There are many reasons to get certified. You could be new to the field and in search of resume padding, you might have recently been displaced and need an edge, or you could simply need to re-certifiy for 2008.

Whatever your reason, there are several paths to take. And pretty much every form of training falls under one of three main categories:

On-site training. On-site training can come in the form of classes (typically at night) or a boot camp format, which is a period of several days that you dedicate all day to learning, and often take the certification exams right there. This is the highest cost training option, but it's also the most efficient, and the easiest to get motivated to do, with the best guarantee of results.

"We are a testing center here, we offer Prometric and VUE delivery of exams, so when students are coming through, for instance, there are classes where they're taking 4 exams in an 8 day period," said Rebekah Mooney, certification coach for Mountain View Systems, a certification boot camp. "With the new way that Microsoft is doing these, they get a certification for every one of those exams."

Hosted solutions. About a month ago, I wrote about a company called AppDev that offers hosted solutions. Essentially, you get subscription access to a secure site packed with information on various topics (you can purchase a subscription to everything or just a specific topic). Some people also call this the "virtual professor" option. It's a lower cost than on-site, but you have to make time for it and be motivated. One other frustrating reality is that you have to choose between having the training option on your home or office computer, because subscription is by machine.

Self study. Self study can be anything from buying a textbook or reading a magazine to surfing the web for free information. It's the most time consuming option, and it can be difficult to become motivated, but it has a price point that you can't beat (low-cost or no-cost). The greatest disadvantage to self study is that you're less likely to find information targeted to your exact need--in the case of the boot camp, for instance, that program is dedicated 100 percent to getting you a given certification.

So, which option is right for you? It depends on your time and cost constraints, and also your learning style. If it seems like your employer really values training and isn't afraid to shell out some dough, I'd recommend the on-site option, because you can't beat the quality of the training. But if you're going to be financing the training yourself, that probably isn't feasible or worth it.

Because I know that training is so critical right now, I want to help you. So, here is what I propose: let me know (either by email or through a comment) what you need to know, such as:

  • What kind of training is right for me?
  • What organizations offer the best quality of training?
  • How can I convince my boss that it's worth funding my training?
  • What are the hottest training topics right now that employers are looking for skills in?
  • How important is it to my career that I get certified?
  • Any other questions you can think of.

If you have any advice to share concerning where to start with training, both myself and your peers want to know! Send me an email at breinholz@windowsitpro.com or post a comment.

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