September 10, 2014

How to Prepare for Linux Sysadmin Certification

iStock photo man at computerThe pervasiveness of Linux technology means there’s a world of job possibilities for skilled pros.

Eighty-six percent of Linux professionals in a Linux Foundation/Dice survey report that knowing Linux has given them more career opportunities. They like the interesting work and working on cutting-edge technology.

While certification might not be a requirement for many jobs, it can provide validation for your skills. So at what point in your career should you consider certification?

Any time is good, according to Jon Heise, senior technical recruiter at Instant Technology in Chicago.

People who spend the time and money to get a certification are showing initiative to continue their learning and improve their craft.  That gives them credibility and professionalism – welcome attributes in today's competitive workplace, he said.

While most people look to certification as they aspire to land a job or move to a better job, some companies want their staffs certified, Randy Russell, director of Certification at Red Hat, pointed out. Consultancies and hosting companies are just two types of employers who can charge more for their services by touting their certified staff.

Shawn Powers, a teacher with video training site CBT Nuggets and an associate editor for Linux Journal, argues that learning Linux offers an array of benefits – Linux pros know how to work with multiple operating systems, are skilled at troubleshooting and at thinking creatively.

Dice survey data

Getting started

A new course, “Linux Essentials,” is offered at CBT Nuggets for the absolute beginner. It’s designed to be a precursor to the Linux Professional Institute’s LPIC-1 certification.

Its creator, Shawn Powers, an associate editor for Linux Journal, said it has been sorely needed.

“The learning curve from ‘no Linux’ to LPIC-1 certification is just too steep,” Powers said.

“It unfortunately assumes a basic understanding of Linux, and frustrates new users. The LE cert is also a great litmus test for folks interested in Linux. You'll learn enough to know for sure whether Linux is for you or not.”

CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI”, meanwhile, allows candidates to be certified at the same time with the LPIC-1. CompTIA Linux+, which has been making steep gains in market value in the past few months, prepares students for roles such as junior network administrator, systems administrator, Linux database adaministratorandweb administrator.

Other certifications help candidates grow in competency. The just-announced Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) prepares students to do basic to intermediate system administration, while the more advanced Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) is prepared for the design and implementation of system architecture. They’re designed to be complementary to the Red Hat and LPI certifications.

There are several courses that can help admins prepare to take a Linux Foundation certification exam, including the self-paced LFS201 Essentials of System Administration, and the four-day LFS220 Linux System Administration, and LFS230 Linux Network Management

Finding your course

Do some research to find the course right for you, advises Russell.

Red Hat’s certifications have no pre-requisites or training requirements. Red Hat training offers various points of entry for IT pros with different levels of experience, but you can always study on your own or rely on your background in Linux.

“If you know the content …you’ve looked at our exam objectives documents – they’re on the web – and you can accomplish those tasks in a timed setting, you are free to take just the exam,” he said.

If you’ve looked at the exam objectives, your readiness depends on your honest answer to this one question, Russell said: Can I perform all the tasks listed without assistance or reference materials that will not be available during the exam?

Even those who have undergone training need to take this approach because they may have achieved greater mastery in some areas than others, he said.

Most people take some training, and there’s a wealth of free and low-cost instruction available in online videos, books, eBooks and more.

Here are some free options:

  • University of California-Davis Professor Norm Matloff’s Linux guide for beginners (.pdf)
  • LPI Exam 201 Prep: Linux Kernel at IBM.
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