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Looking for a six-figure salary and a virtual guarantee
of a job? Even as the recession grinds on and unemployment remains high,
virtualization engineers are enjoying boom-time salaries and job opportunities.

As more companies look to server consolidation and virtualization as their big
IT projects for saving money in 2009 and beyond, and others look to outsource
their computing to "the cloud," virtualization engineers have become
some of the most sought-after IT professionals on the market.

SmartSource, a Chicago-based personnel company that caters to solution providers
nationwide, says while it mostly deals in filling temporary positions, the
requests it gets for virtualization engineers are almost always for permanent

"There is definitely a shortage," says SmartSource CEO
Joe Iovinelli. "These professionals are definitely in demand."

They command six-figure salaries, and won’t be worrying about whether they have
a job this year or next. But not all those who describe themselves as
virtualization engineers pass muster, warn solution provider executives.

"There’s a skills gap," says GreenPages Technology Solutions CTO
Mike Healey. That’s because virtualization requires a different
approach—there’s a "logical leap of going from 50 servers down to

Solution providers agree that while an individual IT professional may be very
talented and skilled, he or she may not have what’s needed to be a
virtualization engineer.

So if you are an IT professional looking to gain the job security that comes
with being a virtualization engineer, how can you pick up the skills required?

Since VMware began offering a freeware version of its VMware ESXi technology, more
IT professionals have been looking to gain virtualization skills by downloading
the software and playing with it. VMware ESXi offers most of the functionality
contained in VMware ESX.

"A lot of people are almost trying to forego training," Healey says.
"They think they can pick this up and get going without it. But they need
to build their skills to the challenge."

VMware offers a VMware certification on its product that requires IT
professionals take a course and then pass an exam. The cost of the VMware
certification program is between $5,000 and $6,000. The course itself takes
four days to complete and is available over the Web.

For the more advanced, there’s a VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert)
certification. Individuals with this certification are trained in the design of
VMware infrastructure for enterprise data centers. Being a VCP is
a prerequisite.

But there’s more to being a virtualization engineer than just being certified.
According to Healey, a good virtualization engineer should have some Microsoft
skills, networking skills and applications skills.

Matt Murphy, director of professional services for San Diego-based managed
services provider The I.T. Pros, says he received many applications for his
recently placed Senior VMware Expert help wanted ad.

However, "The percentage of qualified applicants out there has been
relatively low," Murphy says. About three-quarters of those applicants had
"barely touched VMware." To pass the VCP
VMware certification exam, Murphy says, you have to know enough to be a basic
VMware administrator. But just passing the exam doesn’t ensure that you are an

To make sure he hires the right virtualization engineer, Murphy also looks at
the applicant’s experience. And the interview is an important part of the
process, too, he says.

"I actually have a question-and-answer period I go through with
interviewees to test their knowledge," he says.