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Best Virtualization Certifications for IT Pros

image for Indypendenz/Shutterstock
Indypendenz/Shutterstock

In today's competitive IT job market, virtualization is a must-have technology skill set, fueled by the exploding popularity of virtualization and cloud computing. IT professionals can get started in this red-hot technology space with these five best virtualization certifications for 2019.

In both up and down economic times recently, IT job opportunities related to virtualization have remained a constant hot spot in the job market. As we analyzed top IT jobs, top IT pay and top IT certification surveys for the past several years, in fact, we saw at least one virtualization entry in every single category. That makes a strong case that virtualization is a good set of skills and knowledge for any IT professional. It applies across the board to IT pros who work with systems, networks or IT infrastructure and/or architecture.

Virtualization is a technology space where the platform rules. This explains why our top "virt certs" originate from vendors such as Cisco, VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft and cover their specific virtualization platforms and tools. Though there are other virtualization players, they don't really compete with these large and well-established companies.

There were a few notable changes to our featured certifications this year. Although the Oracle VM3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist has been in the top five several years running, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center bumped it from the leaderboard. We also replaced the now-retired Microsoft MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification with the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate. This also underscores Microsoft's strong pivot toward Azure.

It's not hard to understand why professionals want to specialize in virtualization technologies. Per SimplyHired, the average salary for virtualization engineer jobs is $109,353, with the lower end at $77,097 and the high end at $155,104. Glassdoor reports a salary range from about $67,000 for entry-level engineers to almost $139,000 for senior-level positions.

Before you dive into the featured certifications, check out our job search results below. They indicate how frequently these certifications appear in job postings, at least as we took this snapshot.

Certification

 SimplyHired

 Indeed

 LinkedIn

 LinkUp

Total

CCNA Data Center (Cisco)

1,544

2,054

1,494

899

5,991

CCNP Data Center (Cisco)

1,040

1,330

1,464

739

4,573

CCP - V (Citrix)

45

48

191

77

361

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate (Microsoft)

177

219

367

133

896

VCP6.5-DCV (VMware)*

261

422

498

396

1,576

*Search conducted on "VMware VCP Data Center certification." 

Cisco offers a portfolio of data center certifications designed to validate the skills IT professionals need to design, implement, troubleshoot and maintain enterprise-level data centers that house business-critical applications. Cisco Data Center certified professionals are well suited to work with common data center network management technologies, including automation, unified communications, physical and virtual resources, advanced virtualization, and application and cloud services.

Cisco's Data Center portfolio includes credentials at the associate, professional and expert levels. Currently, this means three such credentials: the Cisco Certified Network Associate Data Center (CCNA Data Center), Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center (CCNP Data Center) and the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Data Center (CCIE Data Center).

One of our featured certifications is the CCNA Data Center credential, aimed at IT practitioners with one to three years of experience with data center networking and infrastructure concepts. Candidates should understand how to install, configure and maintain data center technologies, such as network virtualization, automation and orchestration, storage networking, unified computing, and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

There are no prerequisites for earning the CCNA Data Center, but candidates must pass two exams. After that, the credential remains valid for three years.

To recertify before this credential expires, candidates must pass one of the following: a current associate-level exam (other than ICND1), a current 642-xxx or 300-xxx professional-level exam, a current 642-xxx Cisco Specialist exam (some exceptions apply), a current CCIE written exam, the current CCDE written or practical exam, or the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) board review and interview.

Certification Name

CCNA Data Center

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None required

One to three years of experience recommended

Recommended training:

Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking (DCICN)

Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies (DCICT)

Cisco offers classroom courses, which run for five days and cost about $4,500 (price may vary). Online e-learning is available from Cisco for $1,500.

Number of Exams

Two exams:

Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking (200-150 DCICN)

Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking Technologies (200-155 DCICT)

Cost per Exam

$300 each; total $600

Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/associate/ccna-data-center.html

Self-Study Materials

The certification page provides links to exam topics, self-study materials, a study group, videos, Learning Network resources, learning partner content and more. Books and other resources can be purchased from the Cisco Press.

As its name implies, the CCNP Data Center certification is a professional-level certification targeting data center professionals engaged in various senior-level engineering (network, support, design, data center and the like) and administrator roles. To earn this CCNP, candidates must possess a valid CCNA Data Center or any CCIE certification and pass four CCNP data center exams. Five to eight years of IT experience is highly recommended.

