How to get an IT certification when you have a life

Let’s be real. I love IT certifications. I have a number of them. They make you more valuable at work, and a heck of a lot more confident.

There’s also a dark side to certifications (no, seriously- why are you laughing?). You have A LIFE and you don’t want your wife to throw a frying pan at you.


Ok, if you don’t have a life, you can stop reading now, because you have all the time in the world. The rest of you can stay.

Still here? Great.

Getting a certification takes a TON of time and loads of work. That’s the downside. I know- as I write this, I’m studying for the VCP6-DCV. The book I’m reading is 836 pages long and there are roughly 40 hours of video. Plus you have to do a home lab, plus, plus, plus!

All of this takes a lot of time. If you have a family or other responsibilities, like I do, this becomes very challenging, becasue your certiifcation process is temporary but your family is here to stay. If you’re like me, here are some tips that can help you get your certification without driving your family crazy.

Start with a clear plan

No axioms needed. You need a plan or you will fail. Here are some questions you will want to ask yourself.

  1. About how many hours will you need to study?
  2. What study resources will you need?
  3. When and where will you study?
  4. What will it cost for materials, classes, and tests?
  5. When will you take your test?

Once you can answer these, you’ll have a good path to follow and you can easily explain this to loved ones. Having a plan will help your loved ones (or single buddies) know when the pain will be over- for this certification.

Get family buy-in

Getting your family’s buy-in is critical to your success. In my case, my wife is all about me getting my VCP, but at the same time, there are babies to bathe and IKEA furniture to build. Before starting the process, I showed her all the money I can make how this certification enhances my marketability. I laid out all the steps that it takes to get the cert and the time requirements. Her knowing puts her mind at ease and gives me the slack I need to study.

If you have people you’re committed to, make sure you tell them what you want to do, what your availability will be during this time, and the payoff for doing it. Don’t forget to be flexible when your family needs you.

Stick to it, but be flexible

Follow the plan you lay out and be consistent. Remember, you don’t want to be working on this cert forever. Create your plan, set your test date, then execute.

On the other side of that, don’t be afraid to change your plan if you need to. Deviate for a night and go out and forget the lab. Take your girl (or guy) out to a movie. Don’t forget about your kids or other loved ones- they need you, too. Remember to keep living during this process.

In the event  your plan gets really out of whack, I give you permission to reschedule your date if you can’t make up your learning and get back on track. But don’t reschedule it more than once.

That’s pretty much it! You can still have a life and level-up your IT career with certifications. Just follow these steps- and don’t give up!

Can any of you old-dogs give other tips on certifications while family-ing? Comment below!

Keep coming back here. I’ll update you as I progress through getting my VCP certification and give you additional insights as I find them. Feel free to pick my brain! I’ll be happy to answer questions.

That reminds me- check out my other articles here on Career Level Up. My hot ones are How to Break into IT– and doing it after 30. I also give some good tips on getting promoted, and some crazy stuff.

Also, I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m a regular dude and I’d love to connect with you there.

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Photo Credit – VFSDesign





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