How to Evaluate a Training Provider
Let’s face it. There’s a ton of options out there for you to choose from when it comes to training provider. There are specialized training providers, university programs, local professional chapters’ preparation sessions… There’s a flavor for anyone depending on your price point, learning style, or timeline. With all these options, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? How do you put two providers that both claim to do the same thing side-by-side and compare them?
The best answer? Evaluate them based upon what’s most important to you to allow you to choose the best value for you. Below, I’ve listed the common differences between the various programs to answer that question and help you choose the right one for you. Pair this with another article written by Tim Dalhouse called 5 Questions to Ask Your PMP® Training Provider Before You Pay Them, and you’ll be fully prepared to make the decision for what’s best for you.
- What is the price? Are there any discounts available? This is one area that many are concerned about. The truth though is the price is not a great indicator of value, especially when it comes to training. The question is how much are you willing to spend to accomplish your goal. What is it worth to you personally. This then sets some parameters for you to consider; kind of like a budget. After you find a program that fits within your budget, continue on to see if it is going to allow you to accomplish what you need. Some programs may also offer discounts which are great. Are there discounts for veterans, veteran family members, or students that can lower the price? What about group pricing? Can we get a discount if multiple people sign up together?
- Does it ACTUALLY prepare me for my goal? This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT metric to consider when assessing the value of a program. Does the training I am about to invest time and money into actually do what I need. Will it get me where I want to go? Regardless of the price, if you are on a journey to become a certified professional in any industry, you need a program that prepares you for your goal. Plain and simple. One key factor, if you are pursuing professional certification, ensure the course prepares you for any exam or test. Many of the programs offered by universities will cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars, but they state clearly on their website that they don’t prepare you for the exam you’ll be taking. Some people don’t need or want the certification, just the information. If so, then a university program might be what you’re looking for. It all depends on your personal goals.
- What is the training medium? Honestly, this question will be a matter of personal preference for you, but it can be very important. Some people learn better in a classroom setting, with a teacher at a lectern or moving around the room. Some people need hands-on group learning to aid in their retention. Due to personal circumstances or geographic location, many people prefer (or need) to attend the training virtually. Others say, “give me access to the information. I don’t need an instructor to feed it to me.” If you are taking on a difficult or expansive topic, you may need access to an instructor to answer questions. What are the best teaching style and learning environment for you? Does the program you’re considering offer your preferred style?
- Who are the instructors? Many people aren’t aware of this little-known nugget of wisdom, but did you know that there are many training providers out there that hire an instructor for the week that may not even be certified in the area they’re teaching? It’s true. I wish it wasn’t, but that’s something you need to know. Knowing your instructor’s background and level of expertise is vital to your success. What do you do when you have a question and the instructor doesn’t have any relevant experience to fall back on and answer in a way that is free of opinion and designed to set you up for success?
- Is there a practice test to determine my level of preparedness? Real talk. Let’s use the example of the Project Management Professional® exam, which is a 4-hour, 200-question test. The only way to know if you’re ready to sit down and take a 4-hour, 200-question test on specified knowledge from a certification body, is to sit down and take a 4-hour, 200-question practice test. Taking this step, while time-consuming and draining, can help you in many ways. Are you struggling with a specific knowledge area or process? Do you have a hole in your knowledge that may indicate your inability to pass the exam? Do you start to lose focus after a certain amount of time? Is something missing from your Brain Dump? There’s a really good way to determine the answer to all these questions… Yep. You guessed it. Take a 4-hour, 200-question practice test. If your professional goal includes a long test, make sure your provider has at least one for you to gauge your readiness for the real thing.
- Do they have a post-course study system and instructor support? Obviously, this type of questions applies to programs getting you ready for certification or test, but it is relevant. Even if you have been working in your field for years, these tests and the preparation for it can be daunting, to say the least. The amount of information you need to study and be able to recall on these exams is massive. Does the program have the capability to do a targeted study and ask questions of the instructor even after you’ve left the classroom?
- Is there application and audit assistance? For many professional certifications, there is a detailed application process. Take the PMP® certification as your example. The application you will be submitting to PMI® requires you to have clear concise descriptions of your projects. It requires a certain level of months and hours of project leadership experience to even submit the application. This is not an easy road and one you shouldn’t have to travel alone. Make sure your provider has this important feature as a part of their program.
- What ‘accessories’ do you get with the program? Oddly, some courses don’t include books or materials with the cost of the training. Some programs include the materials and also offer to pay for the professional organization membership fees, and others pay the membership fees and test fees. Even others, to prove their confidence in their program, will even offer to pay a retest fee if you fail the exam the first time. Remember questions 7 & 8? That may be listed in the additional features or content. Make sure you see all that is included.
So, take two programs and set them side-by-side (example below) and start asking those questions. You can prioritize the order, or you can mandate that all of them are answered the way you need them to be. Again, real talk… You’re about to spend a lot of time, money, and energy to prepare yourself to get a certification to stand you apart from your peers or future competition for jobs. Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze and get the program that’s right for you.