Certification Training: Can You Afford It?

What training program fits your budget?

CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide Mike Meyers

If you are looking at obtaining a certification, whether it's A+ or MCSE, training in one form or another is essential to prepare you for your certification tests. The big question is, which provider offers the best product at the best price? There are quite a few organizations out there who offer quality training and practice tests.

The following comparison will give you a quick view of the costs associated with different types of training and hopefully give you an idea of what training will fit your needs and budget.

I have used the A+ certification (2 exams) and the MCSE certification (7 exams) for all price comparisons. These two certs cover both the lower end prices for a certification with few exams and the higher level of certification which requires multiple exams.

Free

Online Resources
The certification preparation tools you will find online range from excellent to downright incorrect. Use your discretion as to the quality of all free materials. That said, I have tried to find and link to as many of the good sites as possible throughout this site. Find the certification you are interested in by clicking on the Choose a Certification tab at the top of this page to see what resources I have dug up for you.

Cheap

Books
Depending upon the certification, you may need more than one book. For the purposes of this example, the A+ book covers both A+ exams. The MSCE books cover the core exams and two electives so you must add the prices of the books together to get the approximate cost of books for the MCSE exams.

  1. A+ Books
    $45 - A+ All In One Exam Guide by Michael Meyers

    MSCE Books

    $120 - MCSE: MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit (Exams 70-290, 70-291, 70-293, 70-294): Microsoft® Windows Server(TM) 2003 Core Requirements(2nd Edition) - Includes 5 books to prepare for the core exams.
    $35 - MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-620): Configuring Windows Vista(TM) Client by James Chellis
    $39 - MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-297): Designing a Microsoft Windows Server(TM) 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure
    $37 - MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-298): Designing Security for a Microsoft® Windows Server(TM) 2003 Network
    Total = $231

    Reasonable

    Practice Test Downloads
    Practice tests come in many forms. The following prices are gathered from tests that can be downloaded or accessed via a subscription service. All of these providers have been reviewed on this site.

    A+ Practice Tests
    $178 to $218 Selftest Software  A+ Practice Test Downloads. While the bundled cost of exams 601 & 602 cost $178, individual practice tests for any combination of the A+ exams cost $109 each. Their Site My Review
    $160 ExamForce ExamForce CramMaster practice test downloads. Each exam download is $79.00. My Review

    MCSE Practice Tests
    $557 Selfttest Software MCSE Core Networking and Design Bundle Download. The bundle includes these exams: 70-290, 70-291, 70-293,70-294, 70-297. Elective exams are also available at $109 each. Their Site
    $630 ExamForce ExamForce practice test downloads. All but one of the four core exam downloads cost $199 each. The download for exam 70-292 is only $29.99 Their Site My Review

      Moderate

      Online or Video Training
      If you don't have the time to attend a class, a training cd or video may just be the thing you need to pass your exams. These are more involved and more expensive than the practice tests mentioned above. They are designed to teach the subject, not just test you on it.

      MCSE Video Training
      $2,800 (or $295 to $555 each) - PrepLogic's LearnSmart Video Training. Training CDs for the seven exams average $495 each. Includes training for the core exams. Their Site
      $899 - CBT Nuggets: MCSE 2003 Certification Pack. Covers 7 exams (70-270, 70-290, 70-291, 70-293, 70-294, 70-297 & 70-228). Their Site

      Moderate to Expensive 

      College Courses
      Many community colleges and technical institutes offer classes geared towards certification. This can be one of the best and most respectable ways to get the knowledge and experience needed to pass the exams. This is true particularly for anyone new to IT. The following are just examples. Be sure to check with colleges in your area.

      $2205 - Richland College (Dallas) A+ Certificate Program. You'll need 14 weeks (280 hours) to complete this program. 

      $6500 - Florida International University MCSE Program. This series of courses takes 7 months to complete. Their Site

      Expensive

      Boot Camps

      Boot camps are the quick and dirty way to get certified. These last from a few days to several weeks depending upon the certification(s) you plan to get. There are hundreds of boot camps out there so be sure to do some research before signing up. Most prices include lodging and exam fees.

      $5785 - HOTT Training MCSE Boot Camp. 15 days includes books, materials, tests and training only.
      $4995 - MSCertification MCSE/MCSA Dual Cert Boot Camp. 12 days includes hotel accommodations, airfare, Breakfast, lunch, snacks & beverages, exam vouchers, pre-study guides and course material.