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Best Virtualization Certifications for IT Pros

virtualization certification
Credit: fizke/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 2018.

In both up and down economic times over the last few years, IT job opportunities related to virtualization have remained an unaffected hot spot on the job market. As we looked at top IT jobs, top IT pay and top IT certification surveys for the last six years, in fact, we saw at least one virtualization entry in every single one of them. That makes a strong case that virtualization is a good set of skills and knowledge for any IT professional who works with systems, networks or IT infrastructure and/or architecture to pursue and possess.

Virtualization is a technology space where the platform rules. This explains why our top certifications originate from vendors who offer their own specific virtualization platforms and tools. These leading companies include VMware, Cisco, Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft. (Citrix and Red Hat also offer virtualization certifications for their platforms, and are mentioned at the end of this article.) Though there are other virtualization players in this niche, they don't really compete with these large and well-established companies.

If you follow this article from year to year, you'll notice some changes to our top five lineup as compared to last year. The HPE Product Certified Converged Solutions certification makes a debut appearance this year, as does the Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist. The CCNP Data Center credential (which replaces both the Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist and Support Specialist credentials) also makes the leader board, along with the Microsoft MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure cert, which replaces the MCSE: Private Cloud certification credential. Rounding out our top picks is an old favorite – the VMware VCP-DCV credential.

It's not hard to understand why professionals want to specialize in virtualization technologies from a salary perspective. Per SimplyHired, the average salary for virtualization engineer jobs is $111,405, with the lower end at $81,618 and the high at $152,065. Glassdoor reports a salary range from about $63,000 for entry-level engineers to almost $180,000 for senior-level positions.

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

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn

LinkUp

Total

CCNP Data Center (Cisco)

1,116

1,203

731

485

3,535

HPE Converged Solutions (HPE)

140

148

125

35

448

MCSE: Cloud Platform & Infrastructure  (Microsoft)

991

1,065

927

125

3,108

Oracle VM CIS (Oracle)

185

194

71

104

554

VCP6.5-DCV (VMware)**

379

403

261

151

1,194

**Search conducted on "VCP Data Center." The VCP6.5-DCV is too new as of this writing to generate significant job board results.

The remainder of this article provides details on these featured certifications, with a brief follow-on discussion that reports other related credentials also worthy of mention.

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, three credentials are offered: 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).

Our featured certification is the CCNP Data Center credential. As the 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 the certification, candidates must possess a valid CCNA Data Center or any CCIE certification, plus 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 642-xxx or 300-xxx professional-level exams, CCIE written exam, CCDE written or practical exam, or pass the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) board review and interview.

The pinnacle credential in the Cisco Data Center certification family is the CCIE Data Center. 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

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Valid CCNA Data Center or any CCIE certification
Five to eight years of experience recommended

Number of Exams

4 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

Candidates can find links to instructor-led as well as self-paced training, virtual labs, practice exams, communities study groups, Learning Partner content and more on the certification and exam web pages. Books and other resources can be purchased from the Cisco Press.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has a robust certification program, which includes technical-based Career Professional certifications and HPE Sales Restricted sales certifications. Career Professional certifications are open to anyone interested in or working with HP technologies. HPE Partner Restricted certifications are only available to HPE or HPE Partner employees. In addition to its Career Professional credentials, HPE also offers a series of Product Certified credentials for candidates specializing in one or more HPE product solution areas.

Currently, HPE offers six Career Professional and three Product Certified credentials that focus on data centers and virtualization. All Career Professional certifications are geared to experienced professional candidates who possess an Accredited Technical Professional (ATP), Accredited Solutions Expert (ASE) or Master ASE designation.

Data center and virtualization Career Professional credentials include:

Related Product Certified credentials:
HPE Product Certified – Converged Solutions [2017]
HPE Product Certified – Synergy Solutions [2016]
HPE Product Certified – OneView [2016]

We ran job board numbers for all the HPE certifications mentioned above. While several came close, the clear winner for the top five list was the HPE Product Certified – Converged Solutions credential. Thus, we make it our focus for this part of the article.

