Virtualization certification FAQ

Don’t know where to start with virtualization certifications? A virtualization certification boosts your skills, but consider your choices and goals before going after one.

Virtualization certifications make you a more valuable employee and a more desirable hire. They can improve your career by helping you gain new skills and build a more marketable résumé.

Best of all, a virtualization certification can increase your salary. Specialized skills have become more valuable, and employers have begun to recognize that they have to pay for this expertise.

But passing an exam alone doesn’t guarantee improved skills. Real-world experience is still most important. And some certifications -- such as higher-level VMware certifications -- are more difficult to earn than others.

The answers to these frequently asked questions will help you understand various virtualization certification options, including VMware certifications, and learn how they can improve your career.

Should I get certified for virtualization?

The value of virtualization certifications isn’t a cut-and-dry issue. Some believe that certifications are a critical measure of tech workers’ knowledge, and some organizations even require them. (Many companies even reimburse employees for the cost of virtualization certification exams.) But others argue that virtualization certification doesn’t ensure that a certified admin or manager can effectively manage a virtual infrastructure.

What are the certification options from major vendors?

There isn’t a generic, industry-wide virtualization certification yet. Instead, vendors offer their own certifications, so start by earning a virtualization certification for your hypervisor of choice. VMware and Citrix both offer a hierarchy of virtualization certifications, and Microsoft’s is a specialization that’s part of a broader IT certification track.

Does a virtualization certification always mean a pay raise?

Earning a virtualization certification doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more money right away. You might get a year-end or performance bonus, or simply have your certification course paid for. But over time, your additional skills will pay off – either in your current position or at another company. The IT salary market is improving, and virtualization skills are in high demand, so there’s a good chance this expertise will earn you more money than other positions would.

What are the best ways to keep my virtualization skills up to date?

Virtualization technology training, conferences and certifications are all good ways to update your skills. It can be tough deciding which virtualization certification to get. A good rule of thumb: If you’re new to virtualization and know which platform you want to learn, get certified by that vendor. You should also stay on top of new certifications the vendor offers. But if you’re a virtualization veteran looking for answers to specific questions, conferences and the Web might be more cost-effective paths. Last, remember to test products and gain hands-on experience in addition to earning your virtualization certifications.

What are the options for VMware certifications?

VMware’s preliminary virtualization certification is the VMware Certified Professional (VCP), which indicates you have basic knowledge of vSphere. The VCP is a prerequisite for all other VMware certifications. The next level is the VMware Certified Advanced Professional, which comes in two flavors: data center administration and infrastructure design. The administration track is for users who manage complex vSphere infrastructures, and the design certification is for IT pros that architect the infrastructure.

The highest VMware certification is the VMware Certified Design Expert, which recognizes superior vSphere architecture skills. This virtualization certification requires a complex project judged by industry experts. But of course, the more advanced the certification, the more doors that open to higher-paying jobs.

Should I earn IT certifications other than virtualization certs?

Broad IT certifications can enhance your virtualization expertise. Earning an OS certification, for instance, will help you better allocate hardware resources. Networking certifications can help admins better understand network interface cards and switches and how they work with VMs. Finally, you may want to earn certifications for specific applications. That way, you understand the app’s requirements and whether it functions well when virtualized.

This was first published in April 2011

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