How Long Does It Take (Typically) to Prepare For A Certification

    Author: Dan Young, CCIE, PMP and VP of Operations at StormWind

If you are thinking about carving out time to get a certification, you’ve no doubt pondered if your schedule is reasonable or unreasonable to take on this endeavor. You might also wonder how much time is needed to properly prepare to take a certification. While we can’t say a specific timeline fits all cases, we can provide a baseline rule of thumb, and then speak to how to vary that baseline.

A good hard and fast baseline duration for taking a course and passing a certification is approximately one month. This duration has gotten longer over the last few decades for IT certifications. Nowadays, classes have become far denser with testable content.

Now, when we think about this “month” to take a course and pass a certification, there is a multitude of caveats and outside factors to consider. Here are a few:

  • Am I starting out at a deficit? (i.e. Do I meet the prerequisites and assumptions for the class?)
  • Is this a beast of a test?
    • CISSP is a real beast. As is PMP. Review the exam outlines for certifications with longer courses. After taking the course, review materials and practice tests to determine when would be the best time to take the exam. This effort will likely take you more than a month.
  • Is this a truly dedicated month?
    • Can you invest another 5-10 hours per week outside of class towards the study of the material? If not, those weeks may not provide the level of progress needed to get through the material. Perhaps 6-8 weeks is more appropriate.

Do what is best for your schedule, but we suggest to not take too long. A duration of any more than three months to get a certification is not providing enough pressure. Any of our instructors would tell you don’t give yourself too much time. If you spread learning over too long a time, you may wind up forgetting a fair amount of the content learned in the earlier stages. It might sound good on paper, but we don’t see a high success rate for folks who give themselves too much time.