Finding Funds for Certification
People often have lots of excuses for not pursuing IT certification, some of which are valid and some of which aren’t. These will vary, largely based on the background of the person in question. Some of the older IT workers who have two or three decades of professional experience under their belt come from a time before certification, back when techies generally eschewed formal education and training programs of any kind. Thus, they’re often skeptical of the value of credentials and feel their years of experience speak much louder to their level of proficiency.
On the other hand, it could be that they’re IT professionals who are fresh out of four-year colleges with their degrees in computer science. They might be completely absorbed in mastering their new job or burned out on education and test-taking generally. Whatever the reason, they’re just not looking into certification right now.
Regardless of the explanation, I’d wager that the two main underlying reasons why IT professionals don’t seek certification are time and money. (I’ve already written about the former here.) Finances can be an especially thorny issue—people just don’t want to pay for stuff. And it’s not like certifications are cheap. Some of them have costs that run into the thousands of dollars, and that’s not even counting the associated training materials.
There are essentially three principal sources of certification funding: yourself, your employer and the government. (Of course, there’s also the occasional inheritance from a deceased rich uncle, but if you’ve got that going for you, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this.) Here’s how you can get the most from these money sources:
- You: Are you saving a set amount of money each month, or is your checking account a few cents away from overdraft charges? You’ve got to get your financial house in order before undertaking a certification, both to have the wherewithal to pay for the credential itself and to possess the mental stability that naturally follows monetary stability. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, start taking the necessary steps to get on solid financial ground. Formulate a personal budget every month and stick to it. If you’re using credit cards a lot, stop. Learn to live within your means. This is all simple advice, but it has to be applied to mean anything.
Once you’ve got your expenses down, figure out how much you can save from each paycheck for your certification efforts. Any amount, however small, will help out as long as you’re a disciplined saver. This means not taking one cent out of that account until the time comes to actually pay for the certification.
- Your Employer: Of course, you won’t always have to pay the full cost of the certification all by yourself. Many companies are willing to help their techies out by either financing their credentialing efforts directly in part or entirely, or compensating them after the fact. If you’re asking your boss for certification money, though, be prepared to defend the request. It helps to have a few years of experience with that employer already and be recognized as a “high-potential” member of the team. A business is much more likely to dispense funds for IT credentials to a loyal, ambitious worker who’s on the fast track up the corporate ladder.
- The Government: The federal government hands out millions of dollars every year through the Department of Commerce to professionals across industries who want to further their skills and knowledge and thereby make themselves more employable. For more information about funding for IT training and certification, see http://www.go4it.gov. Also, anyone in the military should check out the credentialing options available through the GI Bill and other professional development programs.