One of the problems with working for a smaller company is that the money for training is rarely in the budget. For this reason, I have to find alternative routes that I can afford to pay for myself. VMware has a fairly expensive barrier to entry in that the prerequisite for the VCP program is a pricey formal class. I actually like this idea because it rarefies the certification somewhat. I still remember the heady days of the paper MCSE where anyone could do a test dump and get certified.
VMware has several levels of certification. They have the Associate program, which requires no class time and certifies that you have a very basic understanding of the product. They have Professional program at the next level, which does requires class time and has a fairly difficult multiple-choice test. Then there’s the Advanced Professional (the one I’m currently working on) for which the test is entirely lab work, and lastly the Design Expert level which I liken to a doctoral thesis in that you have to present a design before a review board and defend it.