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VMware Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

VMware Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

VMware creates server and desktop virtualization software that streamlines IT operations across the general IT infrastructure, in data centers, throughout the cloud and on mobile devices. VMware's flagship data center platform is vSphere, which is also part of its VMware vCloud Suite. Other major VMware products include Horizon, vSAN and the vRealize Suite. VMware professional services account for more than half of the company's sales, and include technical support, consulting, training and a wide-ranging certification program.

VMware was founded in 1998, became a subsidiary of EMC Corporation in 2004 and now falls under the Dell Technologies umbrella. The company is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

As a leader in the virtualization space, VMware certifications are a must-have for many IT professionals, especially those who work in data centers and/or support virtual environments.

VMware certifications are based on a version of the associated technology – mainly, vSphere – which means VMware certifications alter in response to technology changes. Be aware, though, that certification updates often lag behind the release new virtualization technologies. VMware is slowly phasing out Version 6 certifications as new exams for Version 7 appear. Given that, where available, we concentrate on requirements for Version 7 certifications in this article, but also include information for Version 6 certifications where applicable. Broadly, VMware certifications fall into four categories:

  • Cloud Management and Automation
  • Data Center Virtualization
  • Desktop and Mobility
  • Network Virtualization

Each category offers various certification levels, such as:

  • VMware Certified Associate (VCA)
  • VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP)
  • VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)

Currently, VMware offers a single VCA credential which is common to all VMware solution tracks. The VMware Certified Associate – Digital Business Transformation (VCA-DBT) is geared to executives and architects who understand technologies associated with VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Architecture solutions (such as vRealize, vSphere, NSX and vSAN). Training is recommended but not required. Candidates must pass the VCA-DBT exam (1V0-701) to earn this credential.  

Associate certification typically requires passing a single exam to achieve certification. Candidates for Professional and Advanced Professional certifications must either take a training course or earn a prerequisite certification and pass an exam (a few certifications require two exams). Achieving a VCDX certification is more involved. Candidates must first obtain multiple prerequisite certifications, then create a production-ready VMware solution and defend it in front of a panel.

VMware requires professional-level and higher certification holders to recertify every two years to maintain their credentials. You can find more info on VMware recertification requirements at: http://mylearn.vmware.com/portals/certification/

VMware awards digital badges to candidates who have earned specific combinations of certifications. You get the VCIX badge, for example, after achieving a VCAP Design certification and a VCAP Deploy certification within the same solution track (DCV, NV, CMA or DTM), without needing to pass additional exams. And the VCIX badge qualifies as a prerequisite for VCDX certifications, as you'll learn in more detail later in this article. Other VMware badges vary by solution track and include the Double VCP and vSAN 2017 Specialist, among others.

VMware Cloud Management and Automation (CMA) certifications recognize a candidate's skills working with the vCloud Suite, including vRealize, as well as general and advanced cloud computing knowledge.

Currently, there are two VCP-CMA credentials offered – one targeting V7 and the other V6. The VMware Certified Professional – Cloud Management Automation (VCP7-CMA) is the newest VCP-CMA credential. This certification is ideal for candidates who have worked with vRealize Automation implementations for at least six months. If you are new to vRealize, you must take a mandatory training course, pass either the vSphere 6 (2V0-620) or vSphere 6.5 (2V0-602) Foundations exam, and pass the VCP7 – Cloud Management and Automation exam (2V0-731).

If you already possess either the VCP6-Cloud or VCP6-CMA credential or hold any valid unexpired VCP6 certification (for any solution track), you only need to pass the VCP7-CMA exam to earn this designation.  

At present, the Version 6 credential, the VCP6-CMA, remains available. Its requirements and details are similar although required exams may vary. The VCP6-CMA credential is granted automatically to candidates who already possess the VCP6-Cloud credential.