A foundation-level credential, the HPE Product Certified – Converged Solution credential is geared toward technical and sales consultants, sales engineers and systems engineers who work with HPE Hyper Converged (380 and 250) and HPE Converged Systems (700, 700 with Arista, 500 and 900 for SAP HANA, and 300 for Microsoft APS). Successful candidates can analyze client business requirements and design HPE Converged Solutions for a variety of environments, including client virtualization and VDI, data warehouse, cloud and data analytics.

To earn the credential, candidates must pass a single exam. An HPE Learner ID is required to register for the exam. There are no prerequisites required, but as with all HPE credentials, formal training is highly recommended.

Certification Name

HPE Product Certified - Converged Solutions (2017)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None; training is highly recommended but not required

Number of Exams

One exam: HPE Converged Solutions HPE2-T33 (40 questions, 60 minutes, passing score is 68 percent)

Cost per Exam

$100
Exam is web-based and administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://certification-learning.hpe.com/tr/datacard/Certification/PC-CvgSol17

Self-Study Materials

HPE offers several study resources including the Training Analysis Tool, Adoption Readiness Tool, virtual labs, self-paced training, recorded virtual classes and more. Candidates may also purchase the HPE Converged Solutions eBook from HPE Press ($32.99).

Microsoft maintains a robust certification portfolio offering credentials in six solution areas: Mobility, Cloud (Platform and Infrastructure), Productivity, Data, App Builder and Business. Virtualization credentials reside in the Cloud (Platform and Infrastructure) certification tier. The Cloud Platform and Infrastructure family of certifications target IT professionals working Software as a Service (SaaS) and infrastructure solutions built on Microsoft Azure and Windows Server technologies.

Microsoft certifications come in three flavors: entry-level certifications (Microsoft Technology Associate [MTA]), professional-level credentials (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate [MCSA]) and expert-level certifications (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert [MCSE]). Lower level credentials (or equivalent skills) are typically required as prerequisites for the more advanced ones.

Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certs are available for IT professionals of all skill levels. The first credential in the cloud certification tier is the MTA: IT Infrastructure credential, geared to IT professionals working with desktop and server infrastructures and private cloud computing and infrastructure.

The MTA: Cloud Infrastructure cert is followed by the MCSA credential, available in four solution tracks: MCSA: Cloud Platform, MCSA: Linux on Azure, MCSA: Windows Server 2016 and MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Any one of these MCSA tracks serves as a prerequisite to the more advanced MCSE credential.

The highest Microsoft Cloud certification (and our featured certification) is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – Cloud Platform and Infrastructure (MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure) credential. To earn the MCSE, candidates must possess one of the MCSA credentials. They must also have a thorough understanding of data center concepts, such as system management, networking, virtualization, storage and identity management. In addition, candidates must pass a single approved exam. Currently, there are 10 exams on the approved list, which cover private cloud, Microsoft Azure, server infrastructure, Windows server security, big data and analytics, and cloud data platform. All these exams focus on skills necessary to design, develop, configure, architect and implement solutions.

Certification Name

MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Prerequisites & Required Courses

One of the following certifications:

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2016
  • MCSA: Cloud Platform
  • MCSA: Linux on Azure
  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012

Number of Exams

Candidates must pass one exam.
Currently, there are 10 potential exams available. Candidates should consult the certification webpage for the current exam list.

Cost per Exam

$165
Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcse-cloud-platform-infrastructure.aspx

Self-Study Materials

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

While various virtualization-related certifications can be found scattered throughout the Oracle certification portfolio, Oracle offers only two server virtualization credentials for IT professionals working with Oracle VM technologies: the Oracle VM 2.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS) and the Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS). The Oracle VM 3.0 CIS credential is our focus in this section.

While the Oracle VM 3.0 CIS credential is open to anyone, it was designed with Oracle Partner Network members in mind. The credential appeals to IT professionals who sell Oracle VM solutions and those who implement and support Oracle VM solutions.

