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Costs of IAPP Certification

Wondering about the upfront and recurring costs of IAPP certifications? Read this.


Getting your first certification from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) can cost over $900—I'll be honest, they're not cheap.

If you haven't already, I'd recommend reviewing the benefits of IAPP certification. If you're already sold on the benefits of IAPP certification, there are two types of costs you should expect: upfront costs and recurring costs.

The largest upfront cost comes from the certification exam itself. Next up is the cost of becoming an IAPP member or paying a Certification Maintenance Fee—this is a substantial upfront cost and a recurring cost to maintain your certifications.

To pass the exam, you'll also need to purchase various study materials. These include resources like the official textbooks, and any supplemental materials you need, e.g., official or third-party practice exams or study guides.

Without further ado, let's break down the costs of IAPP certification.

Upfront Costs

The upfront cost of getting your IAPP certification is substantial.

The cost of getting an IAPP certification may change based on the quality and availability of study materials, how familiar you are with the topics, etc. However, if this is your first IAPP certification, I would plan for the following costs:

  1. Certification Exam ($550)
  2. Official Textbook(s) ($50-$75)
  3. Official Practice Exams ($45-$55)
  4. IAPP Membership ($50-$275) or Certification Maintenance Fee ($250)
  5. Third-Party Supplements (varies)
The upfront cost to get your first IAPP certification is ~$935.

You may not need all the resources on this list, or you may need more. Some of these costs are non-negotiable while others are, well, negotiable.

Your first IAPP certification is the most expensive, but there are some savings when getting multiple IAPP certifications to keep in mind.

Non-Negotiable Costs

The most substantial certification costs are non-negotiable—you have to pay them.

These non-negotiable costs come from two sources: (1) the certification exam and (2) the IAPP membership or Certification Maintenance Fee. These two costs make up ~$825 of the $~935 (88%) upfront cost to get your first IAPP certification.

You can't do much to reduce the cost of your first certification exam ($550). Sorry. However, you have an important decision to make regarding the Certification Maintenance Fee vs. IAPP Membership. So much so, we wrote a whole blog on it!

If I were you, I would make this decision before going any further—I wish I did.

IAPP membership costs $50, $100, or $275 per year or it may be free through your employer via a Corporate Membership or Group Membership. IAPP membership has various benefits, including discounts on study materials and conferences. An IAPP membership also includes the Certification Maintenance Fee.

However, an IAPP membership can cost $550 compared to $250 for the Certification Maintenance Fee for the same time period. That's notable.

Spend some time here and identify which option is right for you.

Negotiable Costs

When it comes to negotiable costs, we're mostly talking about study materials. The advice that I give most people? You only really need the official textbook(s).

However, this is more of a guideline than a rule.

Sometimes an official textbook doesn't exist or you can replace it with public materials. For example, I think most people can get the CIPP/E by only reading the GDPR and the relevant EDPB guidelines and recommendations, but this approach may not be best for everyone.

You may think I'm against all study materials, but that's not quite right. It's true, I don't think you need to pay for official or third-party practice exams, outlines, flashcards, courses, etc.—but that doesn't mean they don't help.

It's important to choose the level and amount of study materials and tools that work best for you. You can spend $0 on study materials for some certifications, or buy a $2,000 course for others.

I got all of my IAPP certifications only using the official textbooks and without taking a single note or creating any outlines. Is this right for you? Probably not. Experiment with different study materials and use the ones that fit your needs.

Don't think you need to buy every study guide or practice exam to be successful.

Savings When Getting Multiple Certifications

Do you want some good news? Your first IAPP certification is the most expensive.

Okay, that may not exactly cheer you up. What if I told you that there are substantial savings to be had when pursuing multiple certifications? Feel better?

The IAPP strongly encourages privacy practitioners to get multiple certifications. They do this by lowering the costs of subsequent certifications in two major ways.

Remember that $550 certification exam? Well, that drops to $375—saving you $175 per additional IAPP certification that you get. There are also some "fake" savings to be had (but you've already paid for them).

If you're considering additional IAPP certifications, your IAPP membership or Certification Maintenance Fee applies to all your certifications. For most people, this reduces the upfront certification costs by an additional $250-$275.

The upfront cost for multiple certifications is down from $935 to $485—not bad.

Before getting multiple IAPP certifications, remember to reconsider the benefits of IAPP certification after each one—you may not need to catch them all.

Recurring Costs

Remember that IAPP membership vs. Certification Maintenance Fee debate? Well, these are both upfront and recurring costs—lucky us.

We've talked about each of these already, so we'll keep this short and sweet.

To maintain your IAPP certifications in good standing, you must either maintain an active IAPP membership or pay a Certification Maintenance Fee. These must be paid every 1 year or 2 years, respectively. There are also non-financial requirements like submitting Continuing Privacy Education Credits.

When it comes time to renew either of these, I would reevaluate your situation.

If you're not getting the value out of an IAPP membership, paying the Certification Maintenance Fee may be cheaper but lacks the potential benefits of membership.

There's no right or wrong answer here, so pick the right one for you.

Wrapping Up

I sincerely hope this post was accessible, useful, and practical. If you have any feedback on this post, please let me know. Cheers.