Monday, December 20, 2010

Microsoft Certification Tests : Cheap Price Overseas, but not in USA!

I was just researching the cost of taking a Microsoft Certification course for SQL-Server database development, and I was poking around the Prometric web site when I stumbled upon the fact that there are price-differences between what technology professionals in the USA must pay for the exact same Microsoft certification test that a resident of India or China can take (note: they get it for much less)! I found this VERY concerning, Microsoft! In fact, it really has me re-thinking the whole certification thing in general.
Perhaps I am just in a serious anti-import and anti-outsource mood after watching a PBS program about the collage of the U.S. furniture industry and manufacturing in general (whacked by cheap imports), and the gloomy unemployment picture in the USA, all while we see imports rising, outsourcing rising, and everything generally stacked against the US worker these days.

How are we Americans supposed to "compete" on a level playing field when our own USA corporations - in this case Microsoft, with Prometric as their co-conspirator - increase the cost-basis of our own education/certification as compared to our foreign "competition"?

In the case of cheap Microsoft MS certification (for those in foreign countries like China and India), I can not help thinking that this is a direct assault upon the same American workers that helped Microsoft achieve their corporate software dominance during the past couple decades. We get "certified" and help sell and implement solutions that use Microsoft software, but yet we have to pay more for the privileged of being a USA Microsoft Certified developer than our foreign counterparts that compete for our jobs with global-outsourcing gigs and the like. Lovely.

More details: cheap MS Certification test prices (if you live in the right country)...

So, Microsoft makes it cheaper for residents of foreign countries to get Certified in MS products than USA citizens, so as to further enable them to have an advantage over USA labor. I.e., reduce their total costs for achieving the same (certified) status and make it even easier to under-cut onshore (USA) IT talent.

Microsoft uses a company called ProMetric to administer their MS technolgy-certification tests *worldwide*. And, you can access their website and choose what country you are in and the see the rates (in US Dollars) for testing in each country.

For my own price-comparison, I looked at the cost of Microsoft Certification Exam 70-433: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development...

LOWER EXAM PRICES OVERSEASHere is the summary of Exam fees / price charged by country for the SAME TESTING (with all pricing being in US Dollars):
  • USA: $125 
  • India: $50 
  • China: $50
And, as this quoted information from Prometric's web-site makes clear, you have to love how you (as a USA citizen) can not even get the advantage of lower rates by testing in a foreign country while traveling, should you ever have such occasion to do so:
"In order to sit for a Microsoft Certification exam at a Prometric testing center in India, China, or Pakistan, candidates must be a legitimate resident of that country. If Candidates ARE a legitimate resident of that country, note the following: 
Effective September 15, 2010, Prometric testing centers in these three countries are required to confirm and record that each Microsoft Certification candidate has shown documented proof that they are a legitimate resident of that specific country. To verify country of residence status, each candidate is required to bring two valid and officially recognized forms of identification (ID)—one with a photo and an official residence address, and both with a signature. Students in Pakistan may use Student IDs as an official form of identification. 
NOTE: Non-eligible candidates will be turned away at the testing center if the candidate is unable to show proof of residency."
That "residency" requirement says it all... there is no chance of arguing that somehow the price-difference with the testing has to do with "costs" of administering the test in each country (like, perhaps, lower office-space costs, or similar)
, since if that was the case, you would let ANYONE take the test in the foreign country and realize the lower-cost/overhead advantages by way of a lower total test-price to the individual taking the test. This is all about fleecing the American worker in a way quite similar to how American drug-makers sell their drugs to foreign governments cheaper than they will sell drugs to American citizens.... really, how is this any different Microsoft?

I (semi) understand the argument for discounting software in such countries as China, India, and other "developing" countries (since they notoriously just STEAL the software otherwise and pay little to no regard to Intellectual-Property law), but WHY discount an electronically-administered TEST there for certification-achievement?

The only potential argument I can come up with how to "justify" the low-price MS Certification tests in these foreign countries (from a MS standpoint), is to perhaps rationalize that: if you, Microsoft - Nasdaq:MSFT, have your pool of "MS certified" technical people in each country, those same countries are likely to use more of your software,...but, the more I think about that argument, the more I would have to respond "Microsoft, you must be joking!"
In the mean time, we software developers, programmers, database administrators, and related Microsoft technologists, are stuck essentially subsidizing the very same overseas information technologists that are going to try their hardest to outsource OUR jobs as we continue to import all THEIR goods and services -- the same goods and services made even more price-competitive thanks to Microsoft/Prometric giving our competition a discount on the same certification test that we need to take to maintain our IT credentials and supposedly stay "competitive"!

This is just another sick example of an economy that is rigged against us. Thank you Microsoft! (NOT)

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