Why are certifications costs so high?

As a consultant, I have been taking some certifications in the areas of my expertise as I find many clients insisting on certifications.  Going through the various certifications, I started doing research on more of them which may not be related to what I do and find the cost of the certifications to be exorbitant, the pre-requisites of some to be logistically impossible and the validity to be a little less.

    Governing bodies like Project Management Institute(PMI), the professional associations for Six Sigma(‘the gate keepers’) like IASSC and ASQ and global best practices companies like Axelos for ITIL and Prince2 charge an arm and leg for their certification. On one hand, they would like to have their certification more accessible by having many more to take this up globally (they always talks about growth rate) but on the other hand, their unreasonable pricing does act as a deterrent even for interested folks to take this up.  Are they trying to position themselves as the elitist group by making the fees unreachable for a common man?

    Let me talk about a few pricing here to paint the reality better:  PMI membership is $129 and PMP certification test fee is $405 or $555 depending on whether you want to be a member or not, and PMI-ACP test fee is $495 for non-members.  AXELOS charges $195 and #345 for their Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner test respectively, and IASSC and ASQ charge $395 and $538 for non-members respectively for their Black belt exams.  This is just the test fees and the training is extra.

    Where the per capita income of many countries are either less than or equal or little over these costs, it is frightening to see what thought process these governing bodies have. Let us say in the case of India where the Gross domestic product per capita (nominal) is $1582 to $1617 (as given by UN, World Bank or IMF) and for China is $7617 to $7990, and the countries like Vietnam and Philippines somewhere in between, this is a serious concern as half of the knowledge industry seems to be from these countries.    As you can infer, the certification costs is a significant part of the per capital income in these countries, if not more – what are these bodies thinking?

    And the pre-requirements are more stringent as well for a few of these (like ASQ and PMI) which is reasonable but they also have to understand that it is difficult to get projects done vetted by their manager as people in Asian countries tend to move a lot between companies and it is rare to get hold of the earlier managers they had worked for, unless they have stayed in touch personally.   Added to this the validity of some these certificates are only for a few years after which there is a mandatory renewal process to maintain your certification.  There must be a better way out here.

   On the good side, I also see a handful of these associations(like BCS) having different pricing depending on which country  you belong to, although it may sound unfair to the higher paying countries, I believe this is a much needed step in the right direction.

   So, I guess if the certification bodies are really serious about welcoming a qualified global workforce to take on these tests as part of their personal continual learning initiative, it time they look at the fee structure, the pre-requirements and validity of most of these test, without diluting the intent or the value of these certifications.

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