Among applicants for any job in the Indian IT realm, preference is given to the candidates who possess relevant IT certifications. This does not guarantee the candidate a job, but it does increase their chance of getting hired at a good salary. This is becoming the trend at the global level as well. With a significant portion of the Indian population working in the IT sector, a wise job candidate will possess those IT certifications that will help them obtain better job opportunities both locally and overseas.
Cost is one of the issues to consider when tackling the toughest challenges of getting an IT certification. Because many popular certification vendors, Cisco, VMware, Oracle, TestOut, etc., are based in the United States, their pricing can add to the cost of earning a certification here at home. In India, the minimum cost of a beginning level certification may vary from 200 to 250 USD (equivalent to 12450 – 15570 ₹).
The high cost factor not only affects booking a certification exam but also applies to study materials, sample questions, work books and, last but not least, setting up a practice lab. The cost of setting up a basic practice lab is not much, as the only requirement is getting the right software to practice and enhance your programing skills. But the same cannot be said for a networking certification lab.
For example, establishing a lab for Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), a beginner level certification, one needs at least a router and switch to get the feel of command line interface (CLI), physical configuration and eventually getting familiar with the network devices. These devices are not cheap. Even purchasing used network equipment can double the cost of getting the specific certification.
One way to reduce the overall cost of an IT certification is to search for a vendor that offers a complete learning experience. Many training partners and coaching institutes provide programs with not just training lectures, but a good online lab simulation that provides hands-on learning as well (more on that below.). Also, some vendors do provide discounts when booking a particular certification, so be certain to ask.
Besides cost, another challenge is useful IT experience. One of the easiest methods to obtain some real-world experience and knowledge is to use simulation software. For example, when studying for networking and the CCNA, two of the more popular software programs are Packet Tracer and GNS3. These are useful not just for Cisco certifications, but Juniper and a few others as well. Packet Tracer and GNS3 are available on the internet as freeware.
Another good study software, for the ACD (from Avaya), RHCE, MCSA and Voice certifications, is VMware work station. VMware helps candidates build virtual servers, be it an IP PBX (Cisco or Avaya etc.), Microsoft server, Linux server or even an SIP/protocol specific software testing server.
Utilizing a virtual lab not only develops implementation and practical skills, but provides a great deal of exposure to the requirements of the certification you are studying. It’s a cost effective method requiring only an efficient work station PC alongside the software to carry out the simulation.
In addition to meeting certifications costs and finding a way to utilize a lab, one also needs training materials that are written well and cover the subject matter comprehensively. Good training materials are essential and indispensable for helping a candidate understand and develop the necessary IT skills.
There are a number of video lectures and training series prepared by various vendors such as CBT, INE, IP Expert and others. These can serve as an alternate means of getting the required training while cutting down the cost. They are also an efficient method of learning, as one may find it difficult to grasp new concepts on the very first go. When in doubt, just pause the video and revisit the concept.
These video lectures are also readily available on the internet. Mostly these are introduction lectures and not the full course track, so it’s advisable to buy the full series pertaining to a certification. Other than that, one can resort to the vendor specific documentation for a particular certification.
Earning an expert or high-level IT certification is often a different scenario than for a beginning one. Typically, it is experienced IT employees who go for high-level certifications. The cost of earning such certifications typically includes an increase in the exam fee as well as the almost mandatory training boot camp and lab costs.
However, the perks and advantages of getting an expert or professional level certification increase proportionally. Many Indian employers provide reimbursement for the cost and an increase in pay for such certifications. They view it as increasing the firm’s capability to get more and better projects. IT professionals also increase their skill-sets and likelihood of promotion and job opportunities.
Obtaining an IT certification is hard work and requires handling the challenges of cost, experience and proper materials. The good news is that these roadblocks can be overcome with a bit of initiative and planning. Doing so benefits the IT professional with more tools and opportunities, as well as the employers who, at the end of the day, have a skilled worker.