Tip of the Trade: Linux Certs That Make a Difference

The computing world is chock-full of certifications of all kinds, and there is no doubt that the many hundreds of available certifications are beneficial to only the testing industry. Even the rugged individualistic Linux world has its share. But is it worth your while to acquire Linux certifications? As always, the answer is "it depends." Certifications have two benefits: They reassure customers or potential employers that you are qualified, and you receive some organized training. Which certifications will get you places on the Linux playground?

Of course it is possible, and not uncommon, for some system or network administrators to have "paper skills" only, and not much in the way of real skills. But let's assume that everyone reading along is skilled and capable, and looking to expand skill sets and paychecks alike. What does the Linux certification world offer?

First of all, it offers five types of certifications:

All of these are established and respected, so a certification from any of them carries weight. Which one is best? Again, that depends. The LPI and CompTIA certifications are vendor-neutral. Red Hat, Ubuntu, and SUSE Linux are all the same Linuxes under the hood, but they differ significantly when it comes to administering them, so specialized training can be valuable.

What about training costs, do you need a Fortune 500 budget? The short answer is no. There are a some low-cost or free ways to get training. Here are a couple of examples:

  • IBM Developerworks has a free Linux Professional Institute (LPI) exam prep series.
  • RHCE prep books, such as "RHCE Red Hat Certified Engineer Linux Study Guide" by Michael Jang, which offers in-depth study, or "RHCE: Red Hat Certified Engineer Exam Notes" by Bill McCarty, which delivers a quick cram.
Check with your local Linux User Group or other community groups, as these may be helpful. For example, FreeGeek in Portland, Oregon holds discounted LPI exams.

As far as developing skills, any of these are worthwhile. You cannot skate through the exams; they require real knowledge.

This article was originally published on Apr 18, 2006
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