 There are three VCAP certifications available in the Cloud Management and Automation category:

  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 7 – Cloud Management and Automation Design (VCAP7-CMA Design): Candidates must pass the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 7 – Cloud Management and Automation Design Exam (3V0-732)
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation Design (VCAP6-CMA Design): Candidates must pass the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation Design Exam (3V0-632).
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation Deployment (VCAP6-CMA Deploy): Candidates must pass the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation Deployment Exam (3V0-633).

VMware recommends two years of experience for each credential. Both the VCAP6-CMA Design and VCAP6-CMA Deploy credentials require the VCP6-CMA as a prerequisite, whereas the VCAP7-CMA Design takes the VCP6-CMA as a prereq. Candidates who possess other VCP credentials or who are seeking to upgrade should check the certification page for current requirements.

Note: Earning the VCAP-CMA Design and VCAP-CMA Deployment credentials for V6 earns the VCIX-CMA badge. A similar badge will be available for v6.5 as the VCAP-CMA Deploy credential becomes available.

The pinnacle credential in the CMA certification ladder is the VMware Certified Design Expert 7 – Cloud Management and Automation (VCDX7-CMA). This credential is geared to architects and professionals skilled in all aspects of vSphere and vCloud management and automation, including designing, planning and implementing solutions.

Earning the VCDX7-CMA credential is not easy. New candidates who have earned their VCIX7-CMA badge must submit a design application solution, pass the design application review and defend the design against a three-person review panel. Candidates who earned the VCDX-Cloud or VCDX-CMA, or a VCDX in a track other than CMA, have similar but not identical requirements. All candidates must also agree to the VMware code of conduct.

VMware Data Center Virtualization certifications revolve around skills with vSphere 6 and vSphere 6.5.  

The VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV) and VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) are highly popular certifications aimed at candidates with at least six months' experience with VMware infrastructure technologies. VMware reports that there are currently more than 100,000 VCP6-DCV certified professionals.

A VCP-DCV is proficient in installing, implementing and managing VMware vSphere environments. Candidates who are new to VMware data center virtualization need to complete a required training course and pass the vSphere 6 Foundations Exam (2V0-620) or the vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam (2V0-602). In addition, VCP6.5-DCV candidates must also take the VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Exam (2V0-622), while VCP6-DCV candidates must pass the VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Exam (2V0-621).

There are three Advanced Professional certifications in the Data Center Virtualization category:

  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design (VCAP6.5 – DCV Design): Targets individuals who possess the VCP6.5-DCV credential plus at least five years of experience working with VMware solutions
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Deployment (VCAP6-DCV Deploy): For individuals with at least two years of VMware virtual environment administration experience and who possess any VCP6-DCV certification 
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Design (VCAP6-DCV Design): Geared for candidates who work with vSphere 6 technologies in a virtual environment and possess the VCP6-DCV level certification

Note: Earning both the VCAP-DCV Design and VCAP-DCV Deployment credentials for V6 earns the VCIX6-DCV badge.

The pinnacle certification in this track is the VMware Certified Design Expert 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCDX6-DCV). Aimed at architects, candidates must hold current VCIX6-DCV, create a VMware vSphere-based design and project, and present and defend it before a panel of VCDX-holders.

VMware Desktop and Mobility certifications are designed for IT professionals who deploy and manage VMware Horizon with View environments.  

The VMware Certified Professional 7 – Desktop and Mobility (VCP7-DTM) is for candidates with at least six months of experience with environments using vSphere 7 and Horizon 7 with View. Candidates must attend a training course plus pass either the vSphere 6 Foundations Exam (2V0-620) or vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam (2V0-602), as well as the VMware Certified Professional 7 – Desktop and Mobility Exam (2V0-751).

The Version 6 VCP6-DTM credential is still available. This certification focuses on vSphere 6 and Horizon 6 with View.

