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Will a Linux Certification Help You Get a Linux Job?

Certs, Skills, Experience, Yes, No, Maybe

December 4, 2008

Will a Linux certification help you get a Linux job? The answer is: "Probably."

There are a host of Linux certifications. They range from the high-end Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Novell's Novell Linux Certified Engineer (NLCE ) to ones that are appropriate for entry-level Linux system managers, such as the Linux Professional Institute's entry-level LPIC-1. Each are meant to show that those who have them are Linux professionals of one level or another. How much help are they though when it comes from turning your Linux expertise into a Linux job?

David Stokes, a certification manager for Sun's MySQL division, said, "I like to see the LPI or Red Hat certs but that is not a requirement. You do need to find out how many Linux/Unix systems they setup, managed, or have used to eliminate the home hobby-level candidate. Next find out how long, what level of experience, and what type of problems they have solved. It also helps if they have experience beyond the Linux sphere."

So, that's one vote for Linux certifications in general, but, on the other hand, Nicholas Accada, a Linux administrator and Network Infrastructure Specialist at Nokia thinks that "The only certificate that I consider a plus is Red Hat, the others are mostly noise." Accada, who doesn't have a certification adds, "It depends on the hiring manager, but managers who know Linux, always look beyond the certifications, they prefer the 'what can you do' approach."

Accada's not the only one who focuses on the RHCE and its related certification, the Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA). Jim Wildman, a senior Unix/Linux engineer at JPMorgan Chase, said. "In the Linux space, the only cert that I care about is the RHCE/RHCA. Even with those, I'm going to test and probe the candidate pretty hard to see if he actually passed the test legitimately. I'm much more interested in what a candidate can do, then what tests he has passed."

The hiring manager, or HR (human-resources) department, is often where a certification can count the most. You may be able to diagnose network and hosting problems with Nagios, the open-source network and system monitoring program, in your sleep, but if you don't have the right alphabet soup on your resume you may never get a chance to show your stuff.

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