In today’s challenging job market, having a specialized set of skills is no longer seen as a luxury but an actual necessity. This is particularly true in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic when millions of Americans have lost their jobs. And while the majority of industries have taken a serious hit, the Information Technology (IT) sector has remained relatively unscathed. In fact, according to the Market Data Forecast, the IT industry is expected to see a major market boom over the coming years, going from $131 billion in 2020 to over $295 billion in 2025.
One of the main reasons for this sharp increase is the many different social distancing measures put in place by governments around the world. Teleconferencing via platforms, such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, WhatsApp, or Microsoft Teams, has made many companies see the shrinking need for brick-and-mortar conference rooms and offices and the increased need for software-based alternatives. The same thing can also be said about eCommerce during the pandemic, which has seen a 59% growth rate in a matter of weeks. All of this has also led to a sudden spike in cybercrime activity across the board, which has put further strain on an already understaffed sector of the industry.
Suffice to say, an IT certification will go a long way in getting and maintaining a well-paying job in this unstable economic climate. This is regardless of whether you are looking to get promoted, change companies, or switch careers altogether. However, paying for these certifications is sometimes easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are several forms of education funding available for those looking to attend post-secondary education.
In most cases, your financial aid options are available in the form of state and federal aid, educational institutions, and some private institutions. These can come in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and work studies. In this article, we’ll be talking about several of the most common financial aid options for IT certification.
One of the most efficient ways of getting financial assistance for a certificate program is through your current employer. Some organizations offer tuition or education reimbursement for continuing education. This is particularly true if the program you are looking to participate in will help expand your knowledge and skills in your current role within that company.
If, for instance, you are a Network Security Specialist and you want to learn how to become an Ethical Hacker by taking EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification, this will be of tremendous benefit to your employer. And even if your company doesn’t have a formal tuition reimbursement program in place, they might still be willing to cover your education costs, granted you make a great case for it.
If you think this option may be available to you, prepare a thorough proposal for your manager, explaining to them what you intend to learn, what the benefits will be to the company’s bottom line, as well as the cost of the certification. Don’t rely on a simple elevator pitch; do your due diligence.
Federal Financial Aid
The United States government will offer financial aid in the form of federal grants or loans. This federal financial aid will tend to have a lower interest rate and repayment plans than is the case with private student loans. Typically, federal student financial aid is more easily approved for students as they don’t require a high-paying job or a good credit score. Another added benefit of federal student aid is that it can help you establish a credit score, allowing people to get other loans in the future. Federal student aid is provided, granted you agree to make your payments on time.
An added benefit with some of these student loans is that you won’t have to make any payments until you’re out of school. Other loans will not require you to make a payment until you find a job or adjust your installments based on your income. There are some exceptional cases where you get some tax benefits. In other words, the interest will be used to reduce your other taxes. You can even have access to loan forgiveness, in some cases.
All of these benefits will make a federal student loan one of the most common means of paying for an IT certification program. The first step in the application for federal loans is to complete a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is essential for gaining access to financial aid for certificate programs, even if you graduated college many years ago.
Common Types of Federal Student Loans
Among the most common types of federal financial aid options, we can include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans – These loans are available to students who are able to prove they require financial aid.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans – The eligibility for these loans is not based on financial need and may be easier to get.
- Direct PLUS Loans – This type of financial aid is granted to students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to pay for expenses not covered by other forms of financial aid packages. Eligibility for these loans is not based on financial need but on their credit score.
- Direct Consolidation Loans – These loans will allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into one loan with a single loan servicer for easier payment.
- PELL Grants – These grants will be typically granted to undergraduates who have an exceptional financial need and have not earned a higher education or professional degree. Pell Grants do not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances.
The Basic Criteria for Federal Student Aid Eligibility
As mentioned above, the most common requirement for accessing federal student loans is based on financial need. Subsidized Direct Loans, Federal Work-Study Loans, and PELL Grants have this requirement. In general, the lower your income, the more likely it will be that you will receive these loans for your IT certification. Among the basic criteria needed to apply for financial aid, we can include the following:
- US citizenship or Green Card
- A valid Social Security Number
- Registration with the Selective Service
- Acceptance or enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program
- Maintaining satisfactory academic progress
Private Student Aid
Even though private student loans are not as flexible as federal financial aid, they can still be an effective option for paying your certificate program. Just make sure you’ve exhausted all of your federal options before accessing private loans. Also, make sure to work with the best private student loan lenders that offer flexible repayment options at competitive rates. There are some among them that offer additional benefits, such as interest rate reductions and deferment in the event of financial hardship. It’s a good idea to look around for a bit and compare your options.
Since scholarships don’t have to be repaid, they are an excellent way to pay for your IT certificate without taking on debt. Platforms such as Scholarships.com and FastWeb can help you discover all sorts of scholarship opportunities across the United States. You can find and apply to as many scholarships as you want, as there is no limit to how many you can receive. While some of these will have no requirements in terms of financial need or academic performance, they will typically have many applicants. MyComputerCareer also offers scholarships to help their military veteran students with their education costs.
Financial Aid For Military Veterans
Military veterans looking to transition to a civilian career can also have access to financial aid for their education under the Montgomery or Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA is in charge of administering the benefits available under the GI Bill, directing veterans to a variety of training and educational opportunities. It will also provide them with tuition funds, fees, and housing necessities.
Sometimes, as a last-resort measure, personal loans can also be used to cover the costs of a certificate program. As personal loans tend to have a lower interest rate and better repayment terms than credit cards, this is an option that can save you money in terms of interest charges. However, a personal loan still has a high-interest rate compared to the other entries on this list, making them a more expensive alternative. It’s important that you make sure you can afford to pay back this loan before taking it.
Personalized Payment Plans
Another option to consider is to create a personalized payment plan directly with the school you want to attend, as many of these boot camps will offer you flexible payment options. MyComputerCareer is an ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training) accredited organization that provides students with technical training and certification preparation in Information Technology fields, such as IT Security, Network Administration, and Helpdesk.
Both federal and public funding programs are available through MyComputerCareer, as well as state and federal assistance under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act and Veterans Administration programs. Also, our Admissions Director and Financial Aid Specialists will help you find a financing solution and tuition assistance that fits your needs. Contact us today for more information!