Certification Hamster Wheel?

Disclaimer: This is a copy of the post that I made for TechTarget recently.

The first part of this blog post relates to some general thoughts about certification in general.  If you only want to know about VMware certification changes, I suggest you jump down to that section!


Certification Thoughts

I have often thought that being in the IT industry is like being on hamster wheel, with continual momentum from vendors to obtain market share drives innovation in new products and offerings which in turn leads to us IT professionals needing to update our skills.

In most professions you have to learn new skills overtime, if we take the example of a car mechanic.  The cars they were servicing ten years ago had four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel and doors.  The cars today follow suit, however they are more complex with electronic braking systems, traction control and automatic windscreen wipers.

The same can be said for IT, you have an application that requires CPU, Memory and Disk.  How these are delivered to the application have changed with abstraction from the physical layer, hyperthreading and storage either local or remote.

However the biggest difference is certification, I don’t know of any industry which focuses on the collection and updating of certificates as we do.  I mean we are pretty obsessed by it (but with good reason).

Job Security

No longer is there such a thing as a job for life, companies get bought, sold, go bust, relocate…. the list goes on.  Most of us require an income to pay for our houses, cars and living expenses.  So how do we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market?  This is when certifications and experience come into play.

Now I’m not and never have been a recruiter, but human nature dictates that we normally go for the least line of resistance.  Often a company will state a certain level of certification is required for a position, as a recruiter what are you going to do when performing searches on LinkedIn or reviewing CV’s?  Yep you are in the ‘review’ pile if you have the certification and in the ‘bin’ pile if you don’t.


Passing a certificate isn’t just about achieving a certain pass mark, it shows others that you are serious about your career.  To gain the qualification you will have either spent your own time and money (or if you are lucky enough the companies whom you work for) on the following:

  • Course
  • Books related to the subject
  • Exam fees
  • Home lab
  • Time of work to take exam
  • Personal time studying

For me, I will continue on the certification hamster wheel for the foreseeable future.

VMware Certification Changes

With the release of NSX and vSphere 6, VMware have made some changes to the certification track with the most noticeable being the replacement of VMware Certified Advanced Professional certification with VMware Certified Implementation Expert.

Information is a slightly vague at the moment, but this is what we know:

  • VCAP will be retired at some point
  • VCIX certification requires you pass both a design and administration exams
    • If you hold a single VCAP their will be an upgrade path to pass the remaining VCIX exam e.g. VCAP5-DCA pass the VCIX Design exam to gain VCIX-DCV
    • If you hold both VCAP’s in a certification track, an upgrade to VCIX will be available
  • Each VCIX exam will be the same length as VCAP exam
  • Each VCIX exam will be the same price as a VCAP exam

My view is that the exam length is slightly to long, having to focus for 3 hours plus is always a struggle.  On the flip side I can see a reduction in the number of people aiming for VCIX as you don’t obtain the qualification until you pass both exams.

A colleague of mine Toby Brown stated that this reminded him of the old Microsoft MSCA/MSCE track, which I have to agree with.

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