Linux Certification FAQ
What Linux certifications are available?
There are a growing number of well-established Linux certification programs. The majority of available Linux certifications focus on the system administration role, but there are also a few developer-focused options. Some require more advanced expertise while others certify basic skills. Given how important system security is these days, it should come as no surprise that there are also several Linux security-focused designations available. Currently there are no end-user certification programs for Linux.
The top programs (in alphabetical order) are run by CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), LPI (Linux Professional Institute), Novell Corporation and Red Hat, Inc. The System Administration, Networking and Security Institute (SANS) and Oracle Corporation also offer Linux-related certifications. CompTIA, SANS and LPI are professional/industry associations and their certification programs are vendor-neutral, which means they are not tied to any particular Linux distribution. Red Hat is a commercial vendor of the Red Hat distribution of the Linux operating system. The Red Hat program, as you would expect, focuses on the Red Hat distribution of Linux. Novell's Linux certifications focus on the SUSE distribution of Linux. Here's what each program has to offer:
CompTIA: Linux+ (launched September, 2001)
CompTIA, which administers the Linux+ certification, is well-known for its slate of vendor-neutral foundation-level certifications. Linux+ is a basic, entry-level certification for Linux system administrators. Although intially created for technicians with six-months of experience installing, operating and maintaining Linux operating systems, the latest version of this certification suggests that 2 years or more experience is more appropriate. To achieve Linux+ certification, candidates must pass two exams consisting of 60 questions each. The exams cover system architecture; Linux installation and package management; GNU and Unix commands; devices; Linux filesystems; and the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. This certification is not linked to any specific distribution of Linux.
In 2010, when an updated version of this certification was released that changed the number of required exams from one to two, the name was also changed to Linux+, Powered by LPI. LPI is the acronym for the Linux Professional Institute, which also offers a Linux certification program that is described below. CompTIA recommends Linux+ as a stepping stone to vendor-specific Linux certifications such as Oracle Certified Associate and Novell Linux certifications. It is also a good certification to use as a learning map if you are new to Linux and need to identify the skills that you need to grasp to be an effective Linux system administrator.
LPI: Linux Professional Institute Certified (LPIC)(launched January, 2000)
LPI is a non-profit organization that advocates and assists in the professional use of Linux, open source, and free software. The vendor-neutral LPIC program is three tiered, with each tier requiring passage of two exams. Level 1 (LPIC1) is for junior level administrators. Individuals must achieve level 1 (LPIC1) certification before attempting level 2 (LPIC2), the intermediate level designation. The top level is level 3 (LPIC3).
Novell: Certified Linux Administrator/Professional/Engineer (CLA/CLP/CLE) (Launched 2003)
Novell is best known for its Certified Novell Administrator and Certified Novell Engineer designations, but in 2003 it entered the Linux certification marketplace with a two-level certification program, which has since expanded to include additional options. This program focuses on the SUSE distribution of Linux.
The Novell Certified Linux Administrator (CLA) is for individuals who do the day-to-day administration of installed SUSE Linux Enterprise Server installations. The Certified Linux Professional (CLP) designation is the next step up for network administrators, and the Certified Linux Engineer (CLE) title is for Linux network architects and managers. Novell also offers a Certified Linux Desktop Administrator (CLDA) designation for individuals responsible for administering Linux in a desktop environment.
Red Hat: Red Hat Certified Technician/Engineer/Security Specialist/Architect (RHCT/RHCE/RHCA/RHCSS)(Launched January, 1999)
Red Hat launched its certification program in January 1999 with the high-level Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) designation. In November 2002, the entry-level level Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) title was added. Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) launched in 2005, and Red Hat Certified Security Specialist (RHCSS) in 2006. These are the most expensive Linux certifications to earn, although SANS GIAC certifications are quite costly as well.
RHCT is for technicians who set up new Red Hat Linux systems and attach them to networks. To earn it candidates must pass a half day hands-on lab exam at a Red Hat facility.
RHCE is for advanced system administrators who have quite a bit of experience to draw upon. To earn the RHCE certification you must pass a full day hands-on lab exam consisting of three elements: a written test, a server install and network services configuration lab, and a diagnostics and troubleshooting lab. The test is administered at a Red Hat facility. This is the most well-known advanced Linux certification currently available.
RHCA is the designation Red Hat calls its "capstone" certification, and it includes planning and designing and managing an open source infrastructure in large, complex environments.
RHCSS is a security specialization that RHCEs can add on.
CompTIA, LPI, Novell, and Red Hat may have the most prominent Linux certification programs, but there are other options available or in the works. IT professionals who work with Oracle on Linux will want to look at the Oracle Certified Associate(OCA) and Oracle Certified Expert (OCE) Linux certifications. The GIAC Certified Unix Security Administrator (GCUX) is for individuals who secure and audit Unix and/or Linux systems.