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Don't Take a Training Class Until You Read This!

By Michael DeBussy, MCSE, MCT, CNA

Many of you are considering taking training classes to help you get certified. Even though these classes seem expensive they can be a great investment if they allow you to achieve your certification quickly and efficiently. In this article we'll talk about what to look for in any training company you're considering.

1. Focus on the quality of the training. You're going to be spending a lot of time and energy at whatever training center you choose so you should emphasize quality over cost when choosing a center. Saving a couple of thousand dollars by going with a low-cost alternative might seem like a smart move, but most people who do this wind up disappointed with the product that they receive.

2. Ask about any guarantees. Many centers will charge you thousands of dollars but not offer a single guarantee that you'll even obtain your MCSE. This is somewhat equivalent to an automobile dealership selling you a car without a warranty. Just as you would steer of buying a car from people without a guarantee, you should do the same with a training company.

Some companies will offer to reimburse you for failed tests or allow you to re-sit the classes a second time at no additional cost. A few will even offer to reimburse your entire cost of training if you don't pass your exams. The better the guarantee, the more you should expect to pay for your training.

3. Ask about placement. If you're just breaking into the industry, finding a training center with a good placement program can be invaluable. You'll want to ask a prospective center about their past placement record and what efforts they are currently making to get people into IT jobs. Some centers will even go so far as to guarantee a job to all people who make it through their program.

4. Find out about the center's instructors. Instructors are usually either full-time employees of the center or contracted specifically to teach classes. Contract instructors often have more real-world experience but their teaching skills may be less polished. Full-time instructors can be very good but you'll want to make sure they have an adequate amount of hands-on experience as well.

5. Inquire about the facilities. The quality of the machines you'll be learning on usually says a great deal about the quality of the facility as a whole. Microsoft enforces minimum hardware requirements for all of its CTECs but just because a center meets these doesn't necessarily mean that that's enough. For example, taking an NT class on a Pentium 166 with 32 MBs of RAM can be a vastly different experience than the same class on a Pentium II 350 with 128 MB of RAM.

6. Find out about funding. Spend a lot of time asking about financing options for your training. Don't be talked into loans too quickly until you exhaust all possible sources of "free money". Many centers have the ability to tap into scholarships or government assistance. However you'll usually have to be vigilant in pursuing this. Stress to them that you cannot afford the entire cost of the class and ask them about any ways to make class "cheaper". Which brings us to our final piece of advice...

7. Never, ever pay full price. Going back to our analogy of the automobile dealership, you shouldn't ever buy a car for the full sticker price. The same goes for training. Centers will almost always be willing to negotiate a price that is lower than their "retail" price. Some centers will go so far as to offer up to 50% off the price listed in their sales materials. This just happens to be a pretty slow time for training centers around the country. Strike while the iron is hot and you just might be able to score yourself a pretty good deal.

We wish you the best of luck in choosing a training center. Remember to ask a lot of questions. Your future may depend on the choice your make.