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The Simple Guide to VMware Certification

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.  There are ton of resources in this article, so be sure to read all the way through to the end for a complete list of resources by exam type.

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.

The VMware Certification Path in a Single Image

I have created this helpful graphic to explain what exactly is needed to obtain a certification in any given track.  The VMware certification path can be confusing, so here it is in a single image:

VMware Certification guide 2020 path vcp vcap vcdx

Now, let’s go step by step through this graphic of the VMware certification path for every track.

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 VMware certification 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.  You can find a guide to VCP-DCV course offerings here.
  • Take the vSphere Foundations Exam
    There is a common exam to take before you can take the VCP exam in your given track.  Don’t miss the vSphere Foundations guide here, which will tell you everything you need to know about the exam.

Having trouble deciding what VMware certification track to pick?  VMware has another certification to help with that!

Introducing the “New” VMware VCA Certification

Originally, the VMware VCA certification, or VMware Certified Associate certification sat in the VMware certification tracks, before the VCP certification.  The VCA was not a requirement for the VCP, but did not require a VMware training class to obtain.

In its newer and current form, there is one VCA certification called the VCA-DBT or VMware Certified Associate – Digital Business Transformation certification.  This certification tests a little bit about most of the VMware products and features.

Because it is not a very in depth exam, and highlights much of the VMware portfolio, the VCA-DBT exam is a great place to start if you are uncertain which VMware certification track you want to start with, or what are of VMware interests you the most.

Still not sold on which VMware technology to focus on?  Be sure to check out this guide to the VCA-DBT which has everything you need to get started with this certification.

VMware vSphere Foundations Exam: Start Here in VMware Certification

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.  

Ready to get started?  This guide has everything you need to know about vSphere Foundations, including great study resources.

While it is 2020, the current vSphere Foundations test is still the 2919 version.  You can find the vSphere Foundations exam guide here.

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 VMware Certified Professional or 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 five tracks here:

  • VCP-DCV VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization 2020
  • VCP-NV  VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization 2020
  • VCP-DTM  VMware Certified Professional – Desktop and Mobility 2020
  • VCP-CMA VMware Certified Professional – Cloud Management and Automation 2020
  • VCP-DW VMware Certified Professional – Digital Workspace 2020

It is important to note that VCP-DW is not a full VMware Certification path, as it does not have any tests beyond the VCP certification.

Are you serious about obtaining your VMware VCP certification?  Be sure to check out the in depth guide on how to become VMware VCP Certified right here!  You can also learn about your VCP-DCV training options and how to become a VCP-NV if you have Cisco certifications!

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.  You may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your intention when it comes to VMware Certification?  
  • Are you following the track all the way through to VCDX?  
  • 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:

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
  • Matching
  • 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.

The VCAP for the NV track is a more recent addition to the VMware Certification path, just an interesting piece of trivia.

Still not sure which VCAP exam to take first?  Be sure to read an in depth analysis of each VMware VCAP exam here.

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 more about each VCDX certification and their applicable exam blueprint 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.

How Long Are VMware Certifications Good For?

VMware certifications are good forever, they do not expire.  In 2018, VMware introduced a new certification naming convention that adds the year you obtained the certification to the certification name.  While VMware certifications do not expire any longer, it is easy to see how recent a VMware certification is with this new naming convention.

Previously, VMware certifications were good for two years, and you could renew a VMware certification by obtaining a new, different VMware certification.  While many are relieved the two year expiration is gone, it is still important for IT professionals to make sure they are up to date on the products they are using.

Remote VMware Certification Exam Testing

As 0f 2020, remote VMware Certification exam testing is now available.

There are no changes in cost to any of the exams to take them remotely, and they are still offered through PearsonVUE.

You can read more about how PearsonVUE remote proctoring works here.

A Summary of VMware Certifications

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, the VMware certification path and process can be broken down into four simple steps:

  • Take a VMware Authorized Training Course
  • vSphere Foundations and VMware Certified Professional (VCP) Exams
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) Design and/or Deploy Exam
  • VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) Certification Process

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.

The VMware Certification Guide 

This guide is FULL of VMware Certification resources.  Here they are broken down by each VMware Certification type.





Remember, the path to VMware Certification does not have to be confusing.  Use this handy image and the VMware certification guides above to get a good overview of the VMware certification path, pick your track, then get started studying!