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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 in recent years, IT job opportunities related to virtualization have remained an unaffected hot spot in the job market. As we analyzed 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 category. 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 cover their specific virtualization platforms and tools. Such leading companies include VMware, Cisco, Oracle, Citrix and Microsoft (Red Hat also offers virtualization certifications for their platforms and are mentioned). Though there are other virtualization players, they don't really compete with these large and well-established companies.

The HPE Product Certified Converged Solutions certification made its debut last year. Alas, HPE has since discontinued this certification, clearing the way for an old favorite, the Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization. The CCNP Data Center credential also makes the leaderboard, along with the Microsoft MCSE: Cloud Platform. The Oracle VM3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist retained its slot in the top five. Rounding out our top picks is another old favorite – the VMware VCP-DCV credential.

It's not hard to understand why professionals want to specialize in virtualization technologies. Per SimplyHired, the average salary for virtualization engineer jobs is $112,811, with the lower end at $82,365 and the high end at $154,512. Glassdoor reports a salary range from about $64,000 for entry-level engineers to almost $180,000 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.

Job Board Search Results (in alphabetical order by certification)

Certification

 SimplyHired

 Indeed

 LinkedIn

 LinkUp

Total

CCNP Data Center (Cisco)

1,030

1,297

1,127

581

4,035

CCP – V (Citrix)

53

69

133

70

325

MCSE: Cloud Platform & Infrastructure (Microsoft)

1,100

1,352

1,732

1,021

5,205

Oracle VM CIS (Oracle)

148

180

360

140

828

VCP6.5-DCV (VMware)*

332

442

461

232

1,467

*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, 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).

Our featured certification is the CCNP Data Center credential. 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 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

Prerequisites & Required Courses

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

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

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.

Microsoft maintains a robust certification portfolio with 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 who work with Software as a Service (SaaS) and infrastructure solutions built around 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 certifications are available for IT professionals of all skill levels. The first credential in the cloud certification tier is the MTA: Cloud Infrastructure credential, geared to IT professionals working with desktop and server infrastructures and private cloud computing and infrastructure.

The MTA: the Cloud Platform credential follows Cloud Infrastructure certification. Candidates must pass two exams focused on developing, implementing, architecting and configuring Azure solutions. The MCSA 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.

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 the 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 web page 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 a single server virtualization credential for IT professionals working with Oracle VM technologies: the Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS).

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 this 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, on-demand and self-study courses. Practice exams, study guides and other resources are available from Oracle. Books may be purchased from Oracle Press.

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, Cloud Management and Automation, Network Virtualization, and Desktop and Mobility, Digital Business Transformation, and Digital Workspace.

Note: VMware certifications are geared toward the VMware vSphere product, the latest incarnation of Version 6.5. As of press time, 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 should 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 the 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 its predecessor’s auspicious steps. Because of its status within the VMware certification program, and because it's a stepping-stone 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/expired 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 $4,250 to more than $8,000, depending on the selected course.

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)
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 and Additional Resources tabs on the VCP6.5-DCV Foundations and VCP6.5-DCV exam web pages 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. Visit the VMware Education site where you can find links to the VMware Library, the VMware Learning Zone, and free educational resources, such as seminars, simulations, videos, and more.

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 their role as a Citrix professional. At present, Citrix offers credentials at the associate, professional and expert levels across three solution tracks – mobility, networking and virtualization.

The Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA - V) certification targets administrators and operators who manage, install, and configure XenDesktop and XenApp solutions. Successful candidates should possess practical experience working with XenApp Desktop (personal and persistent for VDI), XenApp published applications (mobilizing Windows applications), and XenApp published desktops (Server OS). 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 credential as a prereq, and candidates must pass the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 Advanced Administrator 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 IT professionals 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 lower level CCP - V credential as a prerequisite. Candidates must earn the CCP - V and pass the Assessment, Design and Advanced Configurations exam to earn the credential.

Candidates with current Citrix certifications may recertify by taking the designated instructor-led training course (no exam required). Once the certification has expired, candidates must retake the required exam.

Certification Name

Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization (CCP - V)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA - V)

Training is recommended but not required.

Number of Exams

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

Cost per Exam

$300

Exams are administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

http://training.citrix.com/cms/index.php/certification/virtualization/

Self-Study Materials

Each respective exam page contains a link to an exam prep guide which candidates may download for free.

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

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.

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