The top virtualization certifications for a tight job market

Being certified can provide the extra nudge needed for a raise or new job. Here are the latest virtualization certifications from Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware

In these tough economic times, the IT job market remains extremely competitive. With fewer job openings out there, it's important to try and stand out from the crowd when looking for work or trying to advance within your current company. If you're thinking about learning a new technology, now is a great time, and with companies trying to do more with less, becoming skilled in virtualization technology is a great bet.

IT professionals with the necessary skills to support a growing virtualization environment are among the most sought-after individuals, with survey after survey naming virtualization as one of the most in-demand technology skills and one of the most explosive technologies when it comes to planned growth.

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As virtualization proliferates throughout the SMB and enterprise markets, virtualization certifications also grow in popularity. "As virtualization continues to become the 'norm,' virtualization certifications will continue to increase in value," said David Davis, vExpert, VCP, and VMware video training author at Train Signal. "More and more hiring managers are looking for those who have virtualization expertise to maintain ever-expanding virtual infrastructures."

Davis added that virtualization is a popular skill that IT pros can use to show that they aren't just server admins but infrastructure admins who have a more complete understanding of today's virtual infrastructure.

As virtualization continues to expand beyond simple server consolidation, employers are requiring a higher level of virtualization expertise across a number of different jobs. Vendor-offered certifications then become more valuable in denoting virtualization specialties such as administrator, systems engineer, and data center architect.

To help get you started, here are some of the latest virtualization certifications you should be aware of that are currently being offered by the three leading virtualization platform vendors: Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware.

VMware started things off with a single virtualization certification, the VMware Certified Professional (VCP). It is the longest-running and by far the most widely recognized certification in the virtualization industry. Because of VMware's dominant market share, this is typically the first certification that most folks will attempt to achieve. To obtain the certification you not only have to pass an examination, you also need to pay for and sit through a VMware-authorized training course. For some, the added expense of an authorized class may be too much, but the requirement also keeps the VMware certification from becoming watered down into what has become known in the industry as a "paper cert."

After becoming a VMware Certified Professional on VMware vSphere 4 (VCP4), you are eligible to pursue VMware's new intermediate-level certification, VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP), which is appropriate for VCP4s who are ready to further enhance their skills with the VMware virtual infrastructure. VCP4 is available in two tracks: Datacenter Administration (DCA) and Datacenter Design (DCD).

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