By Eric Siebert, Contributor
It used to be that VMware had only one certification: the VMware Certified Professional (VCP). Becoming a VCP was fairly basic; you had to attend an approved training class and then pass an exam. And if you passed the VCP exam with a high-enough score, you were eligible to become a VMware Certified Instructor (VCI).
Now there are more VMware certifications, so you might wonder, "Which VMware certifications are right for me?" To help you decide, I've covered the various VMware certifications and requirements and how they can improve your IT career.
VMware Certified Professional
This VMware certification proves that you have the basic skills and knowledge to work with vSphere. To become a VCP, you must take an authorized, instructor-led training class. (Online classes are not eligible.)
There are three classes:
- VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage
- VMware vSphere: Fast Track
- VMware vSphere: Troubleshooting
After completing a course, you can take the VCP test. It's a general exam that does not focus on a particular area, and it targets those who works with vSphere, such as consultants, users or partners. If you don't pass, there is a seven-day waiting period before you can take it again.
The next VMware certification level, the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP), branches off in two directions: data center administration and infrastructure design.
VCAP: Data Center Administration (VCAP-DCA)
The VCAP-DCA certification focuses on vSphere administration and support skills. It goes beyond the VCP basics, and it's meant for people who deal with larger and more complex vSphere infrastructures. The VCAP-DCA focuses on implementing, managing, maintaining and administering vSphere, as well as troubleshooting and automation with scripting tools, such as PowerCLI.
You need a VCP certification before taking the VCAP-DCA exam. A class is not required, but VMware recommends that interested VCPs take one to prepare for the exam. If you don't pass, you can take it again after 10 days.
VCAP -- Data Center Design (VCAP-DCD)
Obtaining the VCAP-DCD demonstrates vSphere infrastructure design knowledge. This certification focuses on the skills needed to architect all aspects of a vSphere infrastructure, including storage and networking interconnectivity and integration with other components -- both within and outside of the virtual infrastructure.
Like with the VCAP-DCA, qualifying for the VCAP-DCD exam requires only a VCP certification. The vSphere Design Workshop course is recommended but not required, and the same 10-day waiting period applies for re-taking the test.
After passing both VCAP exams, you are eligible for the final VMware certification, the elite VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX).
VMware Certified Design Expert
To obtain this certification, you need the best possible skills for designing vSphere infrastructures. VCDX-certified professionals are considered vSphere masters. Passing both the VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD exams is a prerequisite for VCDX, but this certification is not exam-based. Instead, you must apply to VMware.
If VMware accepts your application, you have to submit a design and implementation plan for a scenario -- real or fictitious -- of your choice. This design document consists of architecture diagrams and support documentation for the infrastructure. If your design is approved, you must defend it in front of a review board. And if the board members are satisfied with your design and defense, you then receive the VCDX certification.
Choosing the right VMware certifications
The VCP is a must-have certification, because it's the launching pad to the other VMware certifications. Becoming a VCP demonstrates that you have basic competency working with vSphere, and it's generally a requirement for anyone who wants a good vSphere-related job.
Many companies, especially consulting firms, won't consider candidates without a VCP certification. But VCPs are not just administrators and architects. Technical sales reps, support personnel and people in other positions that work with vSphere also seek the VCP certification.
The other VMware certifications are for people who want to stand out from the VCP crowd. Because the VCAP is an advanced qualification, having one or both of these VMware certifications opens doors to higher-paying jobs. VCAP certifications are also good for consulting firms that want to prove that they have highly qualified individuals.
The two VCAP certifications differ from each other. Your choice depends primarily on your job role. If you desire the VCDX certification, however, you need both. Even if you don't attempt to obtain the VCDX, obtaining both VCAP certifications still proves you have mastered both areas, and you'll join an elite group.
Few have obtained the VCDX certification. The process requires an incredible amount of work and planning. It's not a simple test. It's an actual project that's judged by some of the top people in the industry. But the rewards are worth the effort, and you will be recognized as a top vSphere expert.
VMware certifications require dedication. And while obtaining VMware certifications gets harder at each successive level, the further you go, the more jobs will open up.
About the expert
Eric Siebert is a 25-year IT veteran with experience in programming, networking, telecom and systems administration. He is a guru-status moderator on the VMware community VMTN forums and maintains vSphere-land.com, a VMware information site.