longer-term time commitment, but if you can stand the schedule, it may offer a better way to invest scarce training dollars than on an intense 3-5 day class at a commercial training center somewhere.
5. What does the cert program require? Many certs recommend or suggest training, giving you the option to take the self-study route if you so choose. A fair number of programs — including those from VMware, Oracle, SANS, and others — include mandatory training requirements for some, if not all, of their credentials. Sometimes, you have to spring for ILT classroom or online training because that’s what earning the credential requires. In that case you’ll want to shop around for the best combination of cost and instructor credentials (remember, a cheap course from a bad instructor is nowhere near as useful or valuable as an expensive course from a good one).
As you answer the various preceding questions, it should become much easier to decide if you need to spring for ILT training, and what kind of ILT makes most sense for your needs — if any. Whatever you decide, good luck with your ongoing training and certification efforts.
More reading from Tom’s IT Pro
Training Options for IT Pros: a look at 37 global, topical, and boutique training companies and offerings
The Best Value for Your IT Training Dollars: a more in-depth look at community college cert training