Ask LH: How Can I Get Certified Without Spending A Fortune?

Hey Lifehacker, I am currently employed at a helpdesk and want to get certification to further my career prospects. I cannot afford the high costs of most TAFE/online courses, and work will not pay for me. Is there a way I can get skills in a cert IV or similar without the huge costs? Thanks, Needs To Study

Helpdesk picture from Shutterstock

Dear NTS,

Certification and formal qualifications can be a useful tool to getting you into a better job. Back when I did a further degree in 1990s we were told that the vast majority of the students enrolled in that course would not only change jobs either during the course or within a year of graduating but that we’d all see a 20 per cent pay rise. I was pretty sceptical but, for my peer group, it seemed to hold true — even for a couple of people who were made redundant and moved to new jobs involuntarily.

There are a few options out there for you.

For a start, if you look at the university system at IT degrees you might find you can enrol in a degree course (if you already have a degree, then a post grad course like a Masters could be an option) and use the FEE-HELP system to study and then pay back the costs through the tax system.

Another option is considering online learning through institutions such as OTEN. As an example, the Information Technology Support (Database support) course costs just under $1200 per year.

I’m not sure what your definition of “huge costs” is but the average helpdesk support salary is around $53000 per year. So, that’s an investment of around 2.25 per cent of your salary. That seems quite reasonable to us.

Open Universities offers an IT Service Management course (run by the Australian Computer Society) that costs $1800 per year.

Many of those courses will grant you exemptions from subjects of you can demonstrate appropriate work experience. When I did my post-grad degree, I was able to get exemptions from enough units to cut a full year off my part time study. Not only do you get to the end faster but also save on course fees and other study expenses.

Of course, you always have the option of looking for a new employer who is prepared to invest in you. Granted, that can be a tough option but there are companies out there that take professional development seriously. In fact, we think it should be one of the key questions you ask during job interviews.


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