Six Niche Linux Certifications

These Linux certs are off the beaten path.

It's quite often the case that life's largely doverlooked pleasures are also among its sweetest. When looking at certifications, it is much the same thing. The often-overlooked ones can make a huge difference in your certification journey0. By focusing on lesser-known gems, you can round out your overall Linux skill set, or possibly make yourself a coveted Linux specialist.


The certs discussed here may not be trendy, that does not mean you should not purse and obtain them. Occasionally stepping away from the beaten path of certs might just be your key to landing a coveted job with a new employer. Even if you don't unlock a new employment situation, you'll have made yourself more valuable in your current job, and that's never a bad thing.


First, grab yourself the LPIC-2: Linux Engineer credential. This certification is offered by Canada's Linux Professional Institute, an organization that seeks to "enable economic and creative opportunities for everybody by making open source knowledge and skills certification universally accessible." LPIC truly is an open and honest certification body, and one that strives to meet rigorous standards.


You'll need to pass two exams, the first of which, exam 201-450, dives into capacity planning, manipulating the Linux kernel, configuring system startup services and boot loaders, and configuring and maintaining file systems and devices. You will also be tested on advanced storage device administration, networking configuration and system maintenance.


Passing the first exam will put your feet firmly on the path to becoming an epic system engineer for the entire enterprise. I recommend preparing by thoroughly studying the exam objective and plowing through a few practice tests. There are Linux study groups forming online all the time, if you want some study partners.


The second exam (202-450) will verify that you understand all the aspects of the kernel and can demonstrate that understanding across multiple scenarios. It focuses on rounding out the engineering items, focusing mainly on networking-related topics, such as Domain Name Server (DNS), web services, file sharing, network client management, e-mail services and router configuration. You'll also learn about security topics like secure shell (SSH), port testing and configuring OpenVPN.


You'll have to shell out $200 for each exam, but LPIC-2 certification is valid for 5 years before it needs to be reupped. It bears pointing out that by recommending LPIC-2, I'm also steering you in the direction of LPIC-1: Linux Administrator, since you can't get one without first having the other. If you're generally new to Linux, this will be for the best anyway, and if you're already familiar with Linux, then LPIC-1 should be a breeze.


We'll stay with the Linux Professional Institute for my third recommendation, which is the three-tiered LPIC-3: Linux Enterprise Professional credential. This is the pinnacle of the LPI certification program and is considered expert level. Before attempting it, you should have several years of hands-on experience installing, managing, integrating, networking, and troubleshooting Linux in an enterprise environment.


To earn your LPIC-3 credential, you'll need to have the LPIC-2 already under your belt. From there you can choose one (or all) of three different specializations:


Mixed Environment (exam 300-100): This exam focuses on OpenLDAP configuration, OpenLDAP as an authentication backend, and highly advanced levels of Samba administration, among other topics.

Security (exam 303-200): To pursue this exam, be sure that you're well versed in access controls and cryptography, as well as application, operations, and network security.

Virtualization and High Availability (exam 304-200): This exam covers virtualization (of course), along with load balancing, cluster management and cluster storage.


These Linux certs are off the beaten path.

Fourth on our list is the Oracle Certified Professional: Oracle Linux 6 System Administrator credential. This one is designed for individuals who possess a strong knowledge of the Oracle Linux Operating System and covers topics such as: describing Oracle Linux concepts and understanding system configuration options, installing Oracle Linux and installing and maintaining packages, as well as managing kernel modules, users and groups, storage devices and network configuration.


This certification differentiates candidates in the marketplace by providing a competitive edge through proven expertise on the only Linux distribution that's fully optimized for Oracle products. You have an inside track to jobs involving Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, and Oracle Database Appliance. Up-to-date training and field experience are recommended.


Fifth is the GCUX: GIAC Certified UNIX Security Administrator. GIAC Certified Unix Security Administrator is a cybersecurity certification managed by GIAC, a certification body affiliated with the SANS Institute. If you are not familiar with SANS, they are a longstanding information security training organization of worldwide reputation.


The GIAC program offers more than 20 applied information security certifications in security leadership, network security, application security, cyber security, forensics, and audit. The GCUX validates knowledge and skills in auditing and securing Linux and UNIX systems. It is designed to train professionals to install, configure, and administer Linux and UNIX infrastructure.


Though GIAC does not specify prerequisites for this credential, practical training in Linux or UNIX is recommended. Training is available in different formats from a range of providers. The GIAC training module is SEC506: Securing Linux/UNIX. The exam fee includes 2 practice tests. Exam preparation options also include hands-on Linux/UNIX experience, college courses, and self-study.


Candidates are required to pass one two-hour exam consisting of 75 questions with a minimum passing score of 68 percent. The exam is administered by Pearson VUE, so it will be available wherever you are. My local McDonalds has a VUE right next to them.


GCUX certification is valid for four years. Candidates must earn 36 Continuing Professional Experience (CPE) credits and pay a maintenance fee of $429 every four years in order to renew this certificate. I would say this is one to put under your belt.


My final recommendation is the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) offered by Red Hat. This is a mainstream Linux credential, but it should be a staple of everyone's Linux certification diet! Red Hat certifications are in demand because a large number of enterprises use Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).


The value of these credentials derives largely from an emphasis on practical ability, as well as from Red Hat's comprehensive training programs. Candidates need to pass hard exams that test hands-on experience in the real world. RHCSA will also set you up for the more prestigious Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) credential.


RHCSA is an entry-level, performance-based certification. It demonstrates knowledge and skills in systems administration in different environments and deployment set-ups. The exam tests expertise in file handling, command line operation, systems management, configuring local storage, and other functions. To earn this credential, you need to pass a 2.5-hour exam.


Any combination of these certifications will make your Linux r�sum� pop. As always, I wish you the best of luck and happy certifying!


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
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.