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Watch out: Certification fees are on the rise

It's going to cost more to take Microsoft and CompTIA exams in 2002. In this week's IT Certification Corner, Erik Eckel presents a few options that could help you contain certification costs.


Certification costs are rising. Two leading certification providers are increasing exam fees in 2002. And although the fee increases are incremental, they’re worth noting. You should lobby for your organization to take advantage of volume licensing programs, if it isn't already, to help manage the rate hike.

Microsoft up 25 percent
I’ve been taking Microsoft exams since 1998. With one exception, which was due to a special summer promotion, each MCP test I’ve taken has cost $100. You’ve probably had the same experience.

But as of Jan. 4, 2002, Microsoft exams now cost $125 in the United States. While Microsoft has reserved the right to change its pricing in the future, I think it’s a safe bet that the exams you’ll take throughout 2002 will continue to run $125. And a 25 percent increase is significant, but it’s certainly not a deal killer, especially considering the value of an IT certification.

Pricing in other countries is determined according to currency values in particular regions. Keep in mind other taxes and fees may apply in other countries as well.

Beta exams continue to be free. The catch is that you’re liable to run into a bear of an exam. Still, if you’re an early adopter who enjoys working with the newest technologies, sitting for beta exams is one method you can use to reduce your certification costs.

For the most up-to-date certification pricing, Microsoft recommends that you contact the testing center where you will take your exam. In the United States, that means you’ll most likely be getting in contact with Vue or Prometric.

Volume discounts offer another savings opportunity
If beta exams aren’t available for the test you want to take, or if beta exams are not your preference, volume discounts may offer a cost-savings opportunity. Microsoft offers discounts of 10 percent to organizations purchasing 20 or more exam vouchers.

Vouchers are good for one year from the date of purchase. It's important to note that you don’t purchase vouchers from Microsoft but directly from the Vue or Prometric testing center. And vouchers aren’t available just in the United States. They’re also available in more than 25 countries.

My understanding is you can’t purchase vouchers online, either. Instead, you must telephone or visit your local testing partner. Check with your local testing center for additional details.

CompTIA fees up slightly in 2002
Like Microsoft, CompTIA has also increased its standard exam price. I took CompTIA’s Network+ certification in late October 2001. My fee was $190. Beginning Feb. 1, 2002, the same exam will run $199. Certainly, the increase isn’t prohibitive, but it’s a sign that exam fees are beginning to inch up not just at Microsoft but with other vendors as well.

If many individuals within the same organization are going to try CompTIA exams, it may make sense for the organization to become a CompTIA member. Actual CompTIA membership fees vary depending upon a few factors. Your organization’s industry and last 12 months of annual gross sales revenues determine the appropriate membership fee, which can range from $150 to $20,000 a year.

CompTIA touts several benefits for members, most notably, significantly reduced pricing on many exam vouchers. For example, the $199 Network+ test costs a CompTIA member only $149. Other CompTIA membership benefits include:
  • $100 discounts on the two-part A+ exam.
  • Discounted fees when attending CompTIA sponsored events.
  • Access to market research data.

Eckel’s take
Many IT professionals and organizations have set strict budgets for certification for the upcoming year. While certification exam fees are increasing, the price hikes shouldn’t prohibit anyone from achieving certification goals. However, the increases are enough to cause some headaches in larger organizations. In such cases, CompTIA membership or volume discounts may help offset the fee increases.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the price hikes, don’t hassle your local testing center. At least two testing center contacts have told me that the training facilities receive no cut of the test fees but instead offer testing facilities as a convenience for their training customers.

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