Caveat Emptor When Choosing Sale-Priced Certs and Training

Think hard before you purchase any discount IT certification and training package.

As a regular blogger on Windows and other technical topics, I follow 12-to-18 websites daily. Many, if not all, of these sites target IT pros and technology focused professionals. Thus, I see all kinds of offers online for training and certification "bundles" that purport to prepare interested professionals to develop new skillsets or even to make career path changes.


What makes these offers interesting — and sometimes, a little scary — is that you'll see phrases like "Retail value: $2,000; now on sale for $25"). Further investigation often reveals interesting patterns and potential gaps (if not outright gotchas). These can include:


? Online courseware offerings/training materials that provide little or no access to mentors, instructors, or coaches

? Cert exams that may be tied into such materials, but may come from low-profile mostly unknown exam providers

? Little or no materials are available by way of flash cards, practice tests, and labs and hands-on interaction with tools, concepts, materials and technologies covered


What's the Point, Then?


Good question. All you can really tell is that the seller (who is often only affiliated with the training/cert provider) is able to pick up a small sum of money in exchange for steering potential candidates into a training/cert provider's intake mechanisms. My response to such things is usually to recall the old saying, "If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is."


If something is really worth $2,000, then it's unlikely to be discounted by 98.75 percent. And that, dear readers, is what a $25 price for something that purports to cost $2,000 translates into. For me, this raises a variety of questions to which I'd urge potential buyers to get answers before plunking down their money.


Double-ditto before spending any time on the training materials to which the modest sum you'll fork over to gain access to them. Those questions are:


Think hard before you purchase any discount IT certification and training package.

1) Who is the sponsor behind the certifications to which the training applies? You'll want to understand who they are, where they're located, how long they've been in business, how many people have gone through their materials and certs already, and what they have to say about that experience.

2) How much do the cert exams cost? Who delivers them? Can you take them online or must you appear at a testing center?  You can't really know what you're signing up for until you understand which exams are involved, how much they cost, and what's involved in taking them.

3) What kinds of additional support can you get from the training cert provider? What does THAT cost? I'd look for human support (trainer/teacher, mentor, coach), practice tests, online labs and hands-on learning tools, and so forth. Only when you understand what it costs to gear up and get ready to pass one or more cert exams can you really understand what the whole thing will cost you.

4) Are any of the major job boards mentioning those certs in job postings? At a minimum, I'd check Indeed, GlassDoor, LinkedIn, SimplyHired, Dice, and ZipRecruiter. (See this U.S. News & World Report story for more pointers and info.) Obviously, anything you invest in training and certification has to come with some reasonable expectation of a payback. It's a good idea to make sure that payback is possible, and that it will recover the costs of your out-of-pocket expenses, time, and effort in no more than 3 years or so.


Time is More Valuable Than Money


Think hard before you purchase any discount IT certification and training package.

You can always make (and thus, spend) more money. But you can't make or spend time. Once you go down the rabbit hole, you may be able to get yourself back out. But the time you've spent in wonderland is forever lost to you.


That is why I strongly advocate doing lots of homework and checking bona fides for training and cert stuff before spending too much (or any) time and money on same. These get-certs-quick-and-cheap offers, upon closer inspection, usually work much more to benefit providers and resellers than buyers and recipients.


If you're going to invest in your future, skills and knowledge, please don't throw your time and money away on questionable or potentially low-value training and certification. If you get what you pay for, and you don't pay very much, then you probably aren't getting much back in return.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

GoCertify's mission is to help both students and working professionals get IT certifications. GoCertify was founded in 1998 by Anne Martinez.