well if you are starting and have never used a virtualization product, I would recommend you to start the easy path: use something like VMware Workstation/VMware Server ; both can be installed in Windows and Linux
if you have a spare server, you could start trying VMware ESXi, which is virtualization OS (you do not need Windows or Linux)
then you could start thinking in become a VCP (VMware Certified Professional), for that you would require to attend a VMware Training Course
hope this suggestions help you
But to become a VCP you are required to attend a VMWare training course before you can take the exam.
Would you recommend I study up on Windows Server 2003 and/or 2008? I have read some about course pre-requisites, etc. and it appears that a working knowledge of a server environment is required.
You can read this thread I've followed the same question but the answers depends what you want to focus and how you want to proceed down the role. Manager, Consultant, Architect, Engineer, Suports roles? then decide what technologies requires to be one of those role and study hard for it and proof with hands on experience and implemented records with previous employers is the key. Certification is great for job hunt and consulting rates but doesn' t mean you have to. Learning Windows OS is the first basic stuff you should master in order to progress in your careers. Here the thread http://communities.vmware.com/thread/222505?tstart=0
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VMware vExpert 2009
iGeek Systems Inc.
VMware, Citrix, Microsoft Consultant