Funding Your Certification
Anyone can find excuses for not pursuing IT certification. Some are valid, and some 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. Thus, they’re often skeptical of the value of credentials and feel their years of experience speak much louder to their level of proficiency.
Or they could be IT professionals who are fresh out of four-year colleges with a bachelor’s degree in computer science 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. 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 before undertaking a certification, both to have the wherewithal to pay for the credential 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 very 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 by yourself — many companies are willing to help their techies by either financing their credentialing efforts directly (at least somewhat) 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, as well as 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: Through legislation such as the Perkins Act and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the federal government hands out millions of dollars every year to professionals across industries who want to further their skills and knowledge and thereby make themselves more employable. Also, anyone in the military should check out the credentialing options available through the GI Bill and other professional development programs. The opportunities available are too numerous to go into in great detail here, but they’re relatively easy to find through Internet searches.