There's a Linux certification for everyone

Linux penguin reading book

Linux, Linux, Linux. It's all about Linux. We recently covered a lot on the topic of Linux: what it is, what it does, and one time I tried to use it. Quick recap: Due to the growing popularity of cloud computing, the need for server administrators is increasing. Because the majority of servers use Linux, it's a good time to have Linux certifications or training. After telling you that, we helpfully told you nothing about how to go about getting Linux certified. We kinda felt bad about that.


We decided to follow-up with an article covering everything you need to know about getting Linux certified. So, with no further ado ... your Linux Quick-Fix, Part Two of Two.


1. Beginner Linux Certifications

We're going to go ahead and split this into three sections for easy reference, sorted by difficulty of attainment. Beginner Linux certs are for people who are fairly tech savvy, maybe who have a few non-related certs under their belt or run Linux non-professionally, but who are only just getting serious about making money with Linux administration.


CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI

Prerequisites: None, though basic CompTIA certs and a year's worth of experience with Linux administration is recommended

Exam cost: Varies with location, but taken through CompTIA, it's usually somewhere around $360-400

This is the humble-bundle of Linux certifications: three for the price of one! CompTIA is known for its flexible, vendor-neutral certifications and its tendency to team up with reliable industry partners, and this cert is no exception. The two exams needed to certify not only earn the applicant the CompTIA certification but also two more, the LPIC-1 offered by the Linux Professional Institute and the SUSE certified Linux Administrator (CLA) offered by Novell.

While the Linux+ is technically a beginner certification, keep in mind that they really expect you to know your stuff. Not to be taken lightly.


Linux Essentials

Prerequisites: None

Exam cost: $110

Linux Essentials is actually a step down from the LPIC-1 cert mentioned above, so it's probably a good place to start if the humble bundle frightens you. This is another vendor-neutral certification, which can strengthen the flexibility of your resume. The exam is offered through Pearson VUE testing centers.


Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (RHCSA)

Prerequisites: None, though RH199 is recommended for Linux users

Exam cost: $400 or 2 training units

It's difficult to go wrong with Red Hat certifications. Even if the certification was only good for Red Hat systems, it wouldn't be difficult to leverage it, considering Red Hat dominates the paid Linux market. The Red Hat certifications are hands-on lab exams, however, making them well-regarded across the entire industry.


Server room at an angle

2. Intermediate Linux Certifications

If you've already obtained one or more of the certs on the beginners' list, it's probably a good time to upgrade.


SUSE Certified Linux Professional (CLP)

Prerequisites: SUSE Certified Linux Associate (CLA, part of the three-in-one above)

Exam cost: $195, depending on location

This strong professional cert from a respected industry source holds the added benefit of only being acquirable via a practical exam, so (like the Red Hat exam mentioned above) it tends to carry a little more weight across the entire industry.


LPIC-2: Linux Network Professional Certification

Prerequisites: LPIC-1 (also part of the three-pack)

Exam cost: $183 x 2 exams

One of the big reasons that the humble bundle is such a great value is because it preps you up for two separate professional-level Linux certs. Like the CompTIA Linux+, this one is a vendor-neutral cert from a respected source.


Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

Prerequisites: RHCSA

Exam cost: $400 x 2 exams

Aaaaand we're back to Red Hat! Not much more to say, really; everything we told you about the RHCSA counts double for the RHCE, including the price.


3. Masters-level Linux Certifications

We've reached the final tier, the end goal. These are the certs you get when you're ready to marry Linux Administration �til death do you part — and probably take it on a really nice honeymoon to boot. Let's make this simple.


The Expected Bests (CLE, LPIC-3, and OCP)

No surprises here; Novell and the Linux Professional Institute both offer high-level certifications that, while plenty prestigious, are a simple logical progression from their previous certifications. To shake things up, we'll throw in Oracle's Oracle Certified Professional, which requires the Oracle Certified Associate first. Up until this point, we haven't paid it much notice, but if you're thinking of specializing in Oracle Linux, then this one is a must-have. In all of these progressions, one certification stood out in terms of difficulty and weight. So, topping off our list, we present ...


Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)

Prerequisites: RHCSA, RHCE, and five certificates of expertise.

Exam cost: $600 x 5 exams

This might be the biggest-hitting certification in Linux, regardless of whether you're working with Red Hat distributions or not. It's effectively five lab-based high-level Linux certifications rolled into one, and even employers concerned with the compatibility of the skills will be forced to admire your tenacity and the sheer volume of work you've completed. It's more than that, though; this certification has you digging deep into the Linux kernel, overhauling distributions and deep-troubleshooting, to the point where it doesn't really matter what distribution you started with anyway. Bottom line: if you hold this cert, you know what you're doing, period.


That concludes our tour of the best Linux certifications. If you've been considering Linux Administration as a career, then take this as your roadmap, and don't put it off any longer. Salaries are climbing, demand in the workforce is high. There may never be a better time to pick up some solid Linux certifications than now.


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About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.