The CCNP Data Center credential is valid for three years. To recertify, candidates must pass any current 642-xxx or 300-xxx professional-level exam, a current CCIE written exam, a current CCDE written or practical exam, or pass the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) board review and interview.

A logical step up from the CCNP Data Center is the CCIE Data Center, the pinnacle credential in the Cisco Data Center certification family. The CCIE Data Center targets experienced data center professionals. Leaders in their field, CCIE Data Center candidates typically possess at least eight years of experience. They can recommend, design and implement complex enterprise-level data center solutions.

Certification Name

CCNP Data Center

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Valid CCNA Data Center or any CCIE certification

Five to eight years of experience recommended

Recommended training:

Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCI)

Implementing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (DCII)

Implementing Cisco Data Center Virtualization and Automation (DCVAI)

Designing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (DCID) or Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (DCIT)

Cisco offers classroom courses, which run for five days and cost about $4,500 (price may vary). Online e-learning is available from Cisco for $1,500.

Number of Exams

Four exams:

Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (300-175 DCUCI)

Implementing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (300-165 DCII)

Implementing Cisco Data Center Virtualization and Automation (300-170 DCVAI)

Designing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (300-160 DCID) or Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (300-180 DCIT)

Cost per Exam

$300 each; total $1,200

Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/professional/ccnp-data-center.html

Self-Study Materials

The certification page provides links to exam topics, self-study materials, a study group, videos, Learning Network resources, learning partner content and more. Books and other resources can be purchased from the Cisco Press.

Focused on IT professionals working with and deploying on XenApp and XenDesktop Service solutions, Citrix maintains a well-established certification program to assist IT professionals as they prepare for work as a Citrix professional. At present, Citrix offers credentials at the associate, professional and expert levels across two solution tracks – digital workspace and networking – with the virtualization certs falling under the workspace track.

The Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA - V) certification targets administrators and operators who install, configure, and manage XenDesktop and XenApp solutions. Successful candidates should possess practical experience working with XenApp Desktop, XenApp published applications, Storefront, monitoring and security. Training is recommended but not required. To earn the credential, candidates must pass a single exam.

The CCP - V is the professional-level Citrix virtualization credential. Geared toward engineers, consultants, system administrators, and solution builders, CCP-V candidates configure, manage, and support advanced solutions using provisioning services on XenDesktop and XenApp. The CCP - V takes the associate-level CCA - V credential as a prereq, and candidates must pass the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 Advanced Administration exam to earn the credential.

At the top of the Citrix Virtualization certification ladder is the Citrix Certified Expert - Virtualization (CCE – V) credential. The CCE - V targets engineers, architects and consultants charged with designing solutions using Citrix products. CCE - V professionals possess advanced skills and can assess environments, make recommendations, and design advanced solutions. The CCE - V takes the professional-level CCP - V credential as a prerequisite, and candidates must pass the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 Assessment, Design and Advanced Configurations exam to earn the credential.

Candidates with current Citrix certifications recertify by taking the designated instructor-led training course (no exam required) or passing the current exam for the certification. Once a certification has expired, candidates must re-earn any prerequisite certifications and pass the associated exam.

Certification Name

Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization (CCP - V)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA - V)

Recommended training (two courses):

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 7 Advanced Administration (CXD-310)

or

Citrix Virtual Apps, Desktops and Provisioning 7 Administration (Fast Track) (CMB-310)

and

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 7 Optimization and Troubleshooting (CXD-303)

Number of Exams

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 Advanced Administration exam (1Y0-311)

Cost per Exam

$300

Exams are administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://training.citrix.com/#/learning/landing-badges/digital-workspace

Self-Study Materials

The certification page provides a link to an exam prep guide that candidates may download for free.

Microsoft rolled out big changes to its certification program in early 2019, emphasizing practical, on-the-job skills over technology. Many MCSA and MCSE credentials have been retired or are scheduled for retirement soon, and new credentials (mainly for Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, as of this writing) have been introduced.

