Regardless of which path you take, you don't have to spend a lot of money on a certification school. Many community colleges offer certification courses for far less than training centers.
If you already have one certification, you may be able to use it to bootstrap your way out of some course requirements for another certification. For example, when working toward your MCSE, you can get course credit for your previous Banyan Systems, Novell or Sun Microsystems certification.
And you shouldn't overlook books alone as an inexpensive road to certification. While some are as dull as dishwater, one in five people interviewed by Sm@rt Partner got his or her certification using only experience and a few certification books. In particular, the people we talked to recommended the books from The Coriolis Group for serious certification students.
There are also free online sites that can help you reach your certification goal. The ones most often mentioned were: Exam Cram Insider; Certification Magazine and, for Windows only, Windows 2000 Magazine.
Despite what many believe, simply obtaining a certification does not mean that your salary is going to increase.
According to a recent survey by New Horizons Computer Learning Centers—a leading computer-training company—87 percent of its students thought certification was important to their career goals. Another 61 percent expected an "up to 20 percent increase [in pay] upon completion of their training." Many of them will be in for a big disappointment.
Nearly half of Microsoft Certified Professionals experienced no change in income after becoming certified, according to a recent readership survey by Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine. Instead, the survey finds that "experience, as always, is the key differentiator in salary, followed by area of the country and job function."
But if you do get a raise, you can expect it to be sizable—roughly 12 percent, on average, according to Certification Magazine's 2000 salary survey.
As Anne-Sophie Dankens, an IDC research analyst, observes, "The IT skills shortage is forcing companies to offer attractive packages to fill IT positions ... these candidates need to be trained or certified before they can land an IT job."