I haven’t written a post about this topic in a while, and thought it was time for a refresh.  We all know how quickly the technology world changes; as updates to operating systems are developed and released, devices are revamped and refreshed and different technologies adapt to the ever demanding customer requirements.  Generally when the technology updates itself, the corresponding certification programs follow suit.  With VMware we have the popular VCP series, which has gone from simply VCP to a number of different VCP options such as CMA, DT, NV and DCV.  The VCP, along with other gold standard certifications such as the CCNA, CCNP, CISSP, PMP, CompTIA (Net+/Sec+/A+), RHEL and MCSA/MCSE are constantly evolving to provide the best challenge to those who attempt taking the exams.  The idea is offer the IT professional a means to gain credibility in an ever changing technology market.  What I would like to do, is give you two different lists; the first one being the Top 5 Advanced IT Certifications Today, and the second one being the Top 5 Beginner IT Certifications Today.  To roll both of those list in to one giant one would be a blog post longer than anyone would want to read.  Today’s post is focused on what I believe are the Top 5 Advanced IT Certifications in the market today.


Top 5 IT Certifications Today

This list is by no means in any specific order, however, depending on your career goals and current work situation, some certs will be more important to you than others.  Every certification listed below is a great addition to any IT pro’s resume.  Along with each certification in this list, I’ve included a quick bio from a professional certified in that certification and they’re take on why it’s valuable.

VMware Certified Professional (DCV/CMA/DTM/NV)

VMware’s certificationsvcpdcvlogo have always been a hot certification to go after for any IT professional.  Why is this a cert that every IT pro should have?  Simply because VMware revolutionized the technology world with the introduction of the hypervisor and the widespread use of virtual machines.  VMware’s ESXi hypervisor allows companies, big & small to consolidate servers and save power space and cooling.  At first, the hypervisor was the core of VMware’s business, I’ve been told you didn’t need to be a sales pro to sell VMware early on, customers were begging for it.  Today, VMware’s portfolio contains more than just ESXi and vSphere, products like NSX, VSan, vRealize Automation (formerly vCAC), vRealize Orchestrator (formerly vCO) and Horizon View for virtual desktops are revolutionizing the way we work.  There are several VCP distinctions, such as VCP-DCV (Datacenter Virtualization), VCP-DTM (Desktop and Mobility), VCP-CMA (Cloud Management and Automation) and VCP-NV (Network Virtualization).  I would first and foremost start by getting your VCP6-DCV, from there you can decide which specialization you want to go after next.

Average VCP salary:  $92,000 (source)

Study resources:  Free Study Guide from Vladan Seget, VCP6-DCV Official Certification Guide, VCP-NV Official Certification Guide, VMware Blogs


Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

You had to know that there was bound to be a security cert on this list, and this one is the top dog of security certs.  Created by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, the CISSP is held by over 100,000 professionals world wide.  The exam is based on what ISC2 calls the Common Body of Knowledge or CBK.  The CBK is comprised of the following 8 security domains: Security & Risk Management, Security Engineering, Asset Security, Communications & Network Security, Identity & Access Management, Security Assessment & Testing, Security Operations, and Software Development Security.

The requirements to sit for the exam are pretty comprehensive.  To start you must have at least 5 years of full-time security experience directly related to one of the 8 security domains in the CBK.  If you have a 4 year college degree, a master’s degree in Information Security or several other certifications, you can waive one year of that requirement.  After you’ve determined you qualify to take the exam, you must then have a current ISC2 certification holder endorse your experience.  To pass, you must score 700 out of 1000 on the all multiple choice exam.

Average CISSP salary: $121,923 (source)

Study resourcesCISSP Study Guide, Third Edition, Official (ISC)2 Study Guides, Great blog post on “cracking the CISSP exam”

Cisco Certified Network Associate/Professional (CCNA/CCNP)

ccna-logoI know that I’m technically lumping two separate certifications together here, but they are equally important I believe.  I have a lot of respect for CCNAs and CCNPs.  I’ve been wanting to get certified for years but just haven’t had the bandwidth (no pun intended) to study like I should to take the exam.  A lot of preparation and lab time goes into passing the exam and carrying over that knowledge into the real world.  Since the exam is both multiple choice and hands on, it requires a level of experience with Cisco hardware and software in order to be successful.  You can’t walk in and sit for the exam without at least 6 months of hands on experience and expect to pass.  There’s a reason why companies look for CCNA/CCNP certified candidates, because passing one or both of these exams truly validates your Cisco experience.

Average CCNA salary: $107,045 (source)

Average CCNP salary: $101,414  (source)

Study resourcesCCNA Routing and Switching Complete Study Guide, CCNP Routing and Switching v2.0 Official Cert Guide Library, The Bryant Advantage website


Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

ceh-logo_jpgIt’s hard not to turn on the TV or surf the web without hearing about a company, individual or organization that has been hacked.  Someone from the outside, breaks in through a vulnerability in the software or security platform and steals information that can damage a reputation or business when exposed publicly.  How do we combat this type of cyber-crime?  The EC-Council or the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants was formed after founder Jay Bavisi witnessed the 9/11 attacks unfold in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania.  He wondered what would happen if this scale of attack happened in the cyber world, what effect would it have on us as individuals and companies as well?  Jay realized there was a lack of security tools to combat an attack on the cyber community so he set out to fight the good fight and created the EC-Council.  The crowning jewel of the EC-Council is the CEH certification, it’s a way to solidify your reputation as a cyber security consultant and to help organizations realize a peace of mind that comes with being prepared for cyber crime.

Why would you want to teach someone how to be a hacker?  That’s a great question, as the skills learned in the CEH curriculum could provide danger if in the hands of an unethical criminal.  EC-Council answers that question for us:

“A Certified Ethical Hacker is a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a target system(s). The CEH credential certifies individuals in the specific network security discipline of Ethical Hacking from a vendor-neutral perspective.”

The exam consists of 125 multiple choice questions and gives you a 4 hour time limit.  Not everyone can sign up and sit for the exam, the process is a little more selective that that.  To take the CEH exam a candidate must meet the following requirements; show 2 years of work experience in security related field, submit a CEH exam eligibility application and obtain an authorization from EC-Council.  While the amount of time and money needed to invest in successfully passing the CEH exam is significant, the ROI far exceeds that of many IT certification in the market today.

Average CEH salary: $103,297  (source)

Study resources: CEH website, CEH v9: Certified Ethical Hacker Version 9 Study Guide, A good Information Security blog


Be a “Big Deal”

I love the featured image for this blog post, it’s a meme that I created with Ron Burgundy’s famous line from Anchorman, “I’m kind of a big deal.”  While that line is hilarious, my hope is that none of us would actually seriously use it in any situation.  What I want is for you to go after these certifications, put them altogether and then I promise you will be “kind of a big deal.”  The idea of getting certifications is to make yourself more marketable.  There are plenty of IT pros out there that don’t have certifications and refuse to get them, I say good for you.  However, if you really want your resume to stand out, validate your skills as an IT pro by getting certified, these 5 certs are great if you are looking to advance in your career.  Happy studying!

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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