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These are the five questions you must find out about any IT training program you’re considering.

Dear Molly: I’m looking for local training for the A+ certification, but how can I find the right school? I live on Long Island, where there are literally thousands to choose from, and tuition varies widely among them. Should I figure that the more you pay, the more you learn? Can you give me any insight or sources of information I can use to make my decision? While I have you attention, by the way, is it necessary to get the A+ certification in order to acquire an MCSE certification?

Molly says: Let’s answer the easy question first: No, you don’t have to get the A+ certification in order to get an MCSE certification. They are two separate certification programs. The A+ certification was created and is managed by CompTIA. The MCSE is, of course, a Microsoft program.

As for choosing a training program, there is no substitute for thoroughly researching the IT schools you are considering. There is no national or local organization that does all of this legwork for you–you have to do it yourself.

To help you do that, here are five questions you should answer about any school you are considering:

How long has the school been in operation? How many students have gone on to acquire the exact certification(s) you are seeking? Is the school affiliated with, or part of, a nationally or locally known educational institution? Or, is the school on the approved list of training centers for a particular certification? How many, if any, of the instructors hold current certifications in the material they are teaching? What additional resources, such as job placement, does the school offer?

The answers to the last three questions may help explain differences in tuition costs between programs.

If the school you are considering will not, or cannot, answer these questions to your satisfaction, you are not dealing with a well-run organization. Cross that school off your list and keep searching until you find a school that will do more than take your money and throw instruction at you in return.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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