VMware offers three Advanced Professional credentials in the Desktop and Mobility category:

  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 7 – Desktop and Mobility Design (VCAP7-DTM): Geared toward professionals who design and integrate solutions using VMware Horizon 7.2
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Desktop and Mobility Design (VCAP6-DTM Design): Targets IT professionals who design and integrate Horizon 6 environments
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Desktop and Mobility Deployment (VCAP6-DTM Deploy): Geared toward individuals who deploy and optimize Horizon 6 environments

VCAP7-DTM requires five years of professional experience, while the VCAP6-DTM Design and VCAP6-DTM Deploy require only two years. Training is recommended, and candidates must pass the relevant exam to earn the credential.

Note: Earning both the VCAP6-DTM Design and VCAP6-DTM Deploy credentials earns the VCIX6-DTM badge.

The final and highest credential in the Desktop and Mobility certification ladder is the VMware Certified Design Expert – Desktop and Mobility (VCDX-DTM) certification. This credential is geared toward professionals using vSphere and VMware Horizon to design and implement mobile computing and virtual desktop solutions. To earn the certification, candidates must earn both VCAP credentials plus prepare and defend a design solution.   

The VMware Network Virtualization certification portfolio targets IT professionals who design, manage and implement VMware NSX environments.

The VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization (VCP6-NV) credential aims at professionals with at least six months' experience who install, configure and administer NSX implementations. Candidates must attend a required training course plus pass two exams to earn the credential. The training course prerequisite is waived for candidates who possess a valid Cisco Routing and Switching (CCIE, CCNP or CCNA) or Data Center (CCIE, CCNP or CCNA) credential.

Currently, there is only one advanced credential available in the Network Virtualization category: the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment (VCAP6-NV Deploy). To obtain the credential, candidates must possess the VCP6-NV certification and pass the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment exam. Two years' experience in deploying VMware NSX environments is recommended as well as general IT experience. Candidates who possess Cisco's CCIE Data Center or CCIE Routing and Switching certifications need only take the exam to obtain the credential. A second advanced credential – VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Design (VCAP6-NV Design) – is planned but not yet available.

Note: Earning the VCAP6-NV Deploy credential earns the VCIX6-NV badge. Typically, both the VCAP-Design and VCAP-Deploy credentials are required to earn a VCIX designation. However, VMware is waiving the VCAP6-NV Design requirement until that certification becomes available.

The VMware Certified Design Expert 6 – Network Virtualization (VCDX6-NV) is the highest Network Virtualization credential offered. To earn the credential, candidates must possess either a valid VCAP6-NV Deploy credential or VCIX6-NV badge, build a design per provided blueprint specifications, and pass a design review. Once the design has been accepted, candidates must successfully defend the design to a three-person panel.

With more than 500,000 customers globally that span all major industries, VMware has dominated server virtualization market share for years. That means organizations are constantly looking for qualified staff to install, administer and support VMware solutions. Consulting firms and resellers need the same type of skilled workers, as well as those who can propose solutions to customers and work with account executives, engineers and project managers to deliver those solutions on time.

The majority of job roles associated with VMware certifications are systems administrators and systems engineers.

The systems administrator role tends to focus on server provisioning, and operation and maintenance of systems hardware, software and related infrastructure. They are often involved in system monitoring, system and application log reviews, tuning and optimization, patching and upgrading, server backups and restoration and troubleshooting.

The systems engineer role applies higher level business or technical principles to determining optimal VMWare solutions. This role often performs systems analysis, evaluation, design and integration, and consults with team members and customers from the implementation planning and design phase through testing.

Visit the VMware Education site to learn about a variety of high-quality courses (online and classroom), browse the eLearning and Instructional Video libraries and more. Some details are not available unless you register with VMware Education and sign in.

Training courses can be expensive. For example, typical costs for training range from $4,000 to more than $7,000, depending on the delivery format. VMware often offers discounts on training and exams, which puts the cost of training within reach of a wider audience. Visit the VMware Training & Certification Special Offers and Beta Classes page for information.

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.