While I was at TechEd last week, I got a 50% off Microsoft Certification test voucher that expires on June 30, 2010. Since I had not yet taken any SQL Server 2008 certification tests, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to save a few dollars and take the test. I have been procrastinating about taking the test, and the deadline on the 50% voucher was a good incentive to get it over with.
It has been about five years since I took my last certification test, which was for SQL Server 2005. Unlike back in 2005, when both Prometric and VUE offered Microsoft Certification Testing, now Prometric has the monopoly on testing. So I went to the Prometric website to register for the exam.
My first problem was that the website was partially down, and it would not allow me to log in to my old account, nor would it allow me to register for a test. I called to complain, but I could only get an answering system, as Prometric has very limited office hours (apparently they think all of their customers, worldwide, only live in their time zone.)
The next day the website was still partially down, as I still could not log on to my account. Every time I tried, I would get an error message telling me to try again later. On the other hand, I was able to begin the process of registering for the test (which seems a little odd).
Any way, as I begin to register for the test, I entered my country and state, so that all of the Prometric testing centers would be listed, allowing me to pick which testing center to take the test at, except for one minor problem. Although the state of Hawaii has a population of about 1.3 million people, Prometric only offers three testing centers in the entire state, and all of them are located on the island of Oahu, which is where Honolulu is located. I live on the Big Island, the second largest populated island in Hawaii, with about 180,000 people, and I can’t take any test locally because Prometric doesn’t offer a testing center where I live.
For those living on the Big Island, or on any island but Oahu, their only choice to take a Microsoft Certification Test is to spend about $160-250 for a round-trip airline ticket to Oahu, plus cab fare to and from the airport to the testing center, which is a very expensive option, and this doesn’t even include the entire day that would be wasted traveling back and forth just to take a 1-2 hour test.
Of course, I travel a lot, and visit many cities on the mainland, and can always schedule a test when I am there, but that is inconvenient, and I won’t be doing any traveling to the mainland before the 50% off certification voucher expires. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other IT professionals who live in Hawaii who don’t travel as much as I do and don’t have this option.
Given that Prometric has a monopoly on Microsoft Certification Testing, I think it needs to offer more than just three testing centers in a state of 1.3 million people. As a comparison, the state of Alaska, which has a population of nearly 700,000 people, Prometric offers seven different testing centers. So how come Prometric discriminates against IT professionals in Hawaii? This is a rhetorical question, as the obvious answer has to do with potential revenue, costs, and profitability. Prometric apparently doesn’t consider the state of Hawaii, even with its 1.3 million population, to be a profitable market. On the other hand, if Microsoft wants to encourage Microsoft certification in Hawaii, it should strong arm Prometric into offering testing on more Hawaiian islands than just Oahu.