This content is part of the Essential Guide: The road to success begins with a virtualization certification path

IT certifications: How does virtualization stack up?

Unlike some IT certifications, VMware certifications can actually boost salaries. Now other virtualization vendors are getting in on the act.

When it comes to valuable IT certifications, VMware continues to lead the way.

IT professionals with VMware certifications can earn significantly more than those with other top-end certs. The average salaries of pros with the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification is $116,000, with VMware Certified Advanced Professionals (VCAPs) earning $107,000 and VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs) earning $104,000, according to The salaries for other popular IT certifications range from $73,000 for Cisco Certified Network Engineer to $100,000 for Red Hat Certified Technician.

These results show that the value of the VCP, which I wrote about in 2007, and other VMware certifications remains strong. Despite the economy’s rocky turn over the past four year, the strength of the VCP certification has held up.

Virtualization-specific IT certifications
Since 2007 the server virtualization market has also changed significantly. Microsoft, Citrix Systems, Red Hat and Oracle have all dipped their toes in the virtual pond and decided to go for a swim. Although Oracle and Red Hat have not made major splashes, Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V have proven viable VMware alternatives. This market evolution means that, as each vendor brings its own certifications to market, the certification tracks for virtualization are heating up:

Red Hat: Despite its lagging market share, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) has the support of the open source community -- a crucial backing that Red Hat needs for its market share to grow. For those working with RHEV, which uses a kernel-based virtual machine hypervisor, the Red Hat Certified VirtualizationAdministrator certification is available.

Citrix: Citrix offers two Xen-oriented IT certifications, the Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) and the Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA), both of which cover server and desktop virtualization. There’s also the Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) and Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA).

Microsoft: The software giant offers many IT certifications, but the two Microsoft virtualization certifications are the Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS).

Third-party certifications: Vendors aren’t the only organizations that offer virtualization certifications. For example, VMTraining, a virtualization training organization, has its Certified Virtualization Expert (CVE) certification, which is VMware-focused, as well as the Certified Virtualization Security Expert (CVSE).

The value of VMware certifications
In breaking down the salaries of IT pros with these virtualization certifications, the data from again indicates that VMware certifications leading the pack. Here’s the full list:

1. VCDX: $116,000
2. VCAP: $107,000
3. VCP: $104,000
4. CCEA on XenServer: $90,000
5. CCA on XenServer: $89,000
6. MCITP on Windows Virtualization and CCEE on XenServer: $88,000
8. RHCVA: $86,000
9. MCTS on Windows Virtualization: $81,000
10. CVE: $71,000

Virtualization is and has been a high-paying, in-demand sector of IT, but it remains to be seen how the value of these certifications will hold up over time as virtualization becomes more and more commoditized.

Although there are more challengers in the market today, VMware remains at the top because of its commitment to its core virtualization business. (VMware has moved into the cloud computing and applications markets, but it has not made the mistake that others have made by losing focus on its core product and customers.) Those customers need expertise, and VMware knows that a rigorous program for its IT certifications is both a revenue stream for the company and a way to engage customers.

Joseph Foran is the IT director for Bridgeport, Con.-based FSW, Inc., and principal at Foran Media, LLC. He has been in IT since 1995, specializing in infrastructure, and involved in virtualization and cloud computing since 2002. Email Joe at orfollow him on Twitter.

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