Certification is a necessary evil if you want your IT career to advance. But do you have to spend months on the process? One trainer argues you can complete some certifications in a week.
Training picture from Shutterstock
Tim Warner works for online training firm CBT Nuggets and specialises in Microsoft Windows systems administration. He told Lifehacker some of the more basic Microsoft certifications can be completed in seven days, provided you take the right approach.
The suggest approach combines three obvious elements: learning the theory, putting in hands-on work with the software, and then taking practice exams that mimic the approach of the actual certification exams.
Warner suggests this timetable:
Days 1-5: Go through each exam domain in turn, starting with theory, integrating practice, and “playing” with the cert exam simulations
Day 6: “Sweeping up the shavings”: Last-minute content/hands-on tweaks; more time with the simulations
Day 7: Cram on the practice exam software, research the theory material to fill in remaining gaps
With the theory component, you need to recognise that the "correct" answer is often as much about marketing spin as about what you actually do with the technology. "With Microsoft you have to know a lot of their marketing quite honestly," Warner said.
That's also true of other certifications. "This is a money-making exercise for these vendors -- they have a motive behind what they're doing, and one motive is to create certified professionals who are evangelists for their product. Almost uniformly, you have to contend with the marketing fluff."
Exam practice is essential, Warner says. "I've seen people with lots of experience fail because they didn't have the exam routine down. It's almost a flow that's necessary to get into the mood."
Microsoft's entry-level certification, the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), can be completed within seven days with this method, Warner suggests. If you're an IT worker with between one and three years of experience, a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) in Windows Server 2012 might also be possible.
Other Microsoft certifications will require a longer period of study and experience: for MCSE, three years is the minimum Warner recommends. "If you're already a veteran, you could cram out the MCSE, but that path is only going to be feasible if you're really expert in the topic."
CBT Nuggets is introducing free seven-day trials for its subscriptions from 3 February. The trials include access to all its video training content (potentially useful if you're planning a cramming frenzy).