Is it Worth It to Get a Linux Certification?

Posted by Marbenz Antonio on January 14, 2022

Linux is a must-have in today’s workplace and cloud computing environments. The days of early adopters risking their careers by implementing a Linux system rather than a well-established UNIX or Microsoft Windows server are long gone. Admins now have a variety of enterprise-ready Linux server distributions to choose from, including Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE, Kali, and others.

Linux is found everywhere, not just in data centers. Both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud rely heavily on Linux to power their systems, and both provide a large range of Linux machine cases. Professionals in the field of cybersecurity choose Linux for penetration testing and computer hacking.

With such a strong focus on Linux, it’s no surprise that many IT professionals are pursuing Linux certifications. Are Linux credentials worthwhile, and if so, which ones should you pursue? We’ll delve deeper into the topic of Linux certifications and their worth.

What Linux Certifications Exist?

There are two types of Linux certifications: those that are independent of the Linux distribution and those that are tied to a specific distribution or vendor-specific version. The Linux Professional Institute (LPI), CompTIA, and the Linux Foundation all offer independent certifications.

For Linux Administrators (LPIC-1), Linux Engineers (LPIC-2), and Linux Enterprise Professionals (LPIC-3), LPI offers well-known certifications (LPIC-3). CompTIA offers a CompTIA Linux+ sysadmin certification. The Linux Foundation offers certifications for Linux engineers (LFCE) and sysadmins (LFCS) (LFCE).

On the product side, we find certifications from Linux-centric firms, mostly for administrators, engineers, and architects, such as:

  • Red Hat: sysadmin (RHCSA), engineer (RHCE), and architect (RHCA),
  • SUSE: sysadmin (SCA), engineer (SCE), an architect (SEA), and
  • Oracle: Linux 5 & 6 sysadmin (OCA), and Linux 6 sysadmin professional (OCP).

There are several interesting credentials in the super-hot cybersecurity field, which is a minor detour away from core Linux. The GIAC Certified UNIX System Administrator (GCUX) certification, for example, focuses on protecting and auditing Linux and UNIX systems.

For cybersecurity professionals, there are the Kali Linux Certified Professional and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certifications.

Take a look at our Complete Open Source Certification Guide if you want to learn more about Linux/Open Source certifications.

What Are the Job Prospects for Linux Professionals?

According to a 2018 Linux Foundation research, there is a high need for IT employees with Linux capabilities. A job search on Indeed.com in December 2019 revealed over 60,000 job listings in the United States that included Linux abilities. Is there, however, a similar need for Linux certifications as a result of this trend?

Our initial excitement is tempered when we go further into the 60,000 Linux job postings. Searches for LPI and Linux Foundation certifications gave a total of less than 250 job opportunities that needed those qualifications. Similarly, Oracle and SUSE certification searches produced nothing.

Only Red Hat certificates (RHCSA: 550, RHCE: 720, RHCA: 115) have a greater number of certified chances, although even these are a small proportion of total Linux possibilities.

Why are Linux certifications required for such a small percentage of Linux jobs? Hiring businesses prefer peer-level interviews to certify a candidate’s Linux competency, according to information provided on numerous internet forums.

Employers appear to be willing to pay higher salaries for Red Hat-certified professionals, according to our Complete Open Source Certification Guide, whereas “generic Linux” certs (LPI, Linux Foundation, and CompTIA) are on par with other business certifications like Microsoft’s MCSA; however, certificate holders earn nearly $4,000 more per year than non-certified professionals in these cases.

MCSAs and admins with generic Linux credentials earn an average of $74,000, whereas Red Hat Certified Sysadmins (RHCSA) earn an average of $86,000 or more. A Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) earns an average of $22,000 per year more than their LPIC-2-certified peers at the following certification level.

Should You Take a Linux Certification?

Linux abilities are certainly in high demand. However, few Linux job advertisements expressly demand a Linux certification, with the majority emphasizing prior knowledge of the operating system. Given the pay differences between certified and non-certified workers, a Linux certification will most likely be viewed as a plus in the recruiting process rather than a must.

If you work with Red Hat Linux or want to, there is little doubt that you should pursue Red Hat certification. Before becoming a qualified Red Hat engineer, start as a certified Red Hat administrator (RHCSA) (RHCE). After that, you can take the final step toward becoming a licensed architect (RHCA).

If you know you’ll be working with Oracle Linux, you should take the Oracle OCA and afterward the Oracle OCP in Linux. However, only do this if you’re stuck in an Oracle Linux job. SUSE Linux and SUSE certificates have a similar story.

It’s a different scenario with generic certificates (LPI, Linux Foundation, and CompTIA). They have a considerably broader use since they are not dependent on any particular distribution. Employers will look favorably on each of these certifications if you have real-world Linux expertise and can demonstrate it to a Linux competitor.

You should probably go with the LPI option out of the three. That’s because, unlike the Linux Foundation, it includes a professional growth path with stages for admin, engineer, and architect. Any of these certifications can also help you further your career if you chose to work in Amazon or Google Cloud.

We already discussed cybersecurity. Because specialist Linux distros like Kali are favored platforms for penetration testing, this might be a useful next step after your fundamental Linux certifications.


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