The VCP debate: It's time for VMware to ditch its costly course prerequisite

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Editor's note: We asked two IT pros to face-off on whether or not VMware should keep its VCP course requirement. This argument says it's got to go. See the case for keeping the VCP course prerequisite here.

It can be hard to stand out in the IT field.  In my current job, our team does it all: Windows, Linux, VMware and everything in between. Our small team has one VMware Certified Professional (VCP), whose class requirement was paid for a few years ago when training budgets were a bit more plentiful.

Nowadays, it's more and more difficult to convince your employer to pay for an expensive training class or come up with the funds yourself, even if it is one of your career goals. This is exactly why VMware should consider doing away with its mandatory training, which averages $3,000.

I once was a Linux enthusiast. About 12 years ago, trying for a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification was a dream of mine. I was very fortunate that my employer opted for in-house training.  I had been doing Linux on my own for a few years previous to the course, and also had some practical work experience.  I scored over 95 percent on the RHCE exam.

I couldn't have passed the exam unless I had real skills, but the pre-RHCE exam certification course definitely helped me focus on what to know for the exam.  I could have spent hours, even days trying to learn topics that likely wouldn't be part of the exam at all.

I would not have been able to pass the exam with such a high score if I had not taken the course.  But a question remains unanswered: Could I still have passed without it?  I'll never know.

Back to the present: I'm considered mainly a Windows System Administrator now, and I've been working with VMware for a few years. While the VCP on our team was out on medical leave for a couple months, I was able to do the VMware-related tasks that were required to keep my tasks going, but there's no way for me to prove that I wasn't just lucky with some well-crafted Google searches to get the job done.

Not only do I work hard at work, but I push myself to learn more and more at home.  Right now, I have a home system I paid for running a trial license of VMware vCenter 5.1 with a VMware ESXi 5.1 host. To remain relevant in IT, you have to work at it all the time because what you need to know can change before your eyes.  Sometimes, I need focus though, and having a clear goal of a VMware certification would help me steer my “spare time” playing with my systems at home in a clear direction.

I would love to apply my hard work towards getting a VCP certification to show my employer my dedication, but I can't afford the costly certification course on my own.  The time investment to get my VMware skills would not only benefit me, but also my employer.  Going above and beyond to understand things outside of my “job” would boost my knowledge and overall efficiency.  Studying for the VCP would definitely improve my knowledge of VMware fundamentals and maybe even some advanced features that could prove beneficial to my day-to-day workload.

I would be willing to cover the costs of the VCP exam myself. But, there should be a way to get the knowledge needed to pass the exam that doesn't cost thousands of dollars. There has been a lot of discussion about the true value of IT certifications.  I've recently gone through the beta testing of the new Microsoft MCSE exams, and let me tell you, they are hard!  I don't think you will be able to pass these exams with just book smarts; you need to have real-world experience. But why does that experience have to come from a pricey course? To me, IT certifications are the icing on the cake from a personal and professional perspective, and there shouldn't be any costly entry barriers to testing one's knowledge in an official, vendor-recognized fashion.

UPDATE: Is VMware killing its course requirement after all or at least offering an alternative?

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Marco Shaw

Marco Shaw is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.