Is the VCTA Worth It?
VMware is a popular choice for virtualization among enterprise organizations. While it doesn’t dominate any particular industry area, the company is a consistent player that delivers excellent results and has a core set of loyal customers. In short, VMware isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and it is even increasing in popularity.
Until recently, VMware certifications were almost exclusively geared toward IT professionals at the systems administrator level and higher, all the way to engineers and architects. VMware offered one generic certification, the VMware Certified Associate—Digital Business Transformation (VCA-DBT), but that was focused more on product awareness and aimed at sales representatives and marketing professionals.
In late 2020, VMware released a new set of certifications focused on operators: the VMware Certified Technical Associate. VCTAs target people who need more technical information than the simple product awareness validated by the VCA-DBT, but not quite at the professional level required to earn a VMware Certified Professional Certification (VCP).
What is the VCTA?
The VCTA is an optional certification that is pathway-specific. While the VCA-DBT is a generic cert covering aspects of all of the major learning tracks, the VCTA is a new accreditation level that will eventually have six different certifications.
Data Center Virtualization – VCTA-DCV (available now)
Network Virtualization – VCTA-NV (available now)
Security – VCTA-SEC (available now)
Cloud Management and Automation – VCTA-CMA (coming soon)
Digital Workspace – VCTA-DW (in development)
Application Modernization – VCTA-AM (in development)
VCTAs are optional because they aren't prerequisites for the next higher certification level (VMware Certified Professional, or VCP). VCTAs are standalone accreditations that validate a user’s ability to operate within a VMware environment effectively.
What Does the VCTA test?
Because VCTAs are a certification level, not an individual exam, the material they test varies by domain. Let's dig into the three VCTAs that are currently available.
The VCTA-DCV focuses on a basic understanding of virtualization in general and vSphere concepts specifically. Passing the exam requires that you demonstrate an understanding of basic networking concepts, working knowledge of managing cloud resources, a grasp of data center technology, and the ability to execute basic troubleshooting concepts.
The VCTA-NV revolves around VMware’s approach to networking. To pass the exam, you’ll need to understand the terminology surrounding the VMware NSX platform, identify use cases and business needs for NSX, and be capable of navigating the NSX graphical user interface(s). The exam will require you to explain Network Virtualization and SDDC concepts, VMware Virtual Cloud Network vision, VMware NSX Architecture, and the overall NSX portfolio at a high level.
Finally, the VCTA-SEC certification confirms that you understand VMware’s security solutions. Passing the exam validates your ability to provide entry-level support for the security features of various VMware products, including VMware Carbon Black Cloud, Workspace ONE, and NSX-T Data Center.
How Much Does the VCTA Cost?
Each of the VCTA exams cost $125. The exam format and timelines vary by certification track. The VCTA-DCV gives you 135 minutes to answer 51 questions. The VCTA-NV only has 30 problems but allows 90 minutes to take the full exam. The VCTA-SEC exam consists of 55 questions, and you’ll have 120 minutes to complete the test.
VMware provides online training for each of the VCTA tracks with a premium subscription. The cost for a VMware Customer Connect Learning Premium subscription is $269 and includes access to an extensive training library. If you purchase the subscription and pass the VCTA exam in your selected track the first time, your all-in cost will be $394.
What Experience Do You Need for the VCTA?
The VCTA certification level is used to validate skills and knowledge for users who will perform operational tasks in (depending on your chosen track) "a virtualized infrastructure, in areas across multi-cloud operations, networking, security, and device management." The accreditation assumes you have a basic working knowledge of these generic concepts and focuses on validating your ability to apply them within a VMware solution.
If you aren't familiar with the general principles governing virtualized infrastructure, multi-cloud operations, networking, security, or device management, you should begin by studying those and then learning how VMware approaches each one.
Who Should Take the VCTA?
VMware states that "the VCTA is for anyone new to the industry, whether as a newly graduating student, someone changing careers, or someone working in the industry and looking for opportunities to advance. The VCTA is built for those performing an operator job role, consisting of those Day 2 type of regular, repeated tasks typically delegated by administrators of virtualized environments."
Where the VCA-DBT is focused on product awareness, the VCTA certification level targets product use.
VCTA for Systems Administrators
The VCTA-DCV would be an excellent choice for systems administrators who are broadening their horizons into VMware products and services. If you have any real time as a sysadmin under your belt, the general concepts of networking, managing cloud resources, working within a data center, and basic troubleshooting will be a breeze.
Earning a VCTA is a simple way to stick your toe in the water and demonstrate your awareness of how the concepts you've already mastered are applied within the VMware world. Consider earning this even if there’s no direct application on your horizon. The chances of you running into VMware technology during your career is extremely high. If you can demonstrate that you have a basic working knowledge of VMware products and services, you'll have a leg up on any other job candidates you're competing against.
If you already have VMware experience, however, this certification is too basic for you. Start with the VMware Certified Professional accreditation and move up from there.
VCTA for Network Administrators
Network administrators who are new to VMware tech would benefit from earning either the VCTA-DCV or VCTA-NV; in fact, you should consider sitting for both exams. Having both certifications gives you a broad base of application for wherever your career might take you. Although one might be more applicable to the job you're doing now, the other could be a better fit for the next step in your career.
However, if you're not new to VMware products and services, the VCTA certification level is almost certainly too elementary for you. The VCP is a much better first step for network administrators who have worked with VMware previously.
VCTA for Cybersecurity Professionals
All cybersecurity professionals who don't already have a more advanced VMware certification should consider earning the VCTA-SEC. Cybersecurity is, by nature, a cross-domain discipline that frequently deals with products and services from numerous vendors. Even if your current position doesn’t require you to work with VMware technology, demonstrating that you have the knowledge and skills to apply security principles with VMware products will only open doors for future career moves.
Is the VCTA Worth It?
Whether earning one of the VCTA certifications is worth it really depends on where you are in your career. VCTAs are designed to be entry-level certs, which can either mean that you are new to the industry (e.g., a freshly-graduated college student) or that you have general experience but are just now moving into the VMware world.
The material is easy to master and the cost of sitting for an exam is extremely affordable, so there’s really no reason not to pursue a VCTA unless you already have a higher-level VMware certification.
Using the VCTA to Learn Skills
Earning a VCTA is an excellent way to learn how fundamental concepts are applied in a VMware-specific arena. VCTAs are also valuable for learning those basic concepts if you're a newly minted IT professional in any particular arena.
Using the VCTA to Validate Skills
VCTAs are designed to validate a very particular set of skills. If you're at a point in your career where showing that you can apply your IT abilities in a VMware operating environment would be valuable, pursuing a VCTA is an excellent place to start.