The Oracle VM 3.0 CIS is an intermediate-level certification. Successful candidates should be well versed in OVM 3.0 Server technology, including installation of OVM 3.0 Server and OVN 3.0 Manager, network configuration, storage, template management and server pool creation. In addition, candidates should be familiar with virtual infrastructure implementation, Linux administration, thin provisioning, networking and VLAN, troubleshooting, storage and Link aggregation.

There are no prerequisites, but hands-on experience along with formal training (both in administration and implementation) is recommended. A single exam is required to earn the credential.

Certification Name

Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

None; hands-on experience and training are highly recommended

Number of Exams

One exam: Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Essentials 1Z0-590 (72 questions, 120 minutes, 61 percent passing score)

Cost per Exam

$245
Exam administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.getpage?page_id=654&get_params=p_id:127

Self-Study Materials

Several training opportunities are available through Oracle University, including classroom, virtual and on-demand and self-study courses. Practice exams, study guides and other resources are also available from Oracle. Books may be purchased from Oracle Press.

As a company whose virtual machines, hypervisors and related technologies dominate the virtualization market, it should come as no surprise that VMware also has a multi-tiered, 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 four solution tracks: Data Center Virtualization, Cloud Management and Automation, Network Virtualization, and Desktop and Mobility.

Note: VMware certifications are geared toward the VMware vSphere product, the latest incarnation of which is Version 6.5. As of the writing of this article, VMware is still rolling out Version 6.5 exams. Currently, Version 6.5 exams are offered for the Professional and Advanced Professional (Design only) levels. We anticipate that Version 6.5 exams and credentials at the Associate, Advanced Professional Deploy and Expert levels will follow soon. A retirement date for Version 6 exams has not yet been announced.

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 one or more VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certifications, the VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX) badge requires two VCAP certifications, and the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification requires a VCIX certification.

Per VMware, the VCP6 - Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) was the company's most popular certification, boasting "more than 100,000 professionals certified around the world." It's not only likely, but highly probable, that the VCP6.5-DCV credential will follow in the auspicious steps of its predecessor. Because of its status within the VMware certification program, and because it's a steppingstone to more senior VMware certifications, the VCP6.5-DCV is our focus.

Certification Name

VMware Certified Professional 6.5 - Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Non-VCP credentials holders:

  • Six months' experience with vSphere 6.5
  • Completion of a required training course (candidates choose from the then current approved list)
  • Pass the vSphere 6 or 6.5 Foundations Exam plus
  • Pass the VCP6.5-DCV exam

There is a variety of other requirements depending on whether you have existing training, valid VMWare certifications or expired certifications.
Course prices range from $4,125 to more than $7,000 depending on the selected course.

Number of Exams

Two exams (non-VCP credentials holders):

  • vSphere 6 Foundations Exam 2V0-620 (65 questions, 90 minutes, passing score 300)
    OR
  • vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam 2V0-602 (70 questions, 105 minutes, passing score 300)
    PLUS
  • VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Exam 2V0-622 (70 questions, 105 minutes, passing score 300)

Cost per Exam

$125 for the Foundations exam
$250 for each Professional-level exam 
(Prices vary by geography; check the website for pricing in your area)
Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

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

Self-Study Materials

The How to Prepare tab and the Additional Resources tab on the VCP6.5-DCV Foundations and VCP6.5-DCV exam webpages include links to training courses, a practice exam, the VCP community, VMware Learning Zone and VMware Press. VMware makes numerous additional resources available including blogs, podcasts, labs, videos, on-demand training and other self-study options.

One of the certifications absent from our top five list this year was the Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization (CCP - V). While the job board numbers weren't high enough to support a slot in the top five, the CCP - V remains an excellent credential for IT professionals supporting Citrix products in a virtualized environment. Citrix also offers two other virtualization certifications: the Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA - V) and the Citrix Certified Expert - Virtualization (CCE - V).

Another credential that didn't make the top five list, but is still worthy of mention, is the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator (RHCVA). IT professionals working with Red Hat may want to take a closer look at this credential.

The Oracle Private Cloud Appliance 2017 Implementation Essentials is another credential on our watch list for the future. IBM also offers an interesting virtualization certification as well — the Certified Associate Developer (Rational Test Virtualization Server V8). Other noteworthy virtualization certifications are available from 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.