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Network certification costs: Try cheaper alternatives in tough times

Network certification costs will be harder to cover as companies cut back their training budgets. Network professionals who might once have turned to these certifications to improve their job security or strengthen their resumes should look for cheaper training alternatives.

As companies slash their training budgets during the recession, network certification classes might end up on the chopping block. And networking professionals who are self-starters might be reluctant to dig into their own pockets for this prohibitively expensive coursework.

"Companies don't want to spend money on anything, including training, right now," said Ed Tittel, an independent IT training and network certification expert. And the roughly 25% of professionals who pay for certifications themselves may find that the training fails to deliver the job security that networking professionals seek, he said.

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"If there are layoffs everywhere, and it's every man for himself, then the idea of investing in something outside of survival might be a bad idea," Tittel said. "It's a hard call to make."

Networking pros who do get laid off might view certification as a good way to win a new job, but network certification costs might scare them off, particularly the fees charged by big-name providers like New Horizons and Global Knowledge.

These high-profile training providers shouldn't completely turn networking pros off training, however.

"The traditional thing to do when you do get laid off is to get some training," Tittel said. "But things are so bad with the 401ks and investments, people are only going to part with their money in the most demanding of circumstances.... They might, however, be willing to spend some fraction of that money."

Tittel said that many community colleges, for example, offer low-cost-per-credit courses that offer personal instruction for what often works out to be about $15 per classroom hour, an almost unbeatable bang for your buck. Depending on the state and the circumstances, this instruction might actually be free to qualified students.

If students do decide to pursue extra training now, they are advised to have in mind a firm idea of what they want to get out of that training.

"You have to know where you want to go without taking years off from the workforce," Tittel said.

Fortunately, there are some viable options, even if the larger economic landscape is bleak.

IDC, for example, projected a 60,000-person gap in the labor needs for qualified professionals in the networking industry by 2011. Many of these opportunities will be in emerging or specialized networking fields like security, voice and wireless.

Cisco's education arm, Learning@Cisco, is banking on such demand, expanding classroom initiatives in order to reach more potential students.

Fred Weiller, director of marketing for Learning@Cisco, said: "With the introduction of new advanced technologies that can increase efficiency and prove to be cost-effective, there will be a growing demand and need for certified individuals to deploy and manage these new technologies to ensure the highest return on … technology investment."

Want a jumpstart to your own certification training? Get a chance to win a CCNA training guide from Cisco Press by sending in your thoughts on certification's value in a shaky economy to Please include your address and, unfortunately, only U.S.-based readers are eligible to win a book.

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