The Era of Continuous Learning Is Here


In looking over a number of certification programs recently — including those curated by Cisco, Brocade, VMware, and others — I was struck by how strongly the subscription model for learning has taken hold in the IT cert prep game. Certainly, working in high tech — especially in IT — requires an earnest commitment to lifelong learning.


And wherever there's a commitment like this, or a need to be met, you can count on the marketplace to help meet such needs. For modest amounts of money, typically somewhere between $10 and $50 per month (with many options available toward the the lower end of that price range), you can sign up for an "all you can learn" plan.


Essentially, you align yourself with a willing and energetic provider of training, study materials, hands-on labs, and practice exams.


Pick a Learning Provider, or Two, or ...


Unless you want to hitch your wagon to some very particular star, however — let's say Cisco, for example — then it may not make sense to subscribe to a vendor- or organization-sponsored learning program on a perpetual basis. Even then, it might make more sense to buy in while you're preparing for some test, and then buy out (at least for a while) once you've put that test behind you.


That said, this could be a great explanation for why more broad-based education and training providers such as, Pluralsight, CBT Nuggets, and others of that ilk, make more sense for IT professionals. Most of us have a range of cert programs to cover, and multiple certifications to keep up with, or renew, or replace, as circumstances will inevitably dictate.


This also provides justification for digital book subscription services like Safari ($39 per month/$399 per year) that provide access to as many tech books, video courses, and other materials, as one can handle at any given time.


The idea is to find one or two providers who can cover most of what you need, and buy into their offerings on a more or less permanent basis. As long as you keep using the tools and information they have to offer, the value for the expenditure works in your favor.


Girl studying on laptop at desk

If you buy six or eight study guides (at $35 to $50 a pop) and 4 or 5 practice tests (at $70 to $100 each) per year, then you're already spending as much as — or more than — the combined costs of a Pluralsight ($30 a month/$299 a year) plus a Safari (costs in preceding paragraph) subscription.


I don't mean to recommend those particular offerings per se, though I have used both of them extensively myself with good results. There are plenty of good options from which you can choose.


Lifelong Learning: Just Do It!


The old Nike motto is every bit as applicable to ongoing learning to develop and maintain IT skills and knowledge as it is to the perpetual pursuit of health and fitness. Both are laudable goals, but unless you commit, buy in, and start studying (or exercising), neither will do you any good.


That's why it might be time to start budgeting for some learning subscriptions for 2017. You can also start making productive use of some of that free time you'll get over the holidays: Look around and find suitable providers from which to purchase a subscription.


Just be sure to read the fine print, and not to buy in for a longer term or more money than you can really afford. Happy holidays, too!


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

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.