The Cost of Staying Certified

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Vendors require certified trainers to update their credentials to give some level of assurance that their trainers are qualified to deliver the latest training. This often requires sitting through and paying for one or more update classes and passing one or more certification exams. Additionally, some vendors require other sorts of update requirements on a yearly basis, ranging from conference attendance to taking online courses to learning how to deliver online courses. Each requirement has a cost, sometimes evident and tangible, sometimes intangible and more difficult to quantify.

Historically, teaching has not been the highest-paying profession, but dedicated people have joined the profession anyway for the sometimes-intangible sense of accomplishment that comes from giving back to the world, seeing students succeed and a host of other rewards that certainly are not monetary.

In past booming economic times, an independent certified trainer was able to command daily rates often exceeding $1,000 or significantly more, and employed certified trainers earned huge salaries up to or exceeding $100,000 yearly, but in the current down times, these rates are easily halved. Unfortunately, the cost of staying certified is really still the same, if not a little more. It’s a cost that has to be considered in the overall business proposition for being a trainer.

Tuition for each week’s class could range from a complementary arrangement with an education center to $2,000 or more. You also have to count the cost of the week away from actually delivering training. This is lost opportunity cost, whether it is for the independent trainer or the trainer who is employed—the difference is only whether it is the trainer or the employer that bears the lost opportunity costs.

Additionally, attending the class may involve travel, an expense that again may range from nominal to costly hotel and airfare fees.

Few people can pass the associated certification examination for the new subject class without spending significant amounts of time studying outside of class. Again, this represents lost opportunity cost or lost recreational time if the studying has to be done on your own time. In either event, it is time that you might have otherwise spent doing something else.

Further, depending on the subject matter being studied, the studying could require the use of a lab of several machines, as well as other equipment such as hubs, routers, etc. Again, if the trainer is an employee, the employer may be willing to provide a complement of classroom equipment to use for study purposes, either at work or on loan for use at home. For the independent trainer, this is another cost and possible inconvenience. It’s pretty common to talk about dining room tables full of computers rather than huge dinner parties during times of heavy study!

It is also fairly common for an examination candidate to purchase one or more additional types of preparatory material, ranging from sample assessment examinations to supplemental books, CDs or online training materials—optional, but at an additional cost.

Then, the cost for the update certification exam and the time it takes to get to and from the testing center and take the exam has to be considered. Again, the cost can be nominal to costly, depending on the examination cost itself, the length of the examination and whether the trainer is contracted or employed. The exam itself could range from a trainer special deal of $50 or $60 to $1,500 or more for on-site exams.

So if a single vendor were to require the trainer to sit and pass only one new exam each year, and if the courses covering the exam were five-day classes requiring travel, the conservative cost could easily be:

Course fee: $1,000
Travel: $1,000
Exam fee: $125
Lost opportunity cost (for taking exam and study time): $2,000
Total without equipment or study aides: $4,125

Even if the exam could be passed through self-study, eliminating the costs for the course and travel, the lost opportunity costs and exam fee alone are not insignificant.

Finally, consider the additional yearly certification program requirements from several major vendors. Some require the trainer to take a week of update instructional training, some require attendance at conferences, and some require taking additional technical training. Any way you look at it, staying a certified trainer costs money and commitment that multiplies when a trainer carries multiple certifications. These are costs that cannot be ignored.

Ann Beheler is executive director/dean of Collin County Community College’s Engineering Technology Division, which houses one of the nine Cisco CCNP academic instructor training centers in the world. E-mail Ann at


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