If you are looking to get started on the path to VMware certification, it can be a little bit confusing at first, especially as VMware’s certification organization continues to grow and evolve. Luckily I have walked the path of VMware certification from beginning to end, and have a good handle of what it looks like, and changes that have been made over the years since I obtained my first VMware certification in 2011 (which was VCP-DCV 4, by the way).
Now, let’s look at some of the changes that have been made to the certification programs over the years, and how you too can walk the path from beginning to end.
Changes in VMware Certification Over the Years
When I started out with VMware certification, the first certification I took was just called the VMware Certified Professional or VCP exam and certification. This was because VMware only offered certification on one thing…VMware. Over the years, their certifications have evolved to include a total of four different certification paths as follows:
- Data Center Virtualization (DCV)
- Network Virtualization (NV)
- Desktop and Mobility (DT)
- Cloud Management and Automation (CMA)
The “original” VMware certification track eventually became Data Center Virtualization, or DCV.
Each of the four tracks has the following certifications:
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP)
- VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX)
- VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)
VCIX is one that can generally be confusing. VCIX is obtained by completing the available VCAPs for a given track. All of the tracks except for NV have two different types of VCAP certifications, VCAP-Design and VCAP-Deploy. The NV track only has the VCAP-Deploy certification.
If you want to get more confused, the VCAP-Design and VCAP-Deploy exams used to also have different names, but these test names were changed to make more sense as the other VMware Certification tracks beyond Data Center Virtualization developed.
There also used to be a certification called VCA or VMware Certified Associate available in the four VMware Certification tracks. That has since been retired, and revived in a business related track. We are going to focus on the four main technical tracks for now.
VMware Certification in a Single Image
I have created this helpful graphic to explain what exactly is needed to obtain a certification in any given track:
Now, let’s go step by step through the graphic.
Prerequisites Before Achieving VMware Certification
Before you can begin obtaining VMware Certifications, there are a couple of steps, which you can see outlined in blue boxes after a very crucial first step in VMware Certification has been completed.
- Pick your track
Decide which VMware certification track is right for you and start preparing! This is the first step before you can actually start the certification process.
- Take a VMware Authorized Training Class in your desired track
Make sure the class is authorized by VMware, or you will not get proper credit and will not be able to achieve VMware certification
- Take the vSphere Foundations Exam
There is a common exam to take before you can take the VCP exam in your given track.
VMware vSphere Foundations Exam
After you complete these steps, you are then ready to achieve your first VMware certification. When I started with the VMware VCP certification, there was no such thing as the VMware vSphere Foundations exam. This became necessary as the various VMware certification tracks develop. This test takes a look at the common aspects of virtualization that all of the VMware certification tracks share.
This common test is required for all of the VMware certification tests. When it comes to VMware certification, each test has an accompanying Exam Guide (formerly called the Exam Blueprint) that tells you exactly what knowledge you need in each area for the test. You can find the vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam Guide here. This is one of two multiple choice tests you will take.
VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
This is the gateway certification, and the most simple in a manner of speaking. This is the ONLY other test you will take by VMware that is solely multiple choice. This is good and bad. Some people hate multiple choice tests and some people love them. The VCP exam in any VMware Certification track makes sure you have a foundation in knowledge in those specific technologies.
You can find the link to the Exam information and Exam guide for the VCPs for all four tracks here:
- VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV)
- VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization (VCP-NV)
- VMware Certified Professional – Desktop and Mobility (VCP-DT)
- VMware Certified Professional – Cloud Management and Automation (VCP-CMA)
VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP)
After you pass the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) exam, you can then take the VMware Certified Professional Advanced Exams in your selected track. It is important to note that the Network Virtualization (NV) track is the only track where a single VCAP Exam, VCAP-Deploy exists.
For the three remaining tracks, there are two exams:
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Deploy (VCAP-Deploy)
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Design (VCAP-Design)
Before we take a look at what these exams and certifications exist of, it is important for you to stop and think if you have gotten to this point. What is your intention when it comes to VMware Certification? Are you following the track all the way through to VCDX? Or are you taking VCAP exams to prove your knowledge in a certain area. Because this is such an important inflection point in the VMware certification journey, I have written an article dedicated to it called VCAP-Design or VCAP-Deploy? Which Exam to Take First?. This will give you some good thinking points if you have not already decided what your VMware certification journey looks like at this point.
