Six Hot Linux Certifications for 2020

The right Linux certification can be a huge boost to your IT career.

As we round out 2019, I look back and ask myself how I sharpened the edge, how I kept up to date in the ever-changing landscape of Information Technology. What about my approach to last year should I change? What should I carve off, or loosen up, in order to get leaner and meaner?


Any person has to be introspective if they want to achieve whatever they set out to accomplish. You have to look inward to look outward. Certification can be a great tool to sharpen your skills and focus on growth. In that spirit, I'm going to examine six certifications that are essential for anyone with a strong career interest in Linux.


In the modern IT realm, knowledge of Linux is a must. With more than half of the world population using Linux either for work purposes or personal computing, having the right certification behind your name could be the difference between advancing your career and sitting behind an IT service desk for the next decade.


Why Get Certified?


It's common knowledge that earning a Linux certification is a great way to quantify your experience in the eyes of your coworkers and employer. It increases your organization's proficiency with Linux-based applications, as well as your own.


The number of job ads calling for some knowledge of Linux has risen by nearly 100 percent over the last year. While that trend is likely to continue, the number of IT professionals with verified Linux skills and knowledge hasn't risen proportionally. There's a notable gap between the demand for qualified Linux professionals and the number of workers available to meet that demand.


In past years, many employers haven't put much stock in Linux certifications and therefore there has been little demand for them. It's also the case that many of the Linux openings advertised tend to be for highly technical roles such as programmers and developers — skills well beyond the level of testing required for some Linux certifications.


All of that appears to be changing however, with Linux itself becoming ever more mainstream and people with Linux skills becoming ever more in demand. Actual work experience will always count for more than any credential — but gaining a Linux certification can certainly help you get the lower-level jobs that will give you the experience needed to move up.


There are a number of Linux certification options available and, given the amount of time and money that you'll need to invest in order to get certified, it's important to choose the right one. Because there are so many different distributions of Linux, you have quite a degree of freedom to choose which certification track is right for you — but it's also important to be sure that the one you choose will meet your needs.


The Top Linux Credentials


The right Linux certification can be a huge boost to your IT career.

My first recommendation for 2020 is the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) credential. As the site says, "An IT professional who has earned the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) is able to perform the core system administration skills required in Red Hat Enterprise Linux environments. The credential is earned after successfully passing the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Exam (EX200)."


With the exam covering all of the basics of the Red Hat kernel for Linux, you will hard-pressed to come up with a better overall test. Employers will seek you out as someone with a sound knowledge of Linux fundamentals. This isn't the cheapest of tests at $400, but if you pass this 2.5 hour test, you will be a recognized asset to any current or future employer.


Next up is the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) credential. At $300, this is the second arrow I would put into my quiver. Curated by the Linux Foundation, it covers the fundamentals of Linux as a whole and is ideal for aspiring Linux system administrators who are just getting started.


You'll have a three-year window before recertification is required, which should provide plenty of time to find a job and start building up that all-important body of hands-on experience. If you want to be sure you have a strong foothold before moving up, then this is a great place to get started. Get LFCS certified and watch your career outlook rise.


My third choice is the SUSE Certified Administrator (SCA) in Enterprise Linux. This credential stresses knowledge of Linux (and one's ability to administer it) at the enterprise level — a key skill set given that enterprise-scale implementations of Linux are quite common. It is on the cheaper side at $149, but what makes it unique is that it is part of an overall program that combines administration with systems engineering and development.


Take this test and then pile others on top of it and employers will be beating down your door. I personally like "tracks" for tests rather than one-offs and this one fits the bill. It's a must-have for Linux professionals plotting their journey through 2020.


The fourth big "get" is CompTIA's Linux+ credential, which is a great cert for someone who has basic Linux knowledge, but needs to jump up to the level of administrative tasks and functions. Linux+, like other CompTIA certs, can be renewed every three years by completing a certain number of career development activities that confer continuing education units (CEUs).


The skills tested here have broad application for anyone pursuing a career in Linux or server administration. The exam incorporates a handful of scenario-based and performance-based questions rather than relying solely on a battery of multiple choice questions. At $219 dollars, this would be a mistake to pass up.


My fifth pick is the GIAC Certified UNIX System Security Administrator credential, which will fill in any knowledge gaps you may have regarding the security and inspection of Linux and UNIX systems. This will test your ability to install, configure and monitor Linux and UNIX systems. This certification is unique in that helps you understand Unix as well as Linux but touches on fundamental security and inspection in both.


You will be able to apply the security principles learned by studying for this test across the entire technology spectrum. At $2,000 for a two-hour exam, this test does a great job at weeding out prospects who are not serious about putting down a little cash to prove their skill set. Any employer who is looking for a serious candidate will be searching for someone who has this certification.


The right Linux certification can be a huge boost to your IT career.

Coming in at No. 6 is the Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1 Certified Administrator credential. This one validates your ability to carry out maintenance tasks via the command line as well as configure basic networking architectures on Linux distros. The unique thing about this test is that it is actually a two-in-one: You must pass 2 exams before becoming LPIC-1 certified, covering topics ranging from GNU and Unix Commands, System Architecture, Linux filesystems, to Networking Fundamentals and Essential System Services.


Employers will search out job candidates with this credential, because they can be expected to know how to carry out general day-to-day tasks and duties associated with Linux system administration. At $110 per test, you don't want to pass this one up. It has no prerequisites and is valid for a period of five years.


Ready, Set, Get Certified!


No matter where you turn for Linux certification, the fact that you have chosen to get certified will set you apart. Employers appreciate the investment of time, energy, and resources required to get any certification. Whether you are building up basic skills and knowledge, or graduating to a more advanced skill set, certification shows that you are serious about your IT career. As always, I wish you happy certifying.


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About the Author
Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive.

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.