As a result, the certification website categorizes certifications under four primary job roles – Developer, Administrator, Solutions Architect and Financial Consultant – with the ability to drill down to several specific subroles. But because Microsoft certifications, by nature, will always have a strong technology component, the company also provides an alternative view of certs spread across the Applications and Infrastructure, Data and AI, Modern Workplace and Business Applications categories.

Regarding virtualization, Microsoft currently offers several Microsoft Certified: Azure credentials for administrators, engineers, architects, security professionals, data scientists and developers.

Our featured certification for this article, the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, targets IT professionals who implement, monitor and maintain Microsoft Azure environments. Candidates need working knowledge of virtual machines and networks, identity management, Azure subscriptions and resource allocation, and storage solutions. To earn the credential, candidates must pass a single exam.

Certification Name

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

Prerequisite & Required Courses

None required

Number of Exams

One exam:

Exam AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator

Cost per Exam

$165 Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=100942&ui=www_cert

Self-Study Materials

Microsoft offers numerous exam prep materials, including videos, practice exams, certification study groups, virtual labs, learning materials, study questions, books, courseware and more.

As a company with virtual machines, hypervisors and related technologies that dominate the virtualization market, it should come as no surprise that VMware also has a multitiered, robust certification program.

VMware currently offers several well-recognized and highly sought-after credentials. You'll find Associate, Professional, Advanced Professional (Deploy and Design tracks) and Design Expert levels, as well as several badges.

The VMware certification program includes six solution tracks: Data Center Virtualization, Network Virtualization, Cloud Management and Automation, Desktop and Mobility, Digital Business Transformation and Digital Workspace.

Note: VMware certifications are geared toward the VMware vSphere product, the latest incarnation of which is version 6.7.

VMware credentials form a certification ladder, in that more senior-level credentials generally require candidates to earn a lower-level credential as a prerequisite. For example, the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) requires the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification, and the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification requires a VCP and a VCIX certification.

The VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) has been a highly popular certification in the VMware portfolio for years. The VCP-DCV 2019 credential is the latest version, which recognizes IT professionals with the skills to implement, manage and troubleshoot a vSphere V6.7 infrastructure.

Because older versions of vSphere are still in play and being supported, the VCP6.5-DCV credential is available for those who work with vSphere v6.5. It has similar requirements to the VCP-DCV 2019. The VCP6-DCV, which focuses on vSphere 6, retires August 30, 2019.

Certification Name

VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization 2019 (VCP-DCV 2019)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Non-VCP/expired credentials holders:

Experience with vSphere 6.7

Completion of a current training course (from the current approved list)

Pass a vSphere Foundations Exam

Pass a VCP-DCV exam

Other requirements apply depending on whether you have other valid VMware certifications.

Course prices vary; typical US cost starts at $4,250

Number of Exams

Two exams (non-VCP credentials holders):

vSphere 6 Foundations Exam 2V0-620 (65 questions, 115 minutes, passing score 300)

or

vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam 2V0-602 (70 questions, 105 minutes, passing score 300)

or

VMware vSphere 6.7 Foundations Exam 2019 (2V0-01.19) (65 questions, 105 minutes, passing score 300)

and

VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Exam 2V0-622 (70 questions, 105 minutes, passing score 300)

or

Professional vSphere 6.7 Exam 2019 (2V0-21.19) (70 questions, 115 minutes, passing score 300)

Cost per Exam

$125 for the Foundations exam

$250 for the Professional-level exam 

(Prices may vary by geography; check the website for pricing in your area) Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.vmware.com/education-services/certification/vcp-dcv-2019.html

Self-Study Materials

Each exam page includes an exam guide and links to training courses, videos, e-books, a practice exam (if available), VCP Community, VMware Learning Zone, VMware Press and VMware Certification Market Place.

A few credentials that didn't make this year's top five list, but still worthy of mention, are the Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS) the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator (RHCVA). IT professionals who work with either platform should take a closer look at these credentials.

Other noteworthy virtualization/cloud certifications are available from IBM, Juniper, HPE, Ivanti (formerly AppSense) and NetApp.

You can most likely turn up other virtualization-related certification credentials by doing a web search or visiting such certification forums as TechExams.net.

Given the high demand for virtualization technologies and qualified professionals to use them to design, install, and maintain virtualized environments, this is one IT technology niche that should continue to show strong growth and outstanding opportunities.

Business News Daily Editor

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