Now, let’s take a look at each of the VCAP exams.
VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Deploy (VCAP-Deploy)
Remember, if you are on the Network Virtualization (NV) path, this is the only VCAP exam available for you to take. This exam is very interesting, as it is a completely hands on exam. From the testing center, you remotely connect to the VMware testing environment and are greeted with a vSphere environment in various states of function and configuration.
The test will give you a number of tasks to complete within the lab, and you will be graded on how well you complete them. The only way to study for this test is hands on experience with VMware vSphere, there are no brain dumps, and there are no multiple choice questions.
The number of questions and amount of time per each VCAP-Deploy exam vary. You can find more about each VCAP-Deploy Exam here, including the Exam Guide:
- Data Center Virtualization (DCV) VCAP-Deploy
- Network Virtualization (NV) VCAP-Deploy
- Desktop and Mobility (DT) VCAP-Deploy
- Cloud Management and Automation (CMA) VCAP-Deploy
VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Design (VCAP-Design)
VCAP-Design differs in VCAP-Deploy in a couple of different ways. First of all, it tests a completely different set of knowledge. While the VCAP-Deploy test is hands on and open ended, the VCAP-Design test is much more theoretical. VCAP Design has a couple of different question formats:
- Multiple choice
- Drag and drop
Why you may think this would be an “easier” format, the matching and drag and drop questions are fairly open ended in the sense that there are many, many possible combinations that can be made as part of the question.
The VCAP Design test is available for the following tracks, the following link to the Exam information page where you can also download the Exam guide.
- Data Center Virtualization (DCV) VCAP-Design
- Desktop and Mobility (DT) VCAP-Design
- Cloud Management and Automation (CMA) VCAP-Design
Remember, there is no VCAP Design for the NV track!
VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)
This is it. The highest level of certification that VMware offers, and less than 300 people currently hold in the world (I’m number 236). You can find everything I have written about this certification here, along with some of the blogs I read going through the process.
This certification consists of multiple parts. First, you need to have the VCP and both VCAP certifications (unless you are doing NV, then there is only one VCAP).
I want to take a moment to dispel something. Some people thing that VCDX-NV or Network Virtualization is the “easy” VCDX since there is only one VCAP exam. While it is true you have one less exam to take, you will still need to know the design principles that are tested in the other VCAP-Design tests. The VCDX-NV is not any easier in preparation other than the fact you get to “skip” a VCAP in knowledge you will still need to know.
Now, after you have all your prerequisite certifications, you will need to do several things.
- Read the VCDX handbook
- Prepare and submit your design and supporting documentation along with the application
- Have your design documents accepted
- Defend your design in front of a panel of three VCDXs
During this process, you will need to refer closely to your friend, the Exam Blueprint. You can find the Exam Blueprints for each VCDX here:
This process is very time intensive, between creating the documentation required and preparing for the defense, it is not for the faint of heart.
A Summary of VMware Certification
While the world of VMware certification can be somewhat confusing if it is your first time looking into it, the truth is it does not have to be hard. The graphic above outlines the process, and when it boils down to it, it can be broken down into four simple steps:
- Take a VMware Course
- vSphere Foundations and VMware Certified Professional (VC)
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) Design and/or Deploy
- VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)
If you set a goal of obtaining a VMware certification, try not to get frustrated if it takes longer than you anticipated. Let’s face it, we all know life happens, and sometimes things get in the way of study time. At the end of the day it is important to remember your goals are allowed to evolve.
If you are set on the path of VMware certification, the best advice I can give is that it is all about more than VMware technologies at the end of the day. You will be impacted by other areas of the IT infrastructure, and need more than just technical skills to complete the full VMware certification journey.
I feel so passionate about this subject that I wrote a book called IT Architect Series: The Journey, A Guidebook for Anyone Interested in IT Architecture.
The book is broken down into three easy to read parts, plus an appendix of resources:
- Part One – “Before We Go” – helps you develop the right mindset and find the tools you need to begin your journey to become an IT architect.
- Part Two – “On Our Way” – dives deeper into the core skills required to become an IT architect and why they are important.
- Part Three – “You’re Almost There” – focuses on gaining different types of experiences once you’ve mastered core skills.
To find out more about the book, click the image above or this link.