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Many Certifications, Many Jobs?

Looking at the Certification Landscape

October 29, 2002

By my count, there are four Linux certification programs. These are Sair Linux and GNU Certification's Linux Certified Professional(LCP); Linux Professional Institute (LPI); Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE); and CompTIA's Linux+. It's too bad that so few jobs require Linux certification.

Oh, there are Linux jobs out there; it's just that they're much more likely to call for a bachelors in computer science than a Linux certification. In my analysis of 500 Linux job postings on Monster.com, the Washington Post job section, HotLinuxJobs, and HotJobs, only 1% of Linux jobs asked for any certification and when they did the most popular was the RHCE.

Instead of certifications, what employers want are people with four year computer science degrees and three years and up experience in Linux.

What are certifications for? Well, according to Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute, in a recent article in Certification Magazine, have a "single specific purpose. They are intended to separate the people who "know their stuff" from those who don't."

Most employers think of all certifications, with the exception of Cisco's, as being little more than minimal standards. The most common attitude seems to be, "We still have to train them no matter how many pieces of paper they have."

The LPI also takes a strictly vendor neutral approach to their certification efforts. The other non-Red Hat certifications also take this approach, but the LPI takes this much more seriously.

Historically, though, that's not been the most successful route. The important certifications in the job market, like the Microsoft Certified Software Engineer (MCSE), Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) and the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), have been vendor driven. Indeed, one major reason these certifications have become so popular is that partnership relationships with each company often required that a reseller or integrator have a certain number of certified staffers on board. Given this, it should come as no surprise that what interest employers do show so far in Linux certification is in the RHCE.

Another problem seems to be that while those in the Linux community tend to know about Linux certification, potential employers don't know them. In a recent CRN survey solution providers are clearly getting the idea that Linux is the next coming thing, but they still see certification as a "key sticking point." And, they also think that, despite the track record, vendor-neutral certification is still the way to go.

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