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Need MS training? Try your local community college!

the best bang for your classroom education buck on Microsoft (and other topics) may be right around the corner at your local community college.

In trolling for MS certification info, concerns, and hot topics, I read a lot of reader e-mails, online forums and message threads. One constant beef among aspiring certified Microsoft professionals is about the high cost of classroom training. While classroom training remains the surest and best way to prepare for exams, the cost of such training prevents many candidates from following that well-trodden route to certification success.

It ain't necessarily so, sez I.

And who am I to know? I was a member of the faculty in the Adult & Continuing Education program at Austin Community College(ACC) from 1997 to 2002. As a textbook author, I'm also an interested observer of the intersection between academia and certification, in all its many forms. Thus, I can speak from personal experience and extensive market research when I say that the best bang for your classroom education buck on Microsoft (and other topics) may be right around the corner at your local community college.

Here in Austin, you can take courses to prepare for MCSA, MCSE, and MCDBA (as well as CCNA, CCNP, Sun Solaris, CISSP, Oracle DBA and developer, A+, Network+, Server+, RHCE, PMP, and more) for prices that range between $200 and $400 per course, where courses vary between 24 and 48 classroom hours. That means an average of about $8 an hour for classroom time. Note also that many of these classes are offered in fully equipped computer labs, with one or two students per machine, and plenty of opportunities for hands-on experience as well as instructor interaction.

Compare this to commercial training offerings that start at about $200 for a 7-hour day, and go as high as $500 a day for some boot camps. Do the math and you've got hourly rates in the $28 - $50 range (figuring a typical boot camp involves 10 hours a day). This translates to huge savings if you need classroom training and can go the community college route.

Rates in your own locale will depend on how much support the institution gets from local taxes. Here in Austin, the biggest line item for ACC support comes from property taxes. Elsewhere, lower tax revenues or ratios may mean that students must shoulder more of their own classroom training costs.

But low costs, live instruction, and access to hands-on labs makes community college training a darn good deal. Be sure to check out offerings in your own area. In a future tip, I'll talk about online training offerings from nationally available academic institutions that may make more sense for those of you in rural or remote areas.

If you have questions or concerns about MS certification, please e-mail me at Welcome to 2004, everybody!

Ed Tittel is the creator of the Exam Cram series of IT certification books. Ed edits this series as Exam Cram 2 for Que Publishing, along with their Training Guide series of certification study guides. He's also a contributing editor for Certification magazine, and writes regularly on certification topics for various TechTarget Web sites, too.

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