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Best Data Center Certifications

Best Data Center Certifications
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Owing to software-defined data center technologies, many of today's data center certifications require supplementary skills, including virtualization and cloud computing. Other trends affecting this space include big data, the Internet of Things, network virtualization and more. Here are some of the very best options for data center certifications for 2018.

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Because of a significant trend toward virtualized data center networking and software-defined networks, the lines between data center and cloud certifications have blurred. Typically, data center networking skills require knowledge of virtualization and cloud technologies, and supporting data in the cloud usually means managing information housed in a data center and making it available securely.

However, there are still plenty of organizations that offer certifications specific to data center networking and infrastructure, which tend to focus mainly on traditional networking technologies. But as you dig into their details, you'll see virtualization and cloud management skills woven into those requirements, too.

This article explores the top five data center certifications for 2018, which come from Cisco (two different credentials), VMware, Juniper Networks and Dell, and then introduces you to several worthy competitors in the Beyond the Top 5 section at the end of the article. You might also want to browse our Best Cloud Computing Certifications piece to compare similar certifications from that world.

Before you examine these certifications in detail, please browse the results of our informal job board search for a birds-eye view of which certifications employers are seeking. (Results vary considerably on different job boards and in different geographies, so think of the numbers in the table as guidelines, not as hard and fast rules.) The BICSI Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC) has been a top five certification for several years, but missed out this year, just by a hair. The DCDC had 118 job hits, while the Dell Administration Engineer (a new entrant to our list) appeared in more than 130 job descriptions.

Job Board Search Results (in alphabetical order, by certification)*

CertificationSimplyHiredIndeedLinkedIn Jobs
Linkup
Total
CCNA Data Center (Cisco)
1,4191,5677711193,876
CCNP Data Center (Cisco)1,0751,1667881163,145
JNCIP-DC (Juniper Networks)35
41
46
8130
VCE-CIAE (Dell)**38
39
31
24132
VCP6-DCV (VMware)***28
29
51
3111

*See our complete methodology for selecting top five certifications in the Best Certifications series.

**Search results for the generic phrase "VCE data center engineer."

***Searching for the generic phrase "VCP Data Center" resulted in more than 900 hits. Employers prefer or require a VCP data center certification but don't often indicate the specific version. We chose to keep the VMware certification in our top five list. The latest version -- VCP6.5-DCV -- is too new as of this writing to generate significant direct hits in job board results.

Regardless of which job board you use, there are a lot of employers looking for qualified people to join their data center teams. SimplyHired lists 116,000-plus data center jobs in the U.S., with more than 140,000 on Indeed, 12,000 on LinkedIn Jobs and 40,000 on Linkup. With the right credential(s) in hand, one of these jobs is sure to be yours.

Data center job roles start at the network technician level and advance through senior architect. Most of the certifications covered would fit well with an associate- or professional-level network engineer position. According to SimplyHired, the average salary for network engineer jobs is about $78,000, and $110,000 for senior network engineers. Glassdoor reports a U.S. national average salary of about $77,000 for network engineers, although their average for senior network engineers climbs to $97,000.