This feature originally appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Certification Magazine.
What’s your certification story? We want to identify the best ways of becoming certified, as well as find out what people are doing to get there. There’s always the question of money — the exams aren’t free, and not everyone passes on the first attempt. Most candidates put in quite a bit of study time, and various materials are available to assist in preparation. Also, what the experience like when the big day finally arrived?
When it comes to footing the bill for certification, quite a few employers are picking up the tab. About 39 percent of those surveyed report that their employer paid the entire cost of their most recent certification outright, while an additional 10 percent were able to have some or all of their expenses reimbursed. Cost-sharing is a less popular model — just 4 percent of respondents split the certification bill with their employer.
Where employers were not involved, most of those surveyed (32 percent of all respondents) simply paid the entire cost themselves, though a few took advantage of other options. About 2.5 percent of those surveyed used grants or scholarships, while another 3 percent relied on government funding. A notable 8 percent let cert vendors eat all or most of the cost, through vouchers or beta programs. And let’s not discount the power of charm. A very charismatic half-a-percent of those surveyed convinced a friend to pay for their certification.
There are many options available to people seeking out certification study materials, but not everyone chose to spend on preparation. A robust 23 percent of those surveyed relied on their own wits (or possibly on the local library) and didn’t spend a nickel on study materials. About 16 percent of respondents spent less than $100, with 48 percent spending between $100 and $1,000. Then there’s the 12 percent of you who like to be really, really
prepared: Those people spent between $1,000 and $10,000.
Some people, of course, prefer to learn from a person rather than from a book, and there are numerous seminars and workshops that provide a ready alternative to books and software. Here again, the go-it-alone crowd made a strong showing: 43 percent of those surveyed spent nothing on workshops or seminars. It’s probably hard to go it on the cheap with workshops, which may explain why just 6.5 percent of respondents spent less than $100, while 23 percent chipped in between $100 and $100. The big spenders — 27.5 percent of you — paid between $1,000 and $15,000 to get face-to-face instruction.
Those who did pay for training materials got mostly got what they wanted. A considerable 57 percent of those who paid for certification training materials rated their books, manuals and software as either good or very good, while 42 percent declared them excellent. Satisfaction with human instructors was also high: 40 percent of those surveyed rated their instructor excellent, while 54 percent deemed their instructor either good or very good.
There are, of course, other sources of information out there to assist in preparation. Most cert vendors and industry groups frown on brain dumps, and a little more than half of you didn’t use them. Among those who did, the results varied wildly: 16 percent found them extremely valuable, while 18 percent rated them very valuable, and 31 percent rated them valuable.
On the downside, 35 percent of those who used brain dumps got hosed, rating them either less valuable (20 percent) or not at all valuable (15 percent). Practice exams offered a more productive and widely used means of preparation. Only 6 percent of those surveyed opted not to take a practice exam. Among those who did, a solid majority were highly satisfied, rating practice exams either extremely valuable (41 percent) or very valuable (35 percent).
There’s really no substitute, on the other hand, for firsthand knowledge. On-the-job training was one of the most highly-rated methods of certification preparation. Among those who were able to learn by doing, 50 percent rated the experience extremely valuable, while 46 percent found it either very valuable (28 percent) or valuable (18 percent).
As for the experience of actually taking a certification exam, most were highly satisfied — good job, certification entities. Roughly 38 percent of those surveyed rated their exam excellent, while an additional 54 percent rated it either very good (32 percent) or good (22 percent). Only 8 percent were notably dissatisfied, rating their exam either fair (5 percent) or poor (3 percent).
And while this is the salary survey, the potential for increased salary is far from the only benefit of certification. Roughly 69 percent of those surveyed either agree or strongly agree that certification improves problem-solving skills, while 74 percent either agree or strongly agree that certification increases productivity. If there’s a certification in your future, expect to benefit in more ways than one.
The rest of our report is broken down into the following sections:
INTRODUCTION What’s going on here?
DOLLARS & CENTS What are IT pros making?
WORKPLACE Where do IT pros go to work?
DEMOGRAPHICS Who did we survey to find out